What to Expect
Enjoying the outdoors with a child of any age can be a tricky endeavor. Toddlers are as unpredictable as the weather, and babies require an excess of daily supplies. Adding camping to the routine can be complicated and overwhelming. Yet with a few simple preparations, your family can enjoy a day—or a week—in the woods with your young one.
If you haven't already introduced your child to Mother Nature, now is the time to visit your local library and pick up picture books and videos on bugs, plants, and animals.
Discuss the particulars of your adventure with your toddler. Will there be a long car ride? Where will she sleep? What will you do if it rains? Sometimes the outdoors can be scary for a child; explaining all the things she may see and experience now, before embarking on your trip, will help her deal with any situation that may occur.
Before departing, familiarize your child with items you are taking on your trip. If you will be tenting (car camping with a tent is a great way to start), set up camp in the backyard and practice with your family. Pretending you are already out in the woods is a fun way to introduce your child to the idea of camping while simultaneously giving you a chance to test your gear.
Many first-time family campers fall into the trap of setting their expectations too high. Remember that you are mixing Mother Nature and children: an equation that invariably yields unpredictable results. Be ready for anything and try to keep your expectations realistic.
There is a wealth of educational resources to help you get ready for that first trip. Visit Powell's Books for a list of outdoor reading material for your young one. A variety of learning tools for children of all ages are also available at PBS, Discovery, and National Geographic.