18 Tips to Get Kids to Sleep While Camping

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family camps tips get kids to sleep while camping

Getting your kids to fall asleep while camping can feel really overwhelming for parents. Truthfully, it can feel hard enough to get kids to sleep at home, that helping kids sleep while camping can feel like a massive challenge.  

Want to know a secret?  

It’s actually just as hard as most parents think to get kids to sleep while camping. But, of all of my five kids, every single one of them sleeps better while we’re camping than they do at home in their own bed. Although the unfamiliar environment is exciting and new, we’ve discovered the best secrets to getting kids to sleep while camping.

Practice Camping Before You Leave Home

warm kids in sleeping bag

If your kids are new to camping, it will be very difficult for them to adjust to a new environment, and learning to sleep in a tent for kids or in a sleeping bag can be a bit of a challenge.  

We always recommend that first-time campers set up a camping tent at home so that the kids can familiarize themselves with what it would be like to sleep in those conditions. The first time that kids sleep in a tent can feel a bit wild with all of the excitement. It’s better to get those jitters out at home than when you’re in the middle of the wilderness!

Dress Well For Camp Sleeping

Another thing that you should keep in mind is to dress according to the weather, especially if you’re somewhere really hot or in the cool mountains. Everybody sleeps better while camping if they’re neither too hot nor too cold. 

For warm weather camping, make sure that you have a lightweight sleeping bag and that kids are in pajamas that breathe well. For cold weather camping, we always have the kids sleep in merino wool base layers, wool ski socks, and a warm hat.  

Get a Good Sleeping Bag to Keep Them Warm

Camping out in the forest can get cold, even in the summer, so make sure to invest in a good kid’s sleeping bag if you’re camping anywhere that will have cool temperatures. We invest in good kids sleeping bags when our kids are little and they last them until their teen years. Truthfully, our kids have stayed warm and never woken up cold when we’re camping (even when I’m personally freezing), and I wholeheartedly believe that a good kid sleeping bag is one of the best investments in your kids’ camp sleep.  

Avoid Sugary Treats Before Bed

boy sitting on cooler in the desert

Sugar is known to make kids go a little bit wild, so make sure if you’re going to make any sugary treats like s’mores, that you make them a couple of hours before bedtime. 

You should aim to reduce the amount of time that the evening meal takes, and avoid late sweets. What you can do instead, is to give them desserts or treats earlier in the day so the sugar does not interfere with their sleep. 

Honestly, we’ve taken to eating s’mores after lunch and enjoying Jiffy Pop as a bedtime treat and it’s working out GREAT! Additionally, we’ve introduced a warm beverage served in a camping mug for certain nights that particularly need further coaxing into bedtime-sleepy-mode.

Go More Than One Night

It can be hard for kids to adjust to only one night of camping, so it’s a good idea to go for at least 2-3 nights when you are going camping with kids

If you go out for more than one night, it will make them more accustomed to the changes and easier to adjust to falling asleep in a tent. Plus, the more often you go camping, the faster the kids will be able to sleep as they’ll become used to it.

Pack A Stuffed Animal

use warm camping gear to get kids to sleep while camping

You can’t possibly go on a camping trip without your kids’ favorite toy, favorite stuffed animal or favorite blanket (at least in my family). Make sure you bring a comfort item so that your kid feels safer when he’s sleeping. Having someone to cuddle with all night will help them sleep better, especially if they’re used to that at home. 

Expecting your kids to sleep soundly inside a tent, a strange environment away from home, if they need to cuddle their beloved squishy toy to fall asleep at home, is unrealistic. so make sure to bring some of their beloved stuffed animals or blankets before you go camping. 

Tell Stories

Camping bedtime stories are one of our favorite family traditions. While you could easily bring along a fun adventure camping book, our kids love it when we tell them stories about when we were their ages. Get creative and have some fun with your storytelling, since it’s one time out of the day, it will really add to their memories!

Go To Bed With The Kids

How can you expect your kids to sleep when you’re wide awake all night. So make sure that when your kids are sleeping, you sleep with them, or are out of the tent.

You don’t want to risk accidentally waking them up when you’re awake. Staying up late with a good book and headlamp is much easier when you’re sitting by the fire and is also a great way for you to wind down for the night.  

Make Them Listen To White Noise

Camping at night can often mean unexpected noises from other nearby campers. To prevent kids from waking up to a car driving by your campsite early in the morning, or a late night squeal from a neighboring tent, pack a portable white noise machine. Lullabies are great for relaxing but if lullabies don’t work on your kids then instead, you can download white noise on your phone, there are many white noise videos on youtube that you can play for your kids to help them relax. 

Get ALL Their Energy OUT!!

hiking in the desert with kids

Nothing makes kids hit the hay faster than when they’re completely exhausted. So make sure to play with them and make keep them active all day, so they’re practically begging to go to bed. The more tuckered out they’ll be, the better sleep they’ll get.  

Bring a Baby Carrier

If you have an infant that’s really comfortable in a baby carrier, then make sure to bring your carrier with you while you’re away camping. Wearing a baby while camping and walking around is a great way to get them to sleep at night when they might otherwise be overstimulated by everything going on at the campsite. Without the carrier, your baby might have a harder time sleeping peacefully. 

Get a Baby Sleeping Bag

Baby sleeping bags are gaining more popularity nowadays, and they’re the safest and best place for your baby to sleep while camping. It might seem wasteful to get a separate sleeping bag for your little one but baby sleeping bags are designed to prevent suffocation risks and to keep a baby’s temperature regulated on your family camping trip. You could also consider a baby camping bed or a baby tent!

