Oh Baby, Lets Go Camping

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Some of my fondest childhood memories were made while camping. The fresh air, limitless exploring, new discoveries, and the mesmerizing flicker of the fire.

Now that I am a mom.

I realize just how much preparation, planning, laundry and packing is involved in camping with kiddos. It can be daunting. Heading out into the wilderness, or even a provincial campground, away from your home with a baby or young kids. To leave behind the luxury of everything you need to care for a baby in its specific spot and trade it in for the chaos of camping. It can also be a bit of a challenge when it comes to your child’s sleep. However, it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. Don’t get caught up in the overwhelm and never even set foot out the door. Your little ones will thrive in the fresh air and space to run free. If you’re worried about your little one’s sleep, or lack there of, while camping – I’ve got you covered!

Here are some of my tops tips to help your little one sleep better while camping.

Dress rehearsal.

Prior to heading out on your grand adventure it is always a good idea to get your little ones used to the camping space. Whatever this looks like for your family, a trailer, camper, or a tent. Spend some time leading up to the trip playing, reading stories, eating, or even try out a nap or two. It makes it much easier to fall asleep in a space that is familiar and they are comfortable in.

Expect the first night to be tough.

The same as if you are spending your first night away anywhere with all the excitement and sleeping in an unfamiliar space. Before you head out on your trip it’s a good idea to spend some time in your camping space so that it can become a familiar space.

Carving out space for everyone to sleep.

This one can take some creativity. You will want to create a visual barrier between you and your kiddos so that they don’t wake in the night, see you and want to party at 2 am. You can rig up something nice and fancy, but it also doesn’t have to be that complex. Command strip and an old dark flat sheet work wonders for a visual barrier.


You will also want to consider the environment within your camping space.

Not too hot, not too cold.

This one can be tough, camping season will bring about many varying weather conditions. It can be hard to regulate your camping space the way you could at home. Keep in mind, the ideal temperature for a child’s sleep space is 20-21 degrees. If you are camping in the cooler months, be sure to bring along your warmer TOG sleep sacks as well as warmer pajamas. Keep in mind that the hours of 3:00-5:00 am are going to be the coolest of the night.

Crank up the noise.

If you do not usually use white noise for your child’s sleep, this is the spot to utilize it! It’s likely that you normally do not share a room with your little one at home, or perhaps your children normally sleep in their own rooms. Camping will have you all sleeping in much smaller quarters. Whether its from a sibling, a parent making their way to bed, rowdy neighbors, or the early bird’s song.
White noise is an excellent way to help minimize the environmental noises.

Early mornings.

Early mornings may be the result of your baby being too cool. Do your best to have them go back to sleep until your regular morning wake up time. If they’re simply not settling back to sleep and in jeopardy of waking the entire campground, go ahead and get them up. Get that camp coffee on the fire. I mean, is there anything better than coffee that’s been perked on an open fire? You can make up for any lost sleep with great naps or an early bedtime that night.

A dirty child is a happy child.

Depending on the type of camping you’re doing, there may not always be an opportunity to give your little one a bath. If bath is a normal part of their bedtime routine, a face and hand wipe with a warm cloth will suffice. This will still help to cue their brains and bodies that sleep is near. If you miss a bit of dirt, no need to fuss. A dip in the lake (if warm enough) or a good scrub once you’re home again will be just fine. If you prefer, a Rubbermaid bin can also make a great bath space.

Nap time.

Nap time can be hard, even in your own home, in your child’s regular sleep space. The drive for sleep is lower and there is just SO much to do and see during the day. Add on the excitement of camping and napping can be darn near impossible. However, fresh air and exercise will be on your side. Depending on the age of your littles, when you’re setting up camp, have them explore near your area. Let them ride bikes, go for a walk, show them around the campsite, or go for a swim. This will give them a chance to wear off a bit of the excitement before nap time.

Darken it up.

If your kiddos are used to sleeping in a dark space at home I suggest darkening the camping space as well. This will help them transition from play to time to rest. It will also allow their bodies to produce melatonin. Melatonin is the sleepy hormone we all need enough of to fall asleep easily and stay asleep. Dark fitted sheets work really well to darken the sleep space.

Nap on the go.

A motion napping is always an option if needed. Plan to travel for one of the naps. Have them nap in the stroller as you explore the sites. It is better to have a motion nap or two than to miss that daytime sleep.

Sleep begets sleep.

If you’re considering throwing nap out the window in hopes they’ll sleep better at night I am here to tell you this WILL backfire. You’ll be left with a baby/toddler who is very overtired and they will have a hard time settling into sleep. When sleep does come it will be very restless.

Remember to pack the comforts of home.

Don’t forget to bring along all the things your little one sleeps with at home. If they have a lovey or blanket, sleep sack, or white noise machine, make sure to also bring them along.

Heck, bring lots of EVERYTHING!

But most of all, have fun. Camping is all about making memories.
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