Going camping as a family is a great way to create memories together and to spend a lot of time outside. It might feel scary to bring along a baby or a toddler (or both!), but you’ll have so much fun! When nightfall comes, many parents are unsure of how to put their kids to sleep in a dark and unfamiliar tent. Here are 9 tips to getting a toddler to sleep in a tent when on a camping trip. (These tips also apply to getting a baby to sleep in a tent, too!)
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1. Bring a nightlight.
A campground can be pitch dark during nighttime… how scary that must be to a little human! Try this tent ceiling fan and light; it’s great for getting a toddler to sleep in a tent because it has two light settings: nightlight and regular light. The nightlight is perfectly dim – dark enough to sleep, but not so dark you can’t see. The fan is just a bonus, though it only circulates the air, it doesn’t cool the tent. It’s worth the price for the nightlight feature! Another idea is to get a night light that doesn’t need to be plugged in, especially if your campsite doesn’t have electricity and you have no generator. Bonus points if it’s soft and something you can put in the crib with your kid. This SPOKA night light from IKEA is a good option. Or consider a stuffed animal with a night light. If you need ideas, check out the Twilight Buddies or Dream Light Pillow Pets.
2. Stay in the tent until your toddler sleeps.
Just as it does when you are trying to acclimate your child to a new crib or bed, it can take a while for him or her to feel comfortable enough to sleep on their own. Once you leave the tent, it’s quite possible they’ll think it’s play time again! In an unfamiliar area, it’s even more important for you to help your child feel relaxed enough to drift off, so that means you may have to stay with them until they do. Just put your child to sleep in their sleeping bag or portable crib and lay down in your own spot. Hopefully this will give them enough reassurance for them to nod off in no time.
3. Bring a play yard (or two).
If your baby or toddler still sleeps in a crib, a play yard (or pack ‘n play or play pen) is your best bet. It’s similar to a crib and will keep them in one spot until they zonk out. It will work even better if they are used to sleeping in one occasionally. You may have to upgrade to a large tent in order to accommodate a pack ‘n play, but it’s worth it! If your toddler isn’t sleeping in a crib anymore, you might still want to enclose them to help them feel safe and sleep. This enclosed bed, the PeaPod is a great option if this is the case! It’s probably not a good idea to introduce a new sleeping routine, like co-sleeping when camping if you don’t do that at home.
3. Put your tent in a shaded area.
For naps, you want the tent to be cool and not too hot or humid. If you pitch your tent in the morning, check where the sun is and it’s path. This will ensure you find the best spot for your tent, which will aid in afternoon nap times. Keeping your child as comfy as possible is key!
4. Recreate their beds/cribs at home.
It’s important to make sure your child has their security objects – whether that’s a stuffed animal or a blanket. If they’re used to sleeping with certain items, don’t expect them to do will without. BUT, on the other hand, don’t overpack either — only bring the things that you KNOW your kids will want when they go to sleep.
5. A new toy or bag with things in it.
This may sound unusual, but there’s a purpose! If your kid does well with toys in the crib and goes to sleep with them, then try this trick. Get a small bag and put in a few things in there, maybe new toys that don’t do much or random things like a brush, a baby mirror, a DVD cover, and a card, for example, that are safe for a toddler to handle. Your toddler will dig through the bag and relax as she explores these things. Before she knows it, it’s dreamland time.
6. Get your kids excited about sleeping in a tent.
Around two weeks before you go on your camping trip, pitch your tent in your backyard – this is standard when checking your equipment for holes and leaks. Since the tent is already set up, it’s a great idea to set up beds inside and treat it like a mini camping trip! At first, you may want to start slow with simply nap time. Leave the tent up for a day or two longer and work up to spending the whole night inside with your child. That way, the tent and their bed inside the tent will already be familiar when you get to your campsite.
7. Try to stick with naps.
Follow your usual schedule and try to help your kids to nap at their usual times. Most kids do much better when they have a set routine and will become out of sorts if too many things are changed at once. They are already getting used to a new environment with all sorts of unusual distractions, so sticking with a familiar schedule will help. However, don’t stress if they simply refuse naps. They’ll be ok.
8. Keep them warm.
Nights can be cold. Keep your little ones warm with several layers of fleece or wool, but don’t put them all on at once. Here’s a good explanation of how to do it!
Tenting can seem intimidating when you have toddlers or babies, but with these tips you’ll be prepared and ready to go! What other tips do you have when getting a toddler to sleep in a tent?
For more camping tips, check out 25 Camping Ideas for Families or the Camping Kitchen Box Checklist. Don’t miss our Packing Tips for Camping Trips. And plan your menu with 8 Ideas for No-Cook Camping Breakfasts and 25 Delicious Camping Desserts. Finally, have some fun with your kids and these 10 No Fuss Camping Crafts!
Featured image via Remodelaholic.