If anyone ever asks me whether they should take their kids camping my answer is always YES YES YES & YES.
My husband and I have camped all over the world so when it came to having the kids, it was a natural thing for us to have the kids come along straight away. I’m not going to lie, we have had a few disasters along the way… forgetting the bottles one trip, constant rain another. But by the end of the holiday, when I tuck smiling rosy red cheeks back home into their beds, I know they have loved every minute of it.
So, for anyone considering a night under canvas with toddlers here are some of things I’ve learned about camping with Under 3’s.
(Full disclosure, we are blessed with our gorgeous camper van – anyone in the market, I whole heartedly recommend. We are looking forward to when the kids can sleep in a tent on their own outside though!)
1. Organisation is key
I’m a pretty organised person so I quite enjoy getting organised for trips. And with kids and camping it helps, big time!
Spending time outside in the UK comes with the weather gamble, so I tend to over pack in every direction – even if it’s wonderful sunshine, I just don’t want to be stressing about the kids getting dirty or wet when out exploring. The beauty of packing up the car or the van means you’re not confined by luggage limits. And twins come with a lot of luggage.
Being prepared doesn’t just go for clothes either, taking plenty of food, nappies, formula, towels, blankets. I never want a lack of something to get in the way – and there is nothing worse than searching for a supermarket when you’ve got your camp all set up in the middle of the country side.
2. For little ones, it is possible to keep routine…
In the first year of Twinning, we were obsessed with routine. I think we had to be for survival. So when we went away we didn’t want anything to change – the main thing for us was bath and bed time and naps in the day. If those corner stones were in check we kind of knew we’d be OK.
In a campsite with only showers, we managed to make things work with a bucket bath – and the boys loved it! When it wasn’t warm we held bath time in the camper van or tent. We used the same lavender smelling bath bubbles which I think eased the boys into routine. When I got them tucked up into their beds, I left my phone on with familiar music (always Ben Howard!) to try and make them feel more relaxed.
For nap times, we timed the day’s activities with a long walk at nap time. They’d fall asleep in the pram which really helped!
3. …. But don’t be scared to flex the rules
Now the boys are older we’re braving it with a lack of routine! Not at home, but we rules are different when you’re away, especially when it’s not getting dark until 10pm. And here’s the secret, a day after coming back and we’re pretty much back to normal routine with a strict 7pm bedtime!
4. In fact, make your own rules
Saying that we don’t have a routine when we’re camping isn’t entirely accurate. I believe that kids thrive on routine, so what we do is create a new one and it really works for us, even if we’re only away for a couple of days. We have an early dinner with the kids at about 5pm, we do dessert sitting round the campfire and a walk before bed time. We do baths in the morning when we’ve all got a bit more energy (and need to fill some time in the wee hours before the other campers have woken up!). One of the boys helps me cook and the other does the washing up with daddy. It took us a few trips, but the more we go the easier it is as we all know what our camping routine looks like.
5. Activities are a must
At 2.5, the boys are not at the stage where they’re running off into the woods to make their own fun. It’s easy to forget that even though we’re outside, they still need kid friendly stuff to play with. Importantly, stuff that they’re familiar with too. If I’m honest, I was a bit disappointed when I came to this realisation – I thought it would all be making things out of sticks and flowers. Don’t get me wrong, we do do that, but with under threes it can be quite hard work sometimes. Having some toys that keep them happy while you cook or (shock horror) relax is a god send!
In the first year we set up a kid friendly play area which kept crawlers out of the mud and somewhere we knew they would be safe.
6. Just because you’re camping, doesn’t mean it has to be hotdogs every night
My first valentines day with my husband was spent camping – he made me mussles in a rich tomato sauce and heated up some chunky bread. Mind blown! From that point on we have never compromised on cooking when we’re camping. From pancakes and home made croissants for breakfast to freshly caught trout battered and accompanied by Moroccan couscous. Cooking can be a lovely activity in itself when you’re camping. Putting on a casserole over a campfire in the morning, smelling the cooking aromas throughout the day and feeding hungry little ones (and big ones) after a day of adventure is the best!
I’ll get some of my favourite recipes up soon to share – some other top tips in the mean time: Food prep as much as you can ahead of time – make a bolognaise sauce, or puree the carrots and bring in pots for weaning little ones. I also freeze everything, even milk to keep it in the ice box/esky. It lasts a lot longer. Keep lots of freezer bags for leftovers and open packets, filler some little pots with pre mixed spices that you can chuck onto meat or in a sauce.
7. Finally, relax
No matter what the trip throws at you just remember, your kids will have the best time just because they’re with you. None of life’s normal distractions in the way, no laundry, no internet. Something toddlers thrive on! Try and slow down the pace and they’ll feed off you.
I’d love to hear about you camping adventures!