Camp Sleep-Too-Little

Camp Sleep-Too-Little 1What do you get when you combine a tent, a 17-month-old, a 3-year-old, a lot of friends, and a beautiful mountaintop? If you answered, "NO SLEEP," you're right.

If you answered, "A REALLY GOOD TIME," you are also right.

Our church has a yearly tradition where we cancel our "normal" services and have a service up at Mt. Lemmon instead, followed by a huge picnic. We also reserve the campground the night before for anyone who wants to brave the elements.

So, we went - carrying our gigantic 8-person tent, a bag full of diapers and spare clothes, and a cooler of food to be eaten. We played. We explored. We ate S'mores. We went to bed way past bedtime (It rained in the middle of the night!) and we woke up way-way-way too early (Did I mention we woke up way too early?).

"Take our picture, mom!"

Camp Sleep-Too-Little 2

"Okay, make a sad face."

Camp Sleep-Too-Little 3

"Make a silly face."

Camp Sleep-Too-Little 4

"Put your hands on your hips!"

Camp Sleep-Too-Little 5

"Say 'We love camping!'"

Camp Sleep-Too-Little 6

That afternoon, around 12noon, both girls began sobbing from tiredness. The kind of tiredness where every question led to more tears and hiccuping; where it's not even fair to try to reason.

After relaxing at the tent for a bit, the girls both revived for a second wind. On the way home, however, they collapsed almost instantaneously. We took baths and showers as soon as we walked in the door. And then I fell fast asleep in clean sheets next to my baby at 7:30pm. Tim and our 3-year-old soon followed. We all slept until 8:45 the next morning. Bliss.

Tips for camping with a baby and preschooler? Bring plenty of diapers. Bring sweatshirts (just in case). Plan for lack of sleep (and a bit of downtime). Take pictures on the 1st day when you're still fresh (instead of waiting until you're grimy and exhausted).

Do you enjoy family camping? Have you ever camped with a baby and/or children under age 5? What tips would you add to my list?

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30 comments on “Camp Sleep-Too-Little”

  1. I am the kind of person who never misses camping. It is actually my passion in life and it is how I get out those negative bide in me. I hope you feel the same too on your camping trip. Looks like fun.

  2. I am so behind on commenting!! We are back and trying to get used to the time change. With that said, we have yet to go camping, but we did just return from a 17 day trip to Germany and Austria which was much like camping. The trip went so well...we had a fantastic time! The plane ride there was smooth due to the airplane pack I put together to keep them occupied. We wound up sleeping in the same room at each place we stayed. It was a bit tricky at first, but we all got used to each other. I LOVE the ideas the others have posted on here. Glow sticks = BRILLIANT! So glad you guys had a blast despite the lack of sleep!

  3. Just catching up after a bit of a hiatus and wow! Life sure doesn't stand still, does it!

    Anyway, we recently went camping with three little ones under the age of five (four, 18 months and 15 months). Elizabeth is at the running around stage but Maria has just started to crawl so on paper probably the most difficult stages :)

    -If you have a child who is likely to crawl in the dirt, bring extra clothes so that isn't a big deal. Or a blanket or two for them to crawl on.
    -Get a big enough campsite so to allow a certain amount of exploration
    -Camping with a group is easier than with two, because there are more people to handle the various chores. Camping with kids under five means that kid wrangling is definitely a chore! If you are camping just with two, make sure that you are organized enough that the other camp chores can be handled by one person. Bring a tent that is easy to put up by yourself. Make simple meals that require minimal cooking and washing up.
    -Actively get the kids involved in helping. Gather firewood, set up tents, blow up camping mats, spread out sleeping bags, set the table, roast marshmallows, wash dishes. (Elizabeth was involved in all of these!)
    -Explore the campsite! Look for animals.
    -Go to bed as it gets dark. All of you. I've been camping twice with Elizabeth and have gone to bed with the sun both times. I was not particularly tired in the morning.
    -Glow sticks! I cannot stress how much fun the kids had with this.

