Hopefully all the fresh air and exploring will mean your toddler will drop off to sleep easily and stay asleep all night. However a new exciting environment, a change in routine and extra stimulation may mean that your toddler has some serious sleep issues when camping for the first time.
Nothing can make you want to pack up your tent and go home faster than a terrible night’s sleep but there are a few strategies you can implement to make sure everyone gets the best sleep possible.
Practice makes perfect
Consider camping in a tent in your backyard (or even your living room) before embarking on your first camping trip with a toddler in tow. This will get your toddler use to the idea of sleeping in a tent and if it goes badly you can just abandon the tent in the middle of the night.
You can also get your toddler excited about the idea of camping by reading books about camping or watching movies or shows where the characters go camping – see this Peppa Pig camping episode here for example.
Eliminate the noise
Camp grounds can get very noisy. Eliminate the noise as much as possible with white noise. A white noise machine app on your phone such as the free MyNoise app will work although it will drain your phone battery pretty quickly. You can find portable, battery operated white noise machines such as this one.
Keep their routine
If your toddler is routine orientated, try and keep the same bedtime routine as you would at home – e.g. brush teeth, change into pyjamas, a story and then sleep. Allow time for your toddler to actually fall asleep in their new, unfamiliar environment – this may mean you have to lay down beside them for a while. If kid free time isn’t a must, consider all going to sleep at the same time. That way there will be no chance of waking them when you clamber into the tent later on in the night and it also means you’ll maximise your own sleep time.
Consider your sleeping arrangements carefully
If your toddler is still sleeping in a crib and you have room in the tent, consider bringing a pack ‘n play along on the trip. It will mean your toddler will be securely contained and not sleeping on a cold floor (although if it is going to be cold, you’ll still need to line the pack ‘n play with a sleeping pad or blankets as air flows under the mattress and there is less insulation). A pack ‘n play doubles as a way to contain your child if you need to get something done (like getting the dinner started) without having to worry about a curious little person getting hurt.
Portable travel beds like the Peapod can also work really well. The Peapod is an enclosed little bed for your toddler with its own mattress pad.
There are a number of other options if you think your child will sleep better in a contained “bed” rather than on the ground. The inflatable Shrunks Toddler Travel bed for example, has built in bed rails that will keep little ones somewhat contained.
A budget friendly option to contain little squirmiers is to just take the changing pad off a changing table and use this for your toddler to sleep on. The contoured sides will hopefully keep them in place and the changing pad will provide insulation and protection from the cold ground.
Make sure they are warm or cool enough
It is important to check night time temperatures as well as day time temperatures of where you are going to camp because everyone’s sleep is sure to be disturbed if your little one is too cold or too hot.
If it is going to get cold at night, layered clothing (preferably in wool or fleece) is a good option. Flannel footed pajamas are another way to keep little ones warm.
If your toddler is going to be using a sleeping bag, make sure it is the appropriate size for him or her to avoid suffocation risks. A sleeping bag that attaches to a sleeping pad is a great option if your toddler moves around a lot when they sleep.
If the weather is going to be especially hot, bring along some portable tent fans to keep everyone cool at night.
Get everything ready for when the adults are ready to sleep
You’ve finally got the toddler off to sleep. Now it’s time to relax around the campfire. But when you are ready to crash yourself you realise you’ve left something you really need like a toothbrush in the tent which will mean possibly waking a sleeping child. Don’t worry, you’ll only make this mistake once. Make sure you have everything you’ll need set up for when you go to sleep before putting the toddler down for the night.
If all else fails…
If you’ve tried everything and your toddler is still wide awake you can always fall back on the old drive them around in the car ‘till they fall asleep trick. If the car is not close by, walking them around in a stroller might also do the trick.
And one last word of advice – your toddler is likely to be up with the sun ready to take on the world. Keep that in mind for your own bedtime.