We have some cousins that go tent camping regularly despite their children being babies. The cousins never thought about the kids being too young to go along. They just took them and adapted to their needs. They say that they do have to pack more because they need diapers, special food, playpen, and other baby equipment, but they feel the effort is worth it, both for them and the kids. Since they learn from an early age, the little ones get used to the camping way of life.
One thing, though, that is quite different from when adults camp alone is the safety factor. They had to think a lot about how close the tent was to water, if there were any loose dogs around from other camp sites, how to keep the babies contained so they didn’t crawl or walk off, keeping them out of the direct sunlight, and anything that had to do with their well-being in an outside environment.
Our cousins admitted that in the beginning this was hard because they had to be thinking ahead and always conscious of the surroundings, but once they got the hang of it, it all became second nature.
Since they were recalling their last adventure to us, we thought it would be a good idea to write this quick guide on how to keep children safe while tent camping with toddlers.
With the cousins’ help, here are eleven tips that we could think of.
#1 Safe Enclosure
As mentioned, our cousins use a playpen for the babies. This keeps them in a very restricted area, but means that they can’t get away. At least, not yet, anyway, since they are too small to find their way out of the play area. As they get older, they will need to have a fenced in area. There are portable fences for this purpose which can be used for the family dog, as well, but you need to make sure the enclosure is stable and not fall on the kids. Lastly, make sure the playpen is put in a shaded area.
#2 Choice of Camp Site
While you may be tempted to pitch your tent by the water, this is not a good idea with babies, toddlers and younger children. For some reason, water is mesmerizing. and it has hypnotic appeal. You can be sure the kids are going to be attracted. This means that your site should be some distance away from the beach, man-made lakes, swimming pools, and any other body of water nearby.
If you are near the water, or you plan to do any canoeing, life jackets are required, of course. You might even decide to do a little fishing, or walk on the pier, so young children could benefit from a preserver, here too.
#3 Campfire Supervision
Children want to do what adults do, so it is natural they will try to chop wood or add wood to the fire. This is fine for older kids, but younger ones should be supervised while using knives, axes and other sharp tools.
Further, roasting marshmallows and hotdogs is a traditional pastime for campers. But little ones need to be far enough back from the pit so that shoes and clothing don’t catch fire and so that lit embers don’t touch the skin and burn it.
#4 Cooking Area Restricted
Open fire pits for cooking, boiling water on a camp stove or even a propane burner in the trailer are all potential hazards. To be honest, children should be barred from playing in these areas and should understand that no fooling around is allowed. It only takes one misstep to change lives. Also, be wary of cords, ropes and other dangling items that children might be tempted to pull down from the stove or table, resulting in severe burns.
#5 Dress Appropriately
Remember that the younger the kids, the less chance they can tell you something is wrong. Be proactive with their clothing, sun protection, and bug repellent. Make sure to cream the sunscreen on their bodies before dressing, so that no parts are missed. Also, a hat is a good idea. Watch them continually to see if bugs are harassing them, otherwise they could end up with nasty hives, rashes and infections. Monitor the kids’ clothes throughout the day as the temperature does change frequently.
#6 Don’t Eat Plants
Kids like to put everything in their mouths. They may also think eating berries off the bush is acceptable, especially if you have gone blueberry picking to add fruit to the breakfast pancakes. But children should understand that they never eat anything unless you okay it first.
#7 First Aid
It goes without saying, really, that a first aid kit should be part of any adventure. Antibiotic creams, soothing lotions, bandages and the like are more than handy.
#8 Sewing Kit
Now, it may seem strange to you that I have included sewing kits for emergencies in this list of safety precautions. The truth is pieces of even a small kit can help in certain situations. For example, if you need to boil a needle to get out a sliver or animal stinger from the finger or bottom of the foot. Also, if something important gets torn, you can quickly mend it with the little bits of thread in the kit. There are all kinds of ways the sewing kit can help you when camping. They are inexpensive enough, so it is a good idea to keep one handy!
#9 Avoid Food Poisoning
Some people let their babies keep the sippy cups or bottles with them in their playpens. This is not a good idea when camping, as the sun gets so hot, the formula or milk inside will go rancid and may even become tainted. It is better to feed the baby right away and put the remaining liquid back in a fridge or in a cooler on ice.
#10 Bring Water
The younger the child, the more difficult for them to consume too many different things. It might be a good idea to bring water from home that they are used to, instead of feeding them water from the camp pump.
#11 Aware of Gear and Equipment
Everyone needs to be careful when camping. It is not like home where the furnace heats the house and it is away in the basement or back room. When camping, portable heaters and lamps are often used. If they are not battery operated or generator powered, then it is important that children stay away. First, the kerosene could spill and cause a fire, or second, the heat from touching the unit will be hot.
Obviously if the whole family can go on a trip, it is so much more special and many memories are made. Hopefully, by thinking about the perils in a positive way, it can help you all to have a wonderful experience while tent camping with toddlers. Also please take a look at this post on kids outdoor camping tents for ideas on the best tens for your little ones.
Here’s a real life story with a few more great tips from a mom that’s learning as she goes.