    1. I like your tip about going to bed w/ the sun…especially since there’s a very good chance that you’ll be getting up with sun the next morning. ;)

  4. What a wonderful experience (even with the lack of sleep!)
    The only camping we've done with our son has been in our back yard, so we've been able to dart inside if we realize we'd forgotten something. We're hoping to try camping somewhere other than our backyard after Labor Day, so I'm going to scroll back through the comments here to get all the tips I can!

  5. I have been camping when my son was 18 mo. old and I was 8 months pregnant, then again when he was 2 1/2 and my daughter was 9 months. Both trips went fairly well (even though the kids came down with the stomach flu on the second trip! Turns out it's nice to be outside in the dirt when they are throwing up...).

    One thing I was SO happy I did was bring along the potty chair. It is not fun running back and forth to the camping bathrooms, especially in the middle of the night when they give you 2 seconds warning. The potty chair made it waaay less stressful!

    Also, if you are not camping by water of some sort I found my kids were happy with buckets/pots filled with water that they could either sit in or just play with. (Of course you have to be 100% OK with your kids getting dirty/muddy... but you kind of have to be if you braved camping with little kids, right?)

    The other big thing that made camping a breeze was picking a spot that had brush or some natural barrier on one side. It serves to fence the kids in somewhat and makes it easier to watch them.

  6. One thing I notice is that whenever we camp, the dampness in the air invariably gets into the tent, AND all your stuff. The only real way to reduce this is to use a tent heater (but I'm a little nervous about that!). So we do 2 things (sort of 3). 1) Keep all your clothing IN your bags, not lying around inside the tent - if it's wet it stays OUTSIDE the tent!). 1b) I got one of those ziploc "big box" things and I put all our towels and stuff in there, so they are easy to get at but it stays DRY (used to keep it in a cute canvas bag but they got damp that way). 2) Stuff your pillow and pjs INTO your sleeping bag and fold it closed during the day and they won't be damp at night when you go to sleep.
    Okay that's all I can think of for now! :)

  7. All I can say is...
    Don't forget the WIPES! We took our 18 month old camping at a place that was NOT improved at all. He was always into the dirt and the bathroom was simply a glorified porta potty. He was in diapers, that was for me!
    Since he was an only child then it wasn't too bad for him to nap in the tent... and putting him to bed and then hanging out at our friend's campsite next door was good too.
    Add a year and it wasn't so happy... waking at 3am to a 2 year old patting you on the face... not cool! ;) Especially when you're pregnant and cranky already! :)
    Camping will be tried again in about 4 years probably!

  8. You know... I am a bit embarrassed to admit it, but camping is one thing that I will. not. do.

    BUT, I'm SO excited for you guys! The pictures are great, and it's a wonderful idea to have your service up there :)

  9. I want to go SO badly, but often wonder if I am crazy to attempt it with a 19 month old and a 3 month old. I might be that crazy. Hopefully we all survive (I'm mostly concerned about mom and dad... I am sure the kids will be ok).
    I am glad you had fun! I would love to head up Mt Lemmon and enjoy the crisper, DRIER air. It's hot and humid here still, but we are starting to see signs of a waning summer. Soon!

  10. We love to camp, we took our youngest when she was 2 months old. She did great! Then we would go every month or so, so both of our girls just got used to it. This time my three year old woke up crying both nights b/c she had no night light. We got a flash light and put a hat on it. That helped the first night. I turned it off after she fell asleep, but I was tired. So the second night, i just picked her up and had her sleep with me until it started to get a little light. She went right to bed and I got better sleep. Plus we were extra warm.
    When we left the picnic, my youngest cried, she did not want to go home. It was sweet.

    We also went hiking to a running stream and waterfall on Sat morning, before the crowds came in. When we got there, we let our kids play in the water. It was so worth it. :0)

    1. Your hike sounds delightful, Christina! When we got back from our camping adventure, I said to Tim, "I wish we would have had time for more hiking."

