5 Life Lessons Learned While Camping With Toddlers
I LOVE camping. I love getting outside and being in nature. It helps me to relax and reconnect. After spending time in the forest, I feel ready to tackle the world.
But it hasn’t always been that way for me. There have been times when I felt that it was too hard and too much work to get out.
Mainly, after having kids.
When my son was born, I was terrified of being too far away from home. Home was safe, secure, and it was infinitely easier to nurse there.
My husband on the other hand was not nervous at all. He was excited to take our son out to see the world. Maybe because he didn’t have to think of where he was going to whip his boob out when the baby got hungry.
Even though I was afraid, I knew that I needed to go on an adventure. Partly because I was suffering from postpartum depression and partly because of my own stubbornness.
You see, we had these friends who told us that just because you have kids, you don’t have to start changing who you are and stop going on activities. They fully believed that you just pack baby up and go. Take baby out camping with you. They even showed us how easy it is by taking their 2 month old baby out camping with us one time. They made it look so easy and perfect.
I wanted to be like them.
The Beginning of the Adventures
When my husband told me that we should go camping I enthusiastically told him yes (even though I was freaking out inside).
I knew that my mental health needed to get outside and be in nature. It has always had a calming effect on me. I wanted to feel like me again and I had to prove that I could do it. I had to prove that I could be like the friends I admired and could take my newborn camping.
That first camping trip with my little family was adventurous and fun.
Sure we had some challenges but overall, things went pretty smoothly. It was one of those experiences where you leave feeling like you can conquer the world.
After that one trip I thought that all parents should be doing this. I had the attitude of just do it. Stop complaining and do it. It will be good for you and your baby. Stop whining and be adventurous.
The Great Plan Blows Up
Then I had another baby. With her I was determined to get outside. I knew that being stuck inside always made me feel depressed and I wanted to try to prevent getting postpartum again.
So we made plans and went camping. Boy was I in for a rude awakening.
This trip was not great.
IT. WAS. TERRIBLE.
As we got closer to where we were going to camp I started to feel anxious. And not in a good way.
The only thing I could think of was all the terrible things that could happen while camping. I was afraid of being out in the middle of nowhere. Surely there was mountain lions, bears, and a mass murdering hermit on this mountain.
I was so afraid that I just started hysterically bawling. I started shaking and pulling at my hair.
My poor husband just sat there staring in disbelief of what he was watching. 30 minutes ago I was so happy and excited to go camping.
Now, I was a mess.
He kept asking me what was wrong. I really didn’t know why I suddenly became so afraid. As I sat there having a melt down I knew that was I was feeling was illogical but I couldn’t talk myself down.
After 30 minutes of me freaking out we decided to change our location to somewhere closer to people.
The campsite was disgusting.
It literally had garbage and dirty diapers laying around. I did not sleep a wink that night because I was still convinced that something was going to eat us.
Needless to say it was a trip that my husband and I both want to forget. But even though the trip was a disaster there still was some highlights. Like watching Spencer (who was 2 at the time) squirt water onto all of the bugs he found and discovering the joy of roasted marshmallows.
That camping trip with a 2 year old and a newborn made me question whether it was really worth the hassle.
The Turning Point
Fast forward a year.
I now have a 3 year old and 1 year old. It’s the start of summer and we start to make plans for what we would like to do. I know that I wanted to go camping but there was a part of me that was afraid I would have another freak out when we got there. I am a pretty stubborn person. I hate it when people tell me what to do. I like to prove people wrong and I always accept a challenge.
I knew my husband wanted to go camping. I knew that the kids would love it (they would spend all day in the dirt if I would let them). So I put on my big girl panties and made a plan.
Let me tell you, this was the best camping trip ever.
I have never had so much fun camping before. None of us wanted to go home. I tried to think of ways that we could just live forever on that mountain.
It was so beautiful and relaxing to be there. I felt at home and at peace.
Through these camping trips I have learned 5 things that will forever shape my life.
