Camping with a Toddler

By Natalie

On our way home from our first camping trip with Felicity Brandon said, “Well it was worth a try. If we’d never tried it we would have never known.”

Alot of friends said that we were brave for taking a toddler camping. I’m not sure it was brave per say. Maybe spontaneous is a better word. Going into it I thought that the worst case would be we didn’t sleep well and it’d be a disaster. It wasn’t a disaster, but we also didn’t sleep well which will always put a damper on things. With a brand new family tent and new camping chairs including a chair sized for Lici we had big hopes that our little outdoorsy girl would have the time of her life and we’d be camping all the time. I’ve come to realize that the more activities we’ve done this year the higher my expectations have become. After half a year of blah cabin fever I’ve expected so much joy and refreshment from these new adventures and that’s maybe too much to ask of a camping trip and a pumpkin patch hayride.

Our first night Felicity asked to get in the car and go home. We excitedly told her that we were going to sleep in the tent all night. She looked at us concerned, like she wanted to make sure our house and cat were still around and this wasn’t our new life which is a fair thought for a 2 year old. Our little Lici can’t stand to be still, sticking to our gravel pad campsite was not what she had in mind. She was obsessed with putting gravel in Bingley’s water, in our chair cup holders, throwing it in the fire pit or chewing on it. I’m not even kidding you not once but twice we had to tell this girl to spit gravel out.

Lici is such a different toddler than I’ve ever seen. The way she explores things is so nerve wracking sometimes. The gravel thing, it’s one part a defiant 2 year old discovering the boundaries her parents have set for her and one part this deep rooted urge and desire to experiment. As her mama I can see it in everything she does and after being with Brandon for over a decade I so see where Felicity got it from. Felicity is obsessed with discovering how things work. Brandon has a childhood story often told about the time he put batteries in their milk. He wanted to see what would happen. To the batteries? To the milk? I’m going to die the day I find batteries in our milk and trust me, I’m pouring slowly because I’m 80% sure Lici will try that same experiment.

When it came to the gravel, she wanted to feel it, in her hands, between her toes, how it spread in water, the sound it made when it hit the outer ring of the fire pit. She even wanted to know what it tasted like. Sometimes I get so frustrated, “Can’t you just, sit in your little camping chair and color in the new Mulan coloring book I got you!?” and obviously not wanting her to harm anyone including herself or our dog by consuming gravel. But sometimes, usually in the comfort and protection of our home I understand that this is who she is and though I can protect her as much as possible it’s also my job to recognize how her mind works and help her to thrive. That means allowing her to experiment, teaching her what’s too far for her age. Giving her the safe space to explore, taste, smell, feel, fall, learn etc.

The other thing she was obsessed with exploring on this trip was a huge cluster of mushrooms by the bathrooms. She booked it through the trees to get to them several times. She pointed to them every time we passed. She even asked her aunt Laura and I to smell them. To which we both cringed and declined. At the library the next week I walked her down the children’s nonfiction section asking if she wanted to pick out an animal book. “Mushrooms!” She squealed as she pulled a fungi book off the shelf. She pulled the book bag strap off my shoulder in attempt to shove the mushroom book in with our other picture books.

The girl has a deep desire to learn just like her Daddy and similar to me she wants to learn what she wants to learn with little care for the foundational stuff. Lici cannot get her colors down, shape recognition is whenever she feels like retaining that information. However, she takes great interest in comparing the differences between the call of a beluga whale, versus a humpback, versus an orca. She wants to learn how to pronounce echidna and recognize it rather than just calling it a hedgehog at first glance.

When I placed a yellow marker in front of her the other day and said, “Do you remember what color this is?” she said, “Yea, colors.”

“This is Yellow.”

Smile. “Yell-ooo.”

Green Marker. “What color is this Lici?”

“Colors! It’s Purple!”

I haven’t given up by any means but I am kind of figuring she will learn them eventually and honestly if she’d rather just learn about Okapis right now then let’s learn about those little forest giraffes!!! Why not?

So, camping wasn’t a disaster. We were up maybe three times in the middle of our first night because Lici was restless. She finally climbed into bed with us around midnight which made it difficult to sleep but was also sort of sweet since we never do that. She woke up around 4am and went from our air mattress lying wide eyed, back over to her toy basket.

On the positive side our tent was perfect for our little family with plenty of room for Bingley’s bed and for Lici to have a play space. Brandon snagged these foam mats at Home Depot upon my request which made a much more comfortable floor for Lici to lounge on in the evenings.

We brought her potty seat (the whale) which was great for late nights and early mornings. Each site has a water spigot out front which made it easy for us to rinse it out! I also put together a little Happy First Camping Trip basket, because I love a good basket of goodies. When I showed it to her the day of the trip she said, “Aw thank you.” which I cherished because it’s so nice to hear when your two year old remembers to be kind and isn’t screaming no and running away from you. Let’s be honest.

In Lici’s Camping Basket

We ate great as we always do when camping. I tried a new campfire nachos recipe in foil pans heated over the fire, plus eggs and butcher bacon for breakfast. Laura and Ervin provided the perfect sandwiches for a hot day’s lunch after we got back from our long morning walk to the lake. For dinner I’d marinated steak in teriyaki sauce which Brandon and Ervin placed on kabobs with peppers and onions while Laura and I supervised Lici at the playground. The food is arguably the best part of camping for me. But then again that might be because Brandon cooks everything!


Bingley turned 7 on our trip which I can’t believe! It seems like I was just waking up in the middle of the night to carry that whiny puppy outside to relieve himself. Now he’s got a grey beard! Spoiled boy got a new outdoor dog bed for this trip (because the gravel is hard on an old man!) and a birthday bone 🙂

Somehow Brandon managed to get Felicity to nap on him for two and a half gloriously peaceful hours in 80 degree heat. Cue the most adorable photos I captured just before I fell asleep myself in the hammock.

Late Saturday night it started to rain which was a camping first for us and I have to say, one star, do not recommend. Felicity actually slept better that night I think because the raindrops were a soothing white noise against the tent. But Lici was up and ready to get out by 6am so we popped her and Bing in the car while we packed up the tent in the rain. We headed straight home which was for the best and had breakfast after Brandon laid our tents out to dry in the garage. It was one of those glad we did it but more glad to be home exhausting sort of trips. Every now and then those are nice to experience, especially now at a time when we were so tired of being home.

4 Comments on Camping with a Toddler

  1. Nesi
    November 3, 2020 at 9:56 pm (3 years ago)

    You are braver than me! Sounds like you have a great perspective and Felicity had the opportunity to experience something new! Love her basket full of goodies! Such a thoughtful idea 💗

    • Natalie
      November 4, 2020 at 2:18 am (3 years ago)

      😃 Thanks, that’s kind. I knew you’d appreciate a basket of goodies ☺️

  2. Laura
    November 3, 2020 at 11:30 pm (3 years ago)

    Thanks for inviting us! ♥️

    • Natalie
      November 4, 2020 at 2:17 am (3 years ago)

      Thanks for joining and bearing with Lici’s nonsense!


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