Monday, July 30, 2012

Getting Two Kids to Sleep in a Tent

Two kids under 3 years of age. Both of whom are used to sleeping in their own rooms. In a comfy crib and/or bed. Put said kids in a tent, in the great outdoors on a hot summer night, and expect them to sleep well a few inches from each other. Recipe for disaster? Enough to give parents nightmares and scare them off from tent camping forever? No way!

Tips for Tent Camping with Two Kids
We successfully tent camped with our 3-year-old and baby a few weeks ago and lived to tell the tale. Here's how we executed a quiet night of slumber in a tent:
  • Put them down one at a time. I'm not sure what bedtime looks like around your house. We always put our boys to bed separately anyway, so doing that while camping was nothing new. But I think it's essential that each kid gets a chance to settle down to sleep without the distraction of another kid awake a few inches from their face.
  • Wait until your rowdy kid is really tired. Big Arrow is pretty noisy when he goes to bed at home. We'll often hear him talking to himself, singing and carrying on for 30 minutes or more at night. I knew while camping, all this noise would certainly wake Little Arrow. So we kept Big Arrow up far beyond his usual bedtime so that he would ideally drift right off to sleep once we got him in the tent. This is pretty much how it worked out, fortunately.
  • Lay down with them. My husband and I have worked really hard at establishing good sleep habits with our boys at home. We very rarely lay down with them to get them to fall asleep. But all bets are off when you're trying to get two kids to sleep in a very strange environment. Plus, knowing I was right in the tent with him supervising helped to ensure Big Arrow didn't do anything silly to wake his little brother up.
  • Parents sleep between the kids. My husband and I slept between the boys. This way, a nighttime feeding of Little Arrow didn't wake up Big Arrow.
  • Try to make it comfy. We used a blowup mattress for Big Arrow and the mattress from a pack n' play for Little Arrow. I know I don't sleep very well directly on the ground, so I can't expect my kids to either. We're going to get some sleeping pads for future camping trips to save space and time (the blow-up mattress was a bit cumbersome). We'll continue to use the pack n' play mattress for at least the next year for Little Arrow.
While I'm a somewhat experienced tent camper, I'm definitely new to doing it with kids. (Our previous camping trips involved borrowing my parent's pop-up trailer.) Any tips you'd like to add?

Other Camping with Kids Tips:

Our Destination:

Interested in hearing more about our destination, Clifty Falls State Park in beautiful Madison, Indiana? Here's a video I did for Visit Indiana (please watch just so that the awful freeze frame picture of me goes away...):

I'll be sharing photos on Friday, so be sure to check back.

This post is a part of Travel Tips Tuesday at Suitcases and Sippy Cups and Walkingon Travels.


  1. Love, love, LOVE these tips and so necessary for my family. I haven't been camping since I was in my teens and definitely never with the kids yet. I'm so lame I would need to bring my sound machine with me. Good thing I have a battery pack for our travel one ;-)

  2. I actually think bringing a sound machine is a fabulous idea, especially if you have batteries for it. When we bring the pop-up, I bring a cd player. Sometimes a crowded campground is really noisy well into the night hours and it's nice to tune that out for the little guys!

  3. Great tips, and I am so impressed with you, and your camping family! We've have only camped once with the baby, and we took the easy way, and stayed in a yurt! P.S. I love the video...good job!

  4. Love this! We are yet to take our boys camping but definitely want to do it soon!

  5. Finally real advice! I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I didn't think of the simple idea of separate bedtimes - genius! Good grief. We camp regularly with our 4yo and almost 2yo and bedtime is my least favorite moment while my youngest dive-bombs us doing twirly birds until he basically passes out. I sleep between them (my husband has been booted to another tent since we only have backpacking tents) and I'm always looking for ways to keep us more comfortable and warm since both kids wake up regularly when we camp and I get very little sleep.

    Any tips on staying warm while sleeping in cold weather and with not-so-great sleepers? We have a trip to Death Valley coming up just after Christmas and I'm doing research to come up with better ways to stay cozy and comfortable in the kids' tent - which is how I found you. I'm thinking about investing in a down blanket to throw over the crew in addition to sleeping bags (since they always sneak out of them) and covering all of our sleeping pads in a flannel fitted sheet to keep them snug together. Would love to hear any tips you might have!