Backyard Camping with a Toddler Guide



Oct 20, 2022

You don’t have to go away to have an awesome time camping with your toddler. Before going away to camp try backyard camping! Your toddler will think it is the best idea ever and a great practice run before a bigger camping trip.

backyard camping with a toddler smiles
My husband and son out in the backyard

There are a couple of tips I will share that will help ensure you and your toddler have a great time backyard camping. 

Looking for the right gear to camp with your toddler? Check out camping check out Best Toddler Camping Gear.

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase. Rest assured all products I suggest are products I have bought or would buy based on personal experience or through my network of other mothers!

Can You Camp with a 2 Year Old?

Of course you can! There is some specific information you will want to know when camping with a 2 year old, but once you do, you are set. 

A great option is to first camp at home with a toddler, either indoors or in the backyard. This will prepare your toddler and let them know what to expect when going away camping. 

Question to think through when camping with a 2 year old

  • If your toddler is potty trained, where will they go potty?
  • If your toddler uses diapers will your tent have enough space and light to change diapers when needed?
  • What will my toddler eat while camping? 
  • Will my toddler be warm enough?
  • How does my toddler take to new situations?
  • Does my toddler want to go camping?

The most important thing is to make sure your toddler will be safe while sleeping, has appropriate clothes to keep them warm and food available to them. 

How Do I Entertain My 2 Year Old While Camping?

2 Year olds are entertained by everything around them. Just being outside and playing around the tent should buy you some time. My two toddlers love to run around the tent and keep going in and out just to check things out. 

Perhaps you want to bring out some camping toys for your toddler. One of our favorites is a toddler camera so they can take pictures.  We also have a pretend S’more kit, an Explorer Kit and several books about hiking. Another great idea is to plan a fun camping scavenger hunt for your 2 year old!

But mostly your toddler wants to spend time with you! Whether you are playing with the camping toys or sitting around the campfire singing songs your toddler will be happiest when you are engaging with them.

You can read my 30 Fun Camping Activities for Toddlers for more inspiration. 

What Should a Toddler Sleep in when Camping?

Safe sleep for a 2 year old is important when camping. Sleeping bags are NOT safe for a child under the age of 3. The child can wiggle down inside the sleeping bag and suffocate. Therefore, you should find an alternative.

Options for safe sleep while camping with a 2 year old

wearable toddler sleeping bag
My almost 3 year old loves his wearable sleeping bag

  • Sleeping Quilt 
  • Wearable Sleeping Bag

A sleeping quilt can go on the ground, especially if you placed your tent on a nice thick piece of grass. Or you might want to have a cot to bring into the tent. 

I use Regalo My Cot for my toddlers when traveling which I can also use when camping in my backyard with my 2 year old.  I then use a quilt as a blanket.

A wearable sleeping bag is a great option and works more like a sleep sack. Morrison Outdoors makes excellent cold weather sleeping bag for your baby. Morrison Outdoor’s has two versions of the product based on how cold you anticipate the weather to be when camping.

little mo sleeping bag
Little Mo on my 10 month old daughter

Also you have the choice of sizes. **Little Mo ** is for ages 6-24 months while Big Mo is for 2-4 year olds. I have both one for my almost 1 year old and 3 year old.

For a cheaper option for warmer weather, lows only going down to 55 degrees F, Baby Deedee Sleeping Bag is a great option.

Toddler Camping Gear For A Successful Backyard Camping with a Toddler

A Camping Tent: 

This is the most important piece of equipment. When camping with toddlers I like to have a larger tent, this allows them more room to play in the tent and space for the whole family. 

9 person dome tent for camping with a toddler
Our 9 Person Core Tent set up in the backyard

We have the Core 9 Person Extended Dome Tent for our family of 5 plus a dog. It has ample space and room for the kids to move around in the tent, or eat in the tent if the weather is bad. The tent is made from PU coated fabric and taped seams to protect from water. However, if I am camping in the backyard with a toddler I won’t choose a stormy night to do it.

Downsides to a larger than needed tent is that your body warmth will not keep the tent warm like a smaller tent would. This is fine as long as most of your camping is in warmer months of the year or you are dressed appropriately for the weather.

If I am backyard camping for just myself and one toddler I use a smaller tent. We also have a Sierra Designs 2 Person Tabernash tent. This tent makes for a more cozy experience and better if taking on a hiking trip where camping is in the cards.. When using this tent there isn’t much room to play inside the tent so we only go inside when it is time to unwind for bed.

toddler backyard camping with smaller tent
Our Smaller Two Person Sierra Designs

Our Smaller Two Person Sierra Designs

A play tent is another option. If you have a small sleeping tent to sleep in you can also put up a small kids play tent.  You can designate this tent for any toys you bring and therefore keep the sleeping tent more tidy and ready for bed.

Fire Pit

toddler camping bonfire

Not critical, but critical for a fun time! A fire pit is the ticket for endless backyard fun as the sun fades away. Sitting around a fire is mystical and your toddler will be entranced. Also needed to roast the marshmallows for S’mores.

