Thursday, May 10, 2012

Family Camping Made Easy - Siestas for the junior camper

If you are just joining us in the series on Family Camping Made Easy, you can click on the links below to see the other topics already covered:  Warm sleepers are happy sleepers, Baby adventuresPreschool adventures, and Bathing in the woods.

Today I want to discuss another topic related to babies, toddlers, and preschoolers - the mid day siesta.
How do you work around your child's daily routine if he or she still desperately needs a nap?  Do you just abandon the idea of napping while camping and give the kid a grace day?  What if your child goes crazy without a nap and is unbearable to be around?

My son was relatively easy to deal with when it came to napping.  When he was young, he'd nap anywhere and everywhere.  We could go sit in a park and he would nap curled up between my legs.  As he got older, he'd nap in the car, in the child carrier or in the Chariot. 

The key was to go for a walk or a drive and there was his nap.  We took a vacation to Hawaii and never once returned to the condo in 10 days for a mid-day nap.  My son would just nap en route to the next beach or destination.  He was extremely easy to travel with.  Even today, Noah doesn't nap in his bed.  He will play, scream, cry, or quietly read until you finally open the bedroom door.  However, he will fall asleep on a 5 minute drive to the grocery store - something that brings its own problems!

This child could sleep anywhere!

If your child is like mine, napping isn't an issue for you.  Go for a walk, take a drive to a nearby lake, go for ice-cream or hunt down a local coffee shop and your child will be in lullaby land.  Note, that it's a good idea to bring books along in the car to read while you wait for Sleeping Beauty to wake up.

Passed out on one of our hikes

If you child has to be in his own bed to nap however, camping and traveling are going to be a little trickier for you.  Below are a few suggestions for the child that must physically lie down to sleep:

One - If your tent isn't too hot or you have a trailer, just put your child down for their nap as you would at home.  Give them a few books to read while they fall asleep or let them watch one of their favourite shows on a portable DVD player.  You can also try napping with them (what parent doesn't wish they could take more naps?).  If you plan to have your child nap in your tent, choose a shady spot so that your tent won't catch that full mid-day sun.

Two - Invest in a PeaPod by Kidco.  This small portable tent folds up in a small bag so you can easily take it with you to the lake, allowing your youngest child to nap while older children play.  Everybody in the family will appreciate this instead of being stuck at the campsite while your baby sleeps.  You can buy PeaPods in different sizes so that even toddlers can use them.  Don't have a PeaPod? - use a Pack&Play.  Refer to my story, Baby Adventures for more information on the PeaPod and Pack&Play while camping.

Napping in a PeaPod (Photo:  G. Duncan)

If napping isn't going to work because your child has to be in his or her own bed try to at least give them some quiet time.  Last summer when we'd start to suspect our son was about to lose it, we'd put him in the tent with a video for half an hour.  Bonus - sometimes they will actually fall asleep.  If not, at least they rested and had some down time.  The other thing that worked well for us was reading books.  For more suggestions on the topic of down time, read  one of my earlier stories in this Camping Series, Preschool Adventures.  

In a pinch, naps can happen anywhere.  How creative are you?  That's the question.

They're in the shade and looking pretty comfortable to me.

For more reading on napping, check out Lindsey's story, The Dreaded Nap:  how to have an outside life and a well-rested child.  Her advice pretty much follows mine with suggestions such as drive while drowsy (the child - not you), nap around, and practice sleep walking (you walk, your child sleeps).

Erica with Crag Mama also has a great story on napping, Creating a Cragbaby - Sleepy time solutions, that reminds us to know when to call it a day (especially important on day hikes or days at the crag climbing).  I especially like the photo of Crag Daddy in the story showing us how important it is for parents to take naps too.  :)


Other suggestions from the community:

Mine have always just napped on mom or dad's back (though my 3 yr old doesn't nap anymore). Actually, that's both my at-home and in-wilderness strategy. My 1 year old gets 80% of her naps in the wrap as we're wandering around outside (and the other 20% in the bike trailer). So camping isn't really a change in that regard. (Erin)

Bring a baby monitor so you can monitor them while you are out reading or knitting. (Lia)

For downtime, we like to journal. Even before they could write actual words, we would purposefully scribble, color etc in our write in the rain books. Also, naps are so important--so don't push toddlers too far without one. You'll be sorry. (Jennifer)

I'm was always up for lying down beside them to "keep them company"  (Jen)


What's the most creative napping solution you've found in the outdoors?  How important are naps in your family?


Next in the series on Family Camping Made Easy:  Backcountry Adventures


  1. Love these pics!'s funny how they can sleep almost through anything, in any position. When we go camping I've learned if I want the nap to be long enough I need to take some time and just lay in the tent with them for about 20 minutes. They eventually fall asleep, but I usually knock out first :)

    1. Thanks. Sleeping baby photos are always awesome!

  2. We use our Pack 'N Play for nap time for my toddler. It is very familiar to her and a lot like her crib. We set it up inside our very spacious tent and make sure the tent is a comfortable temperature for her.

    1. I wish my son still napped other than while on the go. And I wish he still fit a pack n play. He's a very large toddler.

  3. Nap times or quiet time are still pretty important for M. However, they are a lot less important than last year when a missed napped and being overtired inevitably led to night terrors. Unfortunately, at the same time he wouldn't nap on the go any longer. Thankfully, he seems to have outgrown that phase and we have regained a lot of flexibility for our adventures. If he's well rested, we've been able to extend our adventures well into the afternoon and as long as he gets some quiet time before dinner, life is usually quite peaceful. His favourite blanket, a stuffy and a book is his favourite way to spend nap time/quite time now.

  4. Hi...Love the pictures and the theme of the site. Ours is similar except we're now doing it with grandkids. It's a hoot.....Dan and Pam