      But, as you probably know, Tim was running around like crazy for a good part of Saturday evening and - particularly - Sunday morning. We'll have to go back up to Mt. Lemmon again when he's not working... :)

  11. You are brave! I don't enjoy camping enough to make me want to take the kids at this point. Plus Zac would jump off of a cliff, for sure.
    When they get older, I'll suck it up so they can have the experience. Actually, I might like camping when it's with them. I just don't think I'm ready for it yet!

  12. My main tip is to take plenty of mosquito repellent (preferrebly DEET free kid friendly kind). But not clip on OFF (it did not scare away a single mosquito)

    Every time we get to camp, we get eaten alive :(!

  13. first off, your little group of 4 kids is adorable and so spunky :)

    Rain huh? that is not fun. In our tent we would have been soaked clean through - because we never put on the sun/rain shade.

    The first time we took Ivy camping she was about 18 months. She loved it but I have to say it gets much easier as they get a little bit older. We're going to Lake Powell (camping) for 3 nights in a few weeks. I'm feeling overwhelmed and nervous plus we have to keep the kids in their life jackets all the time.

  14. We went camping with friends a few weeks ago. The plan was for the 5 year old and the 8 year old to share a tent. Not even 5 minutes after they went to bed the 5 year old came out crying. So the whole family, hubby, me, 5 year old and 2.5 year old slept in our 2 man and gear tent. The dogs did have to sleep in the car that night. We were cozy, we never got cold and while the hubby and I did not sleep great the girls sure did!

  15. I always bring a brand new thing of baby wipes. Better safe than sorry and they are useful for a lot of things.

    We also have a bag of special camping toys that only come out when we are camping and special camping baby dolls so they can get dirty and no one minds. We do own a pop-up so we camp quite often, but of course we're cheating a bit with that.

    When we are trying to pack up and the kids are a wreck I put them in their car seats with all of the windows down. The younger one always falls asleep and the older one is so exhausted she just sits there quietly. It's not their typical car seat behavior, but it seems to work after a long weekend.

    1. These are great tips, Tiffany!

      I love that you have a pop-up. Such a great investment! We've been camping w/ friends in theirs...and it was so nice.

  16. Amen to all those tips. I'd also add, bring bug spray (just in case) and pack plenty of baby wipes...they're good for cleaning up so many different messes.

    Glad you guys had a fun time!

  17. I can SO relate! I have learned that if I go with the realistic expectation that my child will NOT take a nap and that we will need to be extra patient, then the trip is so much more fun. A couple days with less sleep isn't going to ruin my child. Oh - but schedule the next day at home to be one where you do nothing so you can catch up... How does camping produce so much laundry? :)

  18. We've just started camping with our son (turned 4 in June). He absolutely loves it and asks to go nearly every weekend. Looking forward to fall so it isn't so hot. Your tips are great! I'd add pack lots of snacks and kid friendly meals- we made pizza on the grill that our little one devoured and spare clothes (more than usual). Looks like it was a fun trip.

  19. I took the 8 year-old and the 32 month old up on Saturday also. Grace had been camping with the family the year before so I thought it would be a breeze. I was so wrong! Something about being up in the mountains makes the 2 year-old meltdown so much more dramatic.

    I would add that you should bring a "comfort" toy that will help soothe your little one when it's time to wind down and talk in your quiet "my whispers can be heard 5 tents away. Just make sure it is big enough to be found in a hurry even if it's 1/2 buried under a sea of sleeping bags.

    With the diapers don't forget to bring double the number of wipes you think you will go through. S'Mores can get very sticky!

    Last, but not least, bring a good mood, and leave all the worries and frustrations at home. Know in advance that everyone will get dirty, bedtimes will be ignored, and that you will forget something back home so there's no point in making a big deal out of it.

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