Bring Comfy Pillows

Make sure the sleeping situation is as comfortable as possible by bringing your kid’s pillows. It’s already difficult enough to sleep in a new environment, so it’s better to bring pillows that you know your kids are already comfortable with.

Bring a Night-Light

If your kids are afraid of the dark then make sure you have a small battery-operated night light with you. It’s preferable if the night light has adjustable brightness so that it doesn’t disturb anyone’s sleep!

Don’t go Too Heavy on the Water 

Make sure to monitor how much water your kids are drinking before their designated bedtime. You don’t want your kids waking up in the middle of the night to go pee and disturb their sleep (or worse, having an accident in their sleeping bag). Make sure to limit water intake at least 3-4 hours before bedtime and take them peeing before they go to sleep.

Adjust Bed-Time According to How Dark it is Outside

kids camping tent

You would think that it’s counterintuitive to go against the pre-set bedtime, but it can be an uphill battle if you strictly enforce a kid camping bedtime. But when you’re out camping, depending on the time of the season, it can be light outside even at your kids’ bedtime. So rather than going against the light, adjust your kids’ bedtime according to how dark it is outside. To get kids to make it to this hour, they may need some extra afternoon rest, but it also means that you have more daylight hours to have fun outside together.  

Make the Kids Feel Safe

The number one thing that you need to remember if you’re camping out with your kids is that, while camping might not be scary for you as an adult, kids are a completely different story. 

Especially, if your kids are new to camping, the dark wilderness can be really scary for them even if they don’t overtly show it. They need to feel safe and sound before they go ahead and sleep. If they’re too worried about monsters in the dark coming to get them, they won’t be able to sleep anytime soon. 

So what you need to do as a parent, is to educate them on what is out there in the woods and ensure them again and again that they are safe with you. You need to be able to physically comfort them by giving them lots of hugs and cuddles to feel warm, comfortable, and safe from any dangers outside.

Have Videos Downloaded On Your Phone

Deseparate times call for desperate measures – a few videos saved to your phone could save your sanity at the end of a long and tiring day. Wifi can be difficult to come by while you are camping. So make sure you have some videos downloaded on your phone that can help your kids fall asleep. Nursery rhymes and lullabies are a great way to make your kids feel calm and comfortable before bed. Lullabies can also help you, as a parent, to relax as well. 

To Wrap It Up…

Getting kids to sleep is not an easy thing at the best of times but getting them to sleep is way harder when you’re in a strange place. So before you leave to go camping, make sure to pack your kids, favorite blanket, toy, or comfort item, as well as, a night lamp with a dimmer, and a baby carrier (if you have a baby). 

Also, make sure to dress your kids according to the weather so they’re not too hot or cold, and help them to remember that camping is a fun and exciting experience, by setting the tone for yourself!

About Jessica Averett

Hi, I’m Jessica, a mom of 5 kids and married to my favorite adventure partner. I love to bike, ski, camp and hike. We've visited over 40 countries with our kids, but are equally happy on the road as we are exploring our home state of Utah.

12 thoughts on “18 Tips to Get Kids to Sleep While Camping”

  1. Wow, this is great. Tristen and Amelia – 2 amazing moms – are both already loving the PeaPod. So, I’m a little late to the game. Better late than never!

  2. Wow! This was a great article. Every parent needs to read this article. I wish I would have had some of these tips before now as my daughter is now 5 years old. Great, great, great information!

  3. Very timely post!! In 3 days i leave for Australia with my almost 10 month old…and we’ll spend 6 months downunder travelling, bike-touring, camping and visiting family….I have my Peapod in tow (will use it during the airport stopover in Auckland and esp camping), the rest, well, fingers crossed she sleeps and adjusts well with lots of crawling and “pulling up”!!!

  4. Great advice! Definitely second “get them tired” – we went camping with a fifth wheel camper one time and our kids (1 and 4 at the time) took a good, long nap in the car on the way to the campground. Needless to say, they were awake and bouncing off the walls until one in the morning (and probably kept everybody else at the campground up too)…It took a year before we went camping again…

  5. So cool that you scored a peapod! Most of my friends laugh at us for putting our babies in little tents… I didn’t even realize you thought it was cool! It’s been the BEST for us. I can even go to a friend’s house during naptime and just stick the baby in a room in the peapod. Like you mentioned – For all the family I have had that the peapod did NOT work for, it’s because they didn’t get them used to it. As soon as I can, I put the baby in it for a nap at least once or twice a week so they don’t get freaked out on vacation.

    • My question is how do you get them used to falling asleep in it. My 14-month old freaked out when we tried. She was super tired – maybe over tired – but lost her mind and still won’t stay in it even with her blankets and favourite things.
      Do I need to let her scream herself to sleep or will that be too traumatic and make her never use it?

  6. Your post about PeaPod convinced me that THIS is the best gift for my adventurer niece who is is about to become a new mom.
    Thanks Bring The Kids!

  7. First time parents wondering how do you begin to “train” or get your baby familiar with sleeping in the pea pod? Or do you just pitch it up one day and hope they’ll adjust to it?

    We have a 6month old and are ready to get out. of. the. house. already. We tried the pea pod once on our first 3 day trip at a family members house last week and she cried her eyes out for hours. Any tips?

    Thanks so much for your posts by the way!
    These are great reads.


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