Camping Out with a Toddler

by O'rya Hyde-Keller

Camping Out with a Toddler

Ways to plan a safe and comfortable overnight camping adventure

Your kid, sharing your tent, overnight? It might sound like the setup for a scary campfire tale–but the experience really doesn’t have to be frightening. With a little planning, toddlers can snooze safely and comfortably in the great outdoors. How to get it done:

DO A TEST RUN: When Suzanne and Dave Cadge of Barrington, RI, took their 1-year-old daughter, Chloe, camping for the first time, they picked a destination only a half hour away. A wise choice: Chloe loved being outside but refused to sleep there. “So at two a.m., we just packed up and headed home,” says Suzanne. Staying close your first night out–or even in your own backyard–means you can bail at any time.

MODIFY THE SLEEPING BAG: Use a cord to cinch a youth-size sleeping bag right below your kid’s feet, suggests Jennifer Aist, author of Babes in the Woods: Hiking, Camping, and Boating With Babies & Young Children. “This way, her body isn’t challenged to heat up the whole bag, and there’s no chance of her getting lost in it,” she says. Place your child’s sleeping bag away from the door, or between those of you and your partner.

STICK TO YOUR NIGHTTIME ROUTINE: Familiar rituals will help ease any fears your child may have about sleeping in this new environment. “If you rock your child or read a story before bedtime, do that in your camp chair. If your baby goes to sleep listening to white noise or music, bring an iPod,” Aist says.

AND THE ULTIMATE CAMPING MUST-HAVE?: Realistic expectations. “This is probably not going to be your best night’s sleep,” says Aist. “But it’s so worth it to get out in nature with your children.”