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Camping With Toddlers -The Ultimate Camping Experience

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Camping. Where the daily grind is no more and the stresses of life are obsolete. Where the days linger on and the night waits for dusk to silently drift away.

The air is fresh where you camp. The world is still and the surrounding silence is soothing.

You stand outside and take in as much of the scenery as you can. You breathe deep breaths of fresh air, close your eyes and smile.

This is life.

Then someone cries.

Ignoring it, you try to focus on the silence you just had for fifteen whole seconds. Someone else starts to cry. When you return to your camper you discover your toddler has locked herself inside, and you out.

The experience of camping with toddlers is a lot like childbirth. When it’s done the painful details get washed away in a haze of euphoric relief. It happens the moment you pull away from the campsite. Negative experiences are replaced with happier versions of the same reality that only hours before made you want to get eaten by a bear.

Oh, you’ll lie to yourself and think, “Sure, there were tough moments.  But boy was it worth the memories.” Then when you actually do go camping again, you’ll think, “OMG! Why are we doing this? Again.”

The trouble with camping and toddlers is that it’s a lot of work.

You’ll pack enough stuff to trail blaze the Oregon territory. Camping with small kids requires taking everything your child uses (which is everything you own) and taking everything your child needs (which is whatever you forgot).

Toddlers love to explore. There are no baby barricades in the great outdoors. So, unless your parenting is so bad that your toddler might benefit from being a modern day Mowgli—raised by marmots and elk—then constant supervision is required.

We have a travel trailer, which is excellent for barricading toddlers. Just remember, toddlers pull things out of cabinets faster than a poltergeist. Your reward for locking your little one inside your camper—so you can chug your lukewarm cup of coffee— is a weekend of repacking your entire camper.

The nice thing about campers is they’re pretty much like taking home on the road with you. Thanks to campers, moms of the modern camping scene now have warm water to do the dishes and bathe their children. Your vacation can feel more like home, and you really can come to appreciate the things you do at home by doing them away from home. Still, it beats a tent and you have a clean bathroom. You don’t have to go out at 4am and risk tripping—sending your flashlight (which is just an app on your iPhone) on a one-way trip to the bottom of Grossville that society calls a “vaulted toilet.” In a camper, you just quietly feel your way to the bathroom around obstacles. It’s like playing minesweeper with tiny, sharp toys lining the floor.

In the end it doesn’t matter if you have a camper or a tent. Camping with toddlers is pretty much the same for everyone. Not a single person will get any sleep because no one will nap all day. By bedtime your kids are throwing Academy Award winning tantrums.

The next day everyone will be so exhausted that no one will want to leave the camper or stop crying. You won’t go home though, because you paid for the whole weekend.

Later that afternoon, when you watch your 18 month old frolicking in the meadow behind your camper, you’ll be glad you stayed.

And when it’s all over, you’ll go again.

Just like we will.

Because we remember the meadow frolicking—the one good moment out of a thousand challenging ones.

Also, we’re slow learners.

Christina is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Denver with her husband, two daughters and a cat who’ll never forgive her for having children. You can find her cleaning cracker crumbs and juice spills off the dog at: raisinsandgoldfish.

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  • comment avatar Amber Johnson July 18, 2013

    Oh, the stories I could tell. Took my 14-month-old and she cried all night, two nights in a row (keeping the entire campground awake). Our campsite was on a hill so she was falling every few feet and we spent the entire time trying to keep her from crawling into the firepit and eating dirt.

    She’s 9 and things are much better now. 🙂

  • comment avatar Christina July 18, 2013

    We really did get locked out of our camper by our two-year old in May. Luckily we had our neighbor’s 10 year old daughter to lower in the ceiling vent and rescue everyone.

  • comment avatar Jonie July 19, 2013

    My 2nd child was 2 when we took her for the first time. We did a lot of practice in our yard with tents she helped set up and take down and slept in the yard before going out for the real deal. Not a problem at all

  • comment avatar Erin H July 19, 2013

    We went with our 21 month old last month. It was a DISASTER. We’re trying again with a cabin rental this weekend… wish us luck!

  • comment avatar Boulder Child Whisperer July 19, 2013

    We went last weekend (in the RAIN!) with our two year old twins and it went well. They just played in the dirt/ mud and were as happy as pie.

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