Danielle, Caroline's best friend from high school (and also considered another daughter) called to say that they had just purchased a pop up camper and they were so excited. We used to take Danielle camping with us when the kids were growing up. She wondered if I had any tips about camping with toddlers and babies. Gosh do I ever remember those days - it was so much fun. I do remember a few tips:
Make sure you have all kinds of clothes - you will probably start out the day with jackets and sweaters go to bathing suits in the middle of the day and end up with long pants and maybe even a heavy coat in the evening. Take double what you think you need. Wet pants and socks need to be changed a lot.
We also start saving small branches early in the spring. We just put them in a wastebasket. These are our fire base along with the firestarter we buy at our thriftshop (they make wood chips and wax in a paper cup). We always made sure there was no heat left in the firepit when we packed up for home and set up a fire for the next campers - as well as making sure the campsite is clean and ready for the next campers.
Take a playpen or one of those circular fence type gadgets that you can put the kids in and quit worrying for five minutes! Until a child is about three years old they really don't understand your rules. Even though it is quite a bit of work when they are so young it is worth every minute of joy when they realize they get to sleep in the camper and eat outside. Taking turns being the one in charge of watching the kids gives each of you a bit of time to yourself for cooking or reading or just closing your eyes for a bit.
A dishpan of water by the camper works wonders for coming from the sandy beach. Just have the kids step into it and pick them up to go into the camper to change clothes. We also took a little blow up pool and we set it in the sun with a small amount of water to give the kids a "bath" before bed - much easier than the showers at a campground. Oh and a portable potty chair will save you tons of trips to the bathroom.(Warning - some people think it is cute to teach their little boys to pee outside by a tree while camping - it is not easy to explain to them when you get home that they can't do that in your front yard or at the church picnic!)
It is never too young to teach your children to look for traffic. Our rule was if you see a car coming you move off the street and stop until there is no more traffic. Also fire safety is a must.
No toys with little pieces. Shovels, pails, chalk, large bouncing balls, water toys and dump trucks. A few games to play in the camper if it rains. Story books, crayons, paper, things for quiet play. Don't forget to take the kids bikes, wagon, stroller, and for babies a back carrier.
My favorite tip was from a workshop I went to - they said to take a twin sized sheet (I take 2 or 3) to use as tablecloths on the picnic tables - the fitted ends make it so they don't blow away. These work unless you get a handicap table - those are extra long tables and the sheets don't fit.
Take lots of water for drinking especially if it is hot. Make sure you give the kids drinks every hour during the hot day. Take foods the kids like. Even if you are having something different a hot dog on a stick is a great dinner while camping.
Don't forget necessities - first aid kit, suntan lotion, bug spray, flashlights, umbrella, lots of towels, paper plates and cups (I am NOT a very good green camper!) I use lots of foil pans for cooking on the fire.
Don't worry about dirty kids and clothes - relax and remember you are camping and have a wonderful time.