Camping with a two-year-old can be an enjoyable experience. All the critical values of nature you can teach them. However, let me ask this question. What if they change? You know what I mean. They flip that switch, and you are not in control anymore. Can you keep your sanity intact?
The mind of a two-year-old is quite simple. They use the right side of the brain. That would be the impulse side if you were wondering. They have no control over it. That develops on the left side. So they pee in weird areas, run around shrieking entirely buck naked, and they color their faces with a permanent marker, just to name a few. They are not logical or patient. It’s just science! So relax and be patient because we can. Here are “10 rules to keep your sanity” when camping with a two-year-old.
A majority of people with kids have experienced the feeling of absolute frustration. As your two-year-old is having a nuclear “not listening” meltdown in the middle of the grocery store. Running from you, and grabbing everything that they can throw on the floor. You feel as if you are the worst parental figure in the world, with all the eyes digging into your back. Don’t worry. Follow these “10 rules to keep your sanity” to ease the stress just a little.
1) Pack the best as you can – If you have all your camping gear packed away in totes already and have to throw them in the car, then you can skip to the next rule. Big giant rubber made totes with lids is the way to go. They are lightweight, and you can stuff everything in there to keep it dry. You do not want to spend hours packing and unpacking. You will go crazy when she is running around you grabbing stuff and tripping over the pots and pans. Trust me. A good pack is the best way to start the trip.
2) Arrive early as possible – if you can make it out of the house as soon as you can, and get to your camping spot, you will be ahead of the curve already. It gives you time to set up the tent while taking your time. If you were to arrive too late, you would be pressed to get the vehicles unloaded, tent set up, the fire started, food prepped and made, and so on. The whole reason to go camping with a two-year-old, in my opinion, is to relax and let the family enjoy their time together in the outdoors. Learning and playing together is what it is about.
3.) Keep her busy – Have her help you with camp set up, as much as possible. I usually will hand her the plastic stakes and tell her to go and pound these into the ground so that daddy can tie the tent to them. Of course, the task cannot be done. However, it keeps her hands busy, and she gets to help. It also gives her a sense of responsibility.
Also, let her help put the tent poles together. I will hold one end and make her snap them together. It is a small task, but she seems to love it. I have her hold the poles as I slide them through to the other side one by one until the tent is up and we then can start on the Bedding.
She will also get the task of putting pillows on the air mattresses. I’ll say “now the pillows,” and she will walk them over and lay them down. In mommy’s spot then daddy’s, then she will put one on hers. If possible do not let her sleep with you she will get used to it, and as she grows up, she might have problems sleeping in her tent.
4) Have a large size tent – This is a big deal especially if the weather is not going to be very generous. If you can make it work, get the biggest tent possible that is not too extreme. The reason is that it gives her a safe place to play and move around in the evening time and bad weather. If she can release a little bit of steam before bed, it will help.
Another reason for a big tent when camping with a two-year-old is that you do not want to feel cramped. Even though this article is about camping with a two-year-old, you don’t want to make the situation any more stressful than it should be. A full tent is annoying. You cannot move around and change clothes comfortably. So give yourself some room to breathe as well.
5) Plan out you snack and meals – If you go camping with a two-year-old and have no meal plan things can go sideways very quickly. If she wants snacks right away, that is fine, but limits are a necessity. She might have the idea because you are not at home, that she can have more or get something special.
I suggest not going away from usual home habits. Have a set time for dinner and not let her spoil it by eating marshmallow and graham crackers before its actually s’mores time (guilty as charged). Bring fruits and vegetable for snacks. Candy will give her a sugar high. Then she will burn out, and that can trigger her to become that little one we are trying to suppress.
Breakfast is the most important meal when camping with a two-year-old. A lot of time, everyone is already tired from the day’s recreation, that dinner is often a thrown together quick meal. Nevertheless, breakfast is where you go “hard in the paint.” By that, I mean put your resources into this. Pump that baby full of protein so she can go most of the day strong. This, in turn, will keep her happy. With that, my friend keeps you happy.
6) Drawing and color crayons – Now we all know that no matter how much we keep her busy, we as a parent are going to need some us time. Bringing crayons and paper is an excellent idea to keep her busy. Just set her down in the tent for rest time, let her draw and color until she’s blue in the face. It might not sound like a lot, but at this time, you can press some coffee, make lunch, or use the bathroom. It rests for mom and dad, and that is a key to keeping that sanity in sight.
7) No toys allowed – This is huge. We all want to believe that getting outdoors is essential, and it is, very much so. So why do we continuously bring crap from home with us when we visit. I see it so often when camping, Kids on tablets, phones and other electronics. I mean how they are even keeping them charged. Lol.
When camping we try not to allow ordinary “toys” to come with us. We want her to explore and find natural “toys” in the woods to play with. Not only does it help with exploration and independence. But it teaches her that material objects are just not that important. I say that as I am typing on my PC with two monitors. Nevertheless, you get what I am saying. Hopefully.
8) Go for a walk – Not only is a walk a great exercise while camping with a two-year-old, but it’s also a great “tiring them out” type activity. Take them down to the water if there is some nearby. Stop and chat with other campers most people are friendly and will be good company. If there are hiking trails, do a half mile or more and let her walk as long as she can.
I know that does not work too well as we have a super cool carrier that my wife wears a lot. Even then, it is still a relaxing and fun experience. All of these are to keep her busy as not to have a fit. But also for you as a parent to not get overwhelmed with the children. Focus on your thought and wellbeing as well. How about you soak in some scenes too!
9) Teach them until they get bored – these kids are sponges at this age. Teach them everything you can about the wilderness and camping. Point to trees and shrubs let them feel them and experience what it is like to really, be out in nature. Let them get dirty while digging in the dirt.
Take them to some water and show them what a crawdad is. When camping with a two-year-old trying not to scold them if they run too far in front of you. Let them enjoy the new scenery. Do not forget that we have been there and had knowledge of what’s out there. They do not. Being that young, even if they have been out before, might not remember. A new to them experience, so try to treat it like that.
10) Bring bedtime books – Bedtime is where we have some of our major issues. She knows its bedtime but does not want to miss all the fun that we will be having once she is asleep. We get it but bedtime is bedtime so bringing a bedtime book and reading it under the low light of a lantern would put the best of us daylong coffee drinkers asleep fast. They are no different.
Bonus) – Bug spray or bracelets for the little ones – Make sure when you camp with a two-year-old you come ready for the bugs. Although they don’t bother kids as much as adults if she is eaten up you will hear about it all night because she cannot sleep. Also, that transfers to the rest of the trip because she will be tired the rest of the way.
Have fun. Enjoy. Relax.
Hi, Dennis and Shelly Jackson here, we are the faces behind Campsite Planning. We are parents of 4 great kids and a little dog. And we are sharing some of our experiences with the site. I hope you enjoy and please do not hesitate to contact us for any reason.
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