- Checklists are everything. I am a list maker. I make lists for everything; daily schedule, shopping, packing for a trip, when we move, activities/places to visit around us, where we should live. When we go camping I go into crazy lady list mode. My husband makes fun of me because of how much detail I put into my camping lists. I make a list for food, gear, clothing, hygiene, medical, entertainment, and bedding. In addition I make a checklist of everything that needs to get done. Shopping, cleaning, food preparations (prepare everything you can at home, trust me you will enjoy yourself more if you do this), errands, etc. are all put onto the checklist. My crazy list making has made it so we rarely forget anything on a trip and if we do it isn’t a big deal.
- Simple is best. My favorite part of our last camping trip was watching my kids play in the dirt. I did bring a baby doll, a few cars, and some dinosaurs. As well as paint brushes, paper, and water colors. That was all that they needed for 3 days of camping and to be perfectly honest they would have been just fine without any of those. Spencer created a game of throwing small rocks and sticks while standing on a big rock. Both kids chased all the bugs they could find. And of course they did the classic activity of throwing rocks into the lake. I loved seeing them create games and get into deep immersive play with nature. It was an excellent reminder to me that kids don’t need toys.Overwhelmed with toys? Check out how I have managed the playroom chaos.
- Remain calm during a crisis/chaos. During our first camping trip we almost didn’t find a place to camp. It was right before a big holiday here in Utah so there were not many available camp spots left. Right as I was about to go into panic mode we found an open spot that ended up being amazing. I’m talking a whole herd of deer walking through amazing. On our trip with a toddler and newborn I did not remain calm at all. I was in crazy hysterical mode. It was terrible. And the rest of the trip ended up not as awesome as it could have been. All because I let the chaos get to me. On our last trip we took, Brynlee my 1 year old, fell off her camp chair and hit her forehead on the side of a log. It instantly started bleeding and was quite deep. I was afraid we were going to have to go into town so she could get stitches. But I remained calm. I didn’t want her or Spencer to be afraid. Luckily because of my excellent list making skills we had all the medical supplies we needed. After cleaning it well, putting neosporin, and a butterfly bandage followed by a band aid, she was good as new. All three of these trips had moments where I had a choice in how to react. I can tell you that the most pleasant outcome was when I stopped and thought things through. I remained calm so things went smoothly and it ended up not being a big deal.
- Adventures are scary but they can lead to the most amazing places. I am a worrier. This at times holds me back and stops me from going on adventures. From our camping trips and various other adventures we have gone on, I can say that some of my favorite places/moments were discovered because I didn’t let that fear hold me back. My husband, Garrett, really is the best at helping me to stop thinking about what could happen and to just go and do. For example, I was nervous to go on our last camping trip. The terrible experience from before had me worried that it would happen again. But Garrett let me talk about my fears and then helped me rationalize them. I am so glad he was able to help me get over my fears because that camping trip ended up being the greatest thing. We camped next to a beautiful lake and were able to enjoy the great outdoors.
- Nature therapy is good for everyone. I recently read an article talking about Nature Therapy. There have been some studies done that show that when you spend time in the forest or nature your stress levels decrease, memory increases, inflammation decreases, and many other amazing benefits. You can read all about it here. I’ve got to say that it’s true. When I spend time outdoors, breathing in the fresh air I come back feeling like a whole new person. I have even noticed a difference with my kids. When we got back from camping they had more energy, were more willing to follow instructions, helping, immersed in their play. I have seen these benefits even when we have just gone hiking for a few hours.
You try it
I know that not everyone likes to go camping. Some people might not have easy access to the great outdoors.
But I highly suggest that everyone take their children out in nature.
If you’re not into hiking go for a picnic. Don’t like camping spend the evening watching the stars come out. Forest doesn’t exist where you live? Find a big grassy area or dirt pile.
No matter where you live I know that there is some sort of outdoor space you can go to where you can let the inner child out.
Let your kids get dirty.
Go on an adventure. Take it one step at a time.
I promise that when you and your kids spend time in nature you will reap benefits.
Adventure is out there!
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