Camping with Kiddos ARTICLE AND PHOTOS BY JESSICA CARTWRIGHT
Not everyone is a camper; but if you are, then you know there’s nothing like it. Sleeping under the stars, spending all day in nature, feet in the dirt, smelling the trees. We started camping with our daughter when she was about 4 months old. To be honest, aside from the whole getting-out-of-the-house thing (one time it started pouring and we just turned back), camping with a non-mobile infant is rather easy. They sleep, feed and hang. If you already have a bit of a camping groove, then just bring a couple of extras and you’re good to go. they’re so tired that they pass out and you can actually relax and enjoy the fire.
Note: Having a sound machine for the tent can also really help (which at first seemed super counterintuitive to me). One thing I didn’t initially consider is that, just because your babe is ready for bed, it doesn’t mean the rest of the campground is. People are having fun and can be loud. Plus, sticking to a little bit of your home routine (for a child of any age) can be soothing and helpful. Once our baby became a toddler and started walking, things got truly interesting. We spent one weekend at the stunning Cliff and Wade campground, right on the lake, and the weather oscillated between hailing and temperatures of 105 degrees in the tent (so much for naps in there). I also made a HUGE rookie mistake of not bringing our carrier, so we walked around incredibly exhausted trying to get our daughter to fall asleep while she was tied to me with a sheet. It was intense. Picture a barely walking toddler running toward lakes, disappearing in bushes, almost falling off tables. On the flip side, it was also one of our most memorable weekends. Our daughter had never been happier running around, free in nature, exploring and eating dirt to her heart’s content. It’s gotten easier as she’s gotten older and understands boundaries. I’ve also gotten more flexible. I know that we might have to get in the car and go for a bit of a drive to get her to nap. I also know that bedtime isn’t really a thing when daylight lasts forever and the rest of the campground is having fun. One parent told me you always have to go for two nights. The first night they stay up for what feels like forever. But by the second night, 24
While I do find camping with really little ones to be exhausting (I should probably also add here that we’re tent campers, which is different than having a camper), it’s also led to some of our most cherished family moments. You find a groove. Our kid looks forward to camping the way most kids probably feel about Disney World, and for that I’m happy. It’s so worth it. But word to the wise: Come home a little early to decompress, because if you’re anything like me, you’ll be content, yet exhausted once you get home.
TO BRING: » Camp clothes that can get totally trashed » So many layers » Somewhere safe for your baby or toddler to hang for a bit » DockATot or Pack n’ Play in lieu of a crib » A battery-operated nightlight for middle of the night wakings or helping your kid feel safer
» First aid kit