How to Enjoy the Great Outdoors…With a Toddler

A basic camping screen house doubles as an al fresco play house when camping with toddlers.

My husband and I love to camp. Or, rather, we used to love to camp back in our footloose and fancy free days before becoming parents. Granted, our version of camping involved a variety of coolers (it seemed wrong to allow the farm fresh goat cheese to mingle with the low-brow six-packs) and close enough access to our car to seek refuge from man-eating chipmunks (true story, I swear!). But, still, to us it was a far cry from our pampered life in the city, so we called it camping.

Last summer came and went with us bumbling around the house, trying to care for an infant while figuring out how to also clothe and feed ourselves. Needless to say, camping was the furthest thing from our minds.

Fast forward to this summer with all of the shiny, new camping gear jockeying for position on store shelves. I felt a pang of regret that we hadn’t booked a site for our first family camping trip even though my husband and I swore, after discussing the insane logistics of keeping a 15-month-old safe from the fire/water/forest/road/sun/bugs/man-eating chipmunks, that we’d put off any camping plans for at least a few more years. Bah.

But then I got to thinking…we were already metaphorically sheltering our child from the elements, so why not just physically shelter her so we could get the heck out of Dodge, after all? I recalled a conversation with a friend a few years back who ingeniously took a camping screen house (typically used to enclose the picnic table at a camp site) and turned it into a an al fresco play area. After laying down a ground sheet and a comforter, she filled it with toys and a couple of energetic toddlers. Voila. The kids stay out of harm’s way, while the adults get a moment to kick back.

Do you have any camping survival tips? Let us know!

–Christina, CF’s managing editor

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