Camping with kids is a lot different than camping with your buddies. A case of beer and a deck of cards is unceremoniously replaced by sippy cups and lost teddy bears and let’s face it, kids aren’t great at sleeping to begin with- throw in a sleeping bag and some strange forest sounds and you got yourself an all-nighter of the unfun variety. Read on for our survival guide for babies up to big kids.
Babies can be excellent campers, especially when they are newborns. Babies don’t have the best sleep cycles as it is, and most of the time you’re rocking and holding them to go to sleep, so make the most of this time by packing a baby bjorn and strapping them in for some fair weather hiking. Sleeping in the tent is a cinch, pack your side by sleeper and you can safely sleep next to your baby and get them back to sleep easy peasy (hopefully!) should they stir. Feeding wise, if you’re breastfeeding then you’ve already packed everything you need. Bottle fed babies require boiled water, which you can do pretty easily over the campfire (just ensure all your pots are clean) and you can even sterilize the bottles and accessories too if you’re worried about germs. Bigger babies can enjoy their rice cereal and baby foods like they would at home- just bring a portable high chair to make feeding them enjoyable for the both of you.
Toddlers require a little more coaxing to get comfortable- most toddlers can experience anxiety when confronted with new situations, so make sure to pack their favourite blanket/stuffed animal/book so they have some reminders of home. Read books about camping, animals and nature before going to get them excited about the trip and let them help with packing their clothes. Bring lots of outdoor toys; buckets and shovels, balls or even a net will keep them busy collecting leaves, rocks sticks and whatever else they can find. Toddlers have great imaginations so let them run wild (and burn off some energy) in the great outdoors! Sleeping bags come in all sizes too, so make sure to buy one that will fit their tiny body. Food should be a breeze, they eat roughly what you eat at this age, but if they’re pretty picky, then now is not the time to introduce new food- stick with what you know and try and not rock the boat too much.
Big kids love the adventure and challenge of camping- this is the perfect age to mix things up and get them canoeing, portaging and hiking, so give them more responsibility and they’ll rise to the occasion. Kids at this age become keenly aware of strengths and weaknesses so build on their strengths and boost their confidence by giving them a longer leash. By this age kids should feel empowered to do things like scramble eggs, help with starting a fire, reading a map, or even the act of taking themselves to get water or brush their teeth at night (I pack sneakers with light up soles so I can spy on them from a distance). Let kids stay up late and see the stars, and don’t hover too close if they wander off. I promise they always come back.
By Libby Roach
Libby was born and raised in Ontario growing up with an avid outdoorsmen for a father who also kept a dark room for photography in their basement. Leveraging these two sports together, Libby is an avid camper, photographer and writer living and loving life in Toronto.