Sleeping Option for You

You will want to have an ideal sleeping option for yourself, as there is no reason you can’t be comfortable as well.  Your tent size and personal preference will dictate what is perfect for you.

When camping I like to feel like I am roughing it a bit, which to me means sleeping in a sleeping bag on the ground. I do have a ground mat and bring my normal pillow. 

Other options, if your tent is big enough, is what people would call glamping. You can use a blow up mattress and either a sleeping bag or duvet/comforter for the covers.


A lantern that your toddler can use will not only be fun for them but useful. There are many different ways a lantern will come in handy when backyard camping with your toddler.

backyard camping for toddlers lanterns
My two toddlers both with their Coleman Kids Lanterns

Positive Attitude

I know positive attitude isn't gear, but treat it like its required to backyard camp and you're golden.

The best thing you can bring to your toddler while backyard camping is a positive attitude. If you remain positive any hiccups that occur will seem like no big deal to your toddler. This will ensure your little one is left with a positive memory of camping with you. And don't be surprised if it ensure you have an awesome time too!

Sleep Options for Backyard Camping with a Toddler

Safe Sleep Option for your Toddler

Options for a toddler under the age of 3

Sleeping bags are not safe for a toddler under the age of 3. If your child is under 3 he or she can use a cot, a wearable sleeping bag or a blow up mattress and a blanket. 

Option 1: I use the Regalo My Cot for travel with my toddlers. If you use a cot while traveling it is an added benefit that your toddler might already be used to sleeping in it. 

Option 2: If your tent isn’t big enough for a cot or you want a more camping-like experience a wearable sleeping bag is a great option. Place a ground mat down and have your toddler wear the sleeping bag, like a sleep sack.

Option 3: Use a blow up mattress for your toddler in the tent. You can then use a blanket, maybe even the one they use every night!

Options for a toddler over the age of 3 while camping

As well as the options above, a toddler sized sleeping bag can be used for a child over the age of 3. At this age the risk of a child falling down in the sleeping bag and suffocating goes away, however the sleeping bag should be the appropriate size, otherwise the above concern remains!

The ANZ Outdoors 32 F Kid Sleeping bag is made for a child up to 4’5” and is perfect for a toddler. It comes in fun patterns and a bag that is easily carried by your toddler.  I have the one in blue. If you don’t plan on camping in winter temperatures this sleeping bag is a great option for an older toddler.

If you are planning on camping below 32 degrees F, Big Agnes 15 Degrees Sleeping Bag for Kids Little Red is the best option. The little red option accommodates a child up to 4’5” as well and features everything you would want for a toddler sleeping bag. 

Features include sculpted mummy contour for warmth, contoured head, no-draft zipper or collar, and pad sleeve.

  • Reading Light
  • Light to help with diaper changes or dressing
  • Light to get out to use the bathroom
  • Night Light (if toddler is scared)
  • Toddler to carry around after dark

Top Tips to Make Backyard Camping Awesome for a Toddler

backyard camping bonfire with smores
A fun time making S'mores with these three littles!

  1. Have a cookout: Start the camping experience early with a dinner cookout. Hotdogs, Cheeseburgers, Corn, Kabobs, or whatever you fancy. 
  2. Play Yard Games: Spend the evening outside around your “campsite”. If you have a play-set or your toddler loves kicking a soccer ball all that matters is you're having fun together.
  3. Roast S’mores: What kids don't love roasting marshmallows and combining it with graham crackers and chocolate? If you can find one I will be surprised!
  4. Bring Glow Sticks: Once the sun fades away crack some glow sticks for added fun
  5. Let your toddler stay up later than normal and stargaze.
  6. Have your toddler bring their friends, and by that I mean stuffed animal friends. 
  7. Make the morning fun too with a camping scavenger hunt.

Additional Tips For Backyard Camping With A Toddler

setting up backyard tent
The boys goofing off as we set up our backyard tent

1. You don’t have to do everything outside

If you do not want to bring everything outside to plan for your “night out” don’t. The luxury of camping in your backyard is that your house is right there. 

If you’d rather get dressed for bed and brush your teeth indoors and then go outside, that is okay. You can also go inside to use the bathroom and wash your hands. 

2. If your toddler isn’t happy you can always go back inside and try again another night.

The benefit of camping in your own backyard is that if anything goes wrong you can come inside, no judgment. If your toddler is NOT enjoying him or herself don’t force them to stay outside, let them come inside to their own bed. You can always try again another time.

3. Select the day with the ideal temperature.

Camping in your backyard gives you the luxury of selecting the best day for it.  Pick a day that will be best for your toddler, a warmer dry night for your first time. 

4. Let your toddler be involved setting up the campsite

Toddlers love to help. For them the process of setting up a tent and bringing out their sleeping bag or sleep option is half the fun. It might take twice as long, but is well worth it!