5 Lessons Learned: Taking a 3 Year Old Camping Edition

One of my goals for the summer was to have some special one-on-one time with Evelyn, who has, for a variety of reasons, gotten a bit less of my attention this spring/summer than her brother has.

Because I tend to be an all-or-nothing kind of girl, I decided that we’d really do this one-on-one time thing and go camping, just me and her.

Yes. Tent camping with a non-potty trained three year old. What could be easier?

Have I mentioned that I’ve only been camping once in the last 20 years and it was last month? And I’ve never put up a tent by myself before? And I booked a place by a lake in northern Minnesota, even though I despise mosquitoes?

I realize that this sounds like I am setting up a narrative for disaster but I have to say that the actual experience was really, really great. That being said, there are still a few important things I learned in the experience:

1. Embrace the fact that normal bedtimes mean NOTHING to a child in a tent. At home we usually start the bedtime process for Ev at 7:00 or so. In the tent, the fact that it was still very much daylight at 7PM made it very clear that she was no where near being ready to fall asleep. The sun finally set close to 10 PM, which meant that Ev was up until at least 10:15 PM.

2. Related to #1: Remember you don’t need to go totally off the grid. Did I bring my laptop and a DVD of Frozen with me? Yep. Did I feel VERY grateful to myself for doing this at about 8PM each night? YEP.

3. When your child is a water lover, temperature is a minor detail: A storm blew through the night before we got to the camp ground so it was chilly the first day we were there. The night time temperature dropped into the 40’s and the morning air temperature was in the low 60’s. Did that stop my child from wanting to play in the lake for roughly six hours straight? Nope.

Eber beach

4. The bugs. Oh God, the bugs: I saw mosquitoes that were as big as my fist. They swarmed in the bathrooms and by the lake sure. We’ve been home for a week and I still have bites on my neck, ass, and ankles. Please note that I was using the highly chemical, DEET filled spray. That all natural, organic stuff made from essential oils? Yeah, no. That is for suckers who are dying to become a mobile food truck for blood suckers.

5. Never underestimate the importance of packing diaper wipes: Ev is still in diapers (sigh) so I would have packed them anyways, but I was glad to have them for wiping dirty hands and cleaning my ankles when a peeing in the woods experience was a little more, um, splashy than I expected.

Even accounting for the bugs and the dirt and the accidentally peeing on my own foot parts, I can’t wait to do it again. It turns out that I kind of love camping (who knew?) and I’m eager for mother/daughter camping trips to become a tradition for Ev and I.


Something tells me she is on board for that too.

One thought on “5 Lessons Learned: Taking a 3 Year Old Camping Edition

  1. DCZia says:

    Haa, I just saw this. We recently went camping with my 6.5 year old, the 2.5 year old, and 12 other kindergarten families from the older kid’s school. I hadn’t been camping in quite a few years. Six is a great age for camping. 2.5….ehhh, exhausting. He needs a couple of years. But even with the bedtime issues as you described, the toddler screaming and waking everyone for miles around at 2am (I think he woke up, had no idea where he was, & was scared), the sudden downpour sometime before that and the scrambling to put stuff in the car & tent that we’d stupidly left outside, and the need for CONSTANT VIGILANCE with the toddler for ticks, fire, rocks, steep drop offs, poison ivy, etc…..even with all of that, it was so much fun and I want to do it again. When the little one is bigger and less crazy.

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