Whether you’re gearing up for your first camping adventure with your baby or toddler, or you’re pondering how best to do it now that your child’s a toddler or a preschooler, you may all be happier campers on your trip after a little practice run at home. Sure, pitching the tent in a backyard overnight is not a bad way to reintroduce your child to camp life after a long winter, but if you don’t opt for that, you might want to at least run through some of these situations to help your child–and yourself work out some of the potential kinks in camping with small kids:
Using the portacrib or travel bed:
If it’s been a while, or you need to perfect the art of making a “tent within your tent” to help keep the air around your child warm in the night, be sure to figure out what works best for your situation–and to pack all of the pieces (best blankets, bunting, clips, etc.) with you.
Transitioning to sleeping bags:
When your child is ready to use her first sleeping bag, let her try it out and get familiar with it at home first. It can be quite a change of sleeping habit for toddlers still accustomed to cribs and rolling around freely in the night without much need for blankets.
Sleeping in the same room:
If your children normally sleep in their own room at home, you may want to practice sleeping in the same room so that it’s not such an exciting novelty when it’s time for lights out in the tent. If you’re worried about picking up permanent roommates on the home front, I recommend using the living room for this special event.
Preparing for safety issues:
With toddlers and preschoolers, start discussing camp safety concerns early, like respecting the campfire and resident wildlife, and avoiding poison oak. You’ll still have to be on your toes, regardless, but it can help to have kids thinking about these things ahead of time, rather than getting the first explanation in the thrill of the first moments at camp.
With a forecasted low of 39 F for our first night in the tent this year, sleeping in hoods has also been a helpful pre-trip topic of discussion at our house. Not to mention, it’s been great fun to practice.
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