Camping without Catastrophe

Good Afternoon Everyone! Despite my best efforts to get up and blog this morning, life happened (i.e. we have one car so I am driving the husband to work each day), but I am here now!

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One thing I frequently hear from friends is that they are afraid to take their little people tent camping with them because they are not sure how it will go. Let’s be honest that the idea of driving hours, setting everything up, cooking over a stove in dark, all while listening to a screaming toddler does not sound good. With that also comes the deep deep fear that no one will sleep. And anyone with a toddler can tell you that no sleep comes with continuing consequences. You might as well pack up and go home.

Enter Backyard Camping.

Backyard camping is almost like giving your little a class called How to Camp, Toddler Edition. It teaches your child about camping, it gets them comfortable with all of the ins and outs of sleeping outside, but it also allows you to emergency style put someone to bed in their room should things go awry.

We have been backyard camping for over a year with my older two as well as camping on camp grounds. We have even camped in our living room and guest room when the weather was exceptionally bad. They love it. In fact, tomorrow night we will be taking our youngest backyard camping for the very first time. I want to be honest with you:

I have no idea if they will sleep. 

This might be an epic failure. But we will keep at it, and keep trying until we have it all figured out.

Here is roughly how we do it:

Around 5, we all put on clothes that are comfortable enough to sleep in, but are not pajamas so we can still wear them outside.

Then we bring out all the necessaries – tent, ground pads, sleeping bags (or nap mats before the kids had sleeping bags), pillows, comfort items (blanket, teddy bear, etc), extra blankets (if it’s cold), a small portable fan (if it’s hot), headlamps (kids love headlamps way more than flashlights, just trust me), wood, matches, camping chairs, camping utensils/plates, food, trash bag, cooking utensils, and a pan.

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Night time photography is not my strong suit

Next, we set up our grill to be our fire ring. Our kids took a little time learning that fire is hot and should not be touched. As they get older we will use our fire pit, but in the mean time, we like to keep the fire a little higher up for little hands. We teach them how to start the fire step by step, and we teach fire safety. Then we cook! Cooking outside is a great way to give the whole adventure a special feel and help them to understand that cooking will be outdoors when you go camping away from the house. Sometimes, we even use the camp stove in the backyard so that they can see how it works and learn how to be safe near it. Check back later for one of our favorite camp meals!

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Everyone sits around the fire in our camping chairs and we eat a delicious dinner. If you want, you can go so far as to have the kids help you wash the dishes outside, but I will be honest that I usually use paper plates on these adventures and just toss them.

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And what’s a camp out without….s’mores! We always roast marshmallows and have s’mores or banana boat s’mores when we camp. You really want this backyard adventure to feel like camping and to feel exciting/special to your children to help them want to do it again. What’s more exciting than lighting a marshmallow on fire and eating it with melted chocolate? Nothing.

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If you’re wondering what is in the tin…it’s ginger snaps. You won’t regret it.

After dinner, we usually play around in the yard, playing tag or being silly with our headlamps on before tucking in.

Here comes do or die.

We make sure everyone is comfortable, we sing a few songs, we may read a book, and then we turn out the lantern to go to bed.

This is so hard for any toddler.

You may have older kids and this is a snap or just a calm child who goes to bed without issue, but that is not the norm. Our oldest has always had no trouble going to sleep in a tent, and enjoys it a lot. She lays down, gets comfortable, and goes to sleep. Our middle son does the exact opposite. He does anything and everything to keep from sleeping. I cannot tell you the number of times my husband or I have finally given up at 11pm and taken him inside to sleep, leaving the other kiddo(s) and adult to finish out the camping experience.

So how do you get your kids to sleep without catastrophe? The bummer is that there is no magic sauce. But my best advice is:

  1. Do not let the kids sleep next to each otherPutting a parent in between them discourages them from trying to play with each other while also helping them to feel safe and taken care of because they can snuggle up to you should they feel scared.
  2. Do your best to drown out car noiseBoth of my older kids sleep better in the actual great outdoors than in our backyard because the car sounds are not present. Sirens, especially, are not your friend. We occasionally bring a sound machine when we backyard camp to help create a more outdoor sound rather than continuing to hear the sounds of the city.
  3. Regulate the temperature of your tent. I listed above that we bring extra blankets or a portable fan when we backyard camp. While you can make yourself sleep when your pretty cold or pretty hot, children are much less capable of doing this at sleep time. It’s okay for the tent not to feel air conditioned or heated, but circulating the air with a small fan in the summer or having an extra blanket in winter really will make all the difference.
  4. Pretend to sleepIt is so hard, as an adult, to go to bed when they do because they often times need to go to sleep much earlier than you. Close your eyes and pretend to sleep, they are likely to follow your lead. If you can actually stay awake, wait until they fall asleep then get out some headphones and watch Netflix because guess what…your backyard has your house’s wifi. You’re welcome. 

Now the best thing you can really do, is get out there and keep trying! Check back Monday to find out how our youngest did this weekend and comment here with your own stories.

See you Outside!

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Again, I’m working on the photography thing haha

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