Lesson Learned :Camping with toddlers

This last week my husband and I decided to go camping for the first time with our kids. We love camping, so much so that with the exception of our kids every major life event has been surrounded by camping trips. We went camping the weekend we got engaged, for our honeymoon, as a farewell trip as my husband went to boot camp, and throughout the years just as simple vacations. We love camping because it is cheap, we get to go play in nature which is always fun, it is relaxing, and it lets us get away from our normal routine and enjoy adventures. What better things to share with out kids?

When we decided to take our kids for the first time we knew that it would provide some challenges, especially because our kids are so young and don’t always listen the first, second, or third time. Even though we were expecting some challenges we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. We chose the last weekend in June because we figured it would be warm and dry and that would simplify things. We chose camping on a river about two hours away because well we like camping there, it is deep enough into the forest to feel somewhat secluded without being in the middle of nowhere, and because that specific river has a lot of calm pools for swimming and playing with nets floaties and such.

We checked the weather reports for our destination for the week we were planing to camp and they looked so-so. The temperatures were supposed to be in the 50-60 degree range which is a little chilly but not hot by any means. There was supposed to be light rain the first night then clear weather the rest. We figured that since we weren’t leaving until the afternoon of the first day, the rain would be okay because we could just have a tent night and play games and go to bed early. So we packed up, making sure to bring extra blankets for the kids in case it got colder than expected. We brought my little brother (he’s 12 and a first class boy scout so he can hold his own) and off we went.

When we arrived it was barely sprinkling, but there were some grey clouds coming in so we set up. Both of our little boys were over the moon excited to be in the forest and we encountered our first oh shit moment. In our packing somehow we only grabbed one off our youngest’s shoes! So we decided to just let him run around in socks while we set up and we would just changes his clothes when we get into the tent. Not the proudest moment but not a deal breaker either. So we get the tent set up and not five minuets later it starts pouring buckets! I took the boys into the tent and we started to set up the bedding area while my husband, bless his heart, kept making trips to and from the car with food and the board games and helping my brother set up his tent. When we were all set my husband was drenched. So not a great start, but we were convinced we would recover.

Guess what we learned shortly after that? Our tent leaks, badly. Apparently the waterproofing has work out and we need to re-apply. The only place in the tent that was not wet was the center under the tiny little rain fly. So we all squeezed into the center, made some peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner and my brother joined us for a botched game of monopoly. So there we were sitting in the leaking tent attempting to play monopoly with the two little boys taking great pleasure in throwing the dice into the puddles gathering in the corners. Okay, so how do we fix the situation? We pulled out the towels we brought for river fun and placed them under the most predominant drips and moved things to the dry(er) areas. Finally it got dark. The boys were way to wound up to go to sleep even though it was ten o’clock and way past their bed times. So we decided to salvage the night by introducing glow sticks! This was the highlight of the trip. Everyone enjoyed waving the glow sticks. We made shapes and played light sabers (yes we are that nerdy) and in general had a good time.

Bedtime. Well after glow sticks everyone was tired. We all laid down and after two hours of baby screaming (just to tired to go to sleep and not knowing how to deal with that discomfort) we were all asleep, or as asleep as possible when sleeping in a puddle under wet blankets and on top of numerous rocks. At least the boys were dry and warm.

Tuesday morning still raining. The men-folk attempted to start a fire…for two hours. They did not succeed. We had forgotten to bring dry wood and the wood we found was too wet to burn. We had also forgotten newspaper. At this point, we decided to throw in the towel and go home, and I am glad we did because it continued to rain the entirety of Tuesday and we were home and dry and everyone was much happier.

So, what did I learn from this debacle of a camping trip?

1. Always triple check that everyone has shoes.

2. Bring wood! A lesson I already knew but somehow forgot.

3. Check to make sure that your tent is rain proof, because no matter what the weather report says; you do not want to get flooded.

4. Maintain the bedtime routine to the best of your ability

5. Always bring glow sticks!


We plan on going camping again soon, although on a hot dry week and closer to home in case something else goes awry. By the end of the summer I expect we will be toddler camping experts!

Thanks for reading.


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