Camping with a toddler

Rose in the tent
Rose in the tent

Earlier in the year I went away for a couple of days camping with one of my friends in Snowdonia and had a great time. My three year old daughter Rose, however, couldn’t believe that I’d not taken her and I think she felt pretty left out.

Since then she has mentioned that ‘when she is older’ she can come with me. At first I thought, yes, ‘when your older’ but the more I thought about it the more I reckoned it would be fun to go now. A date was set and plans were made.

I thought for a first camping trip that we should keep things simple and not try to be too adventurous. I therefore decided to go to the New Forest and only for one night. We packed up the car after breakfast and had an unadventurous 3 hour drive down to the camp-site, getting there about lunchtime.

The camp-site, near Lymington was quite crowded and we struggled to find a pitch that wasn’t surrounded by noisy types. I plumped for a spot next to a quiet looking couple and hoped that they wouldn’t turn into drunken monsters later. As it turned out I’m not sure they spoke to each other all evening. Rose was actually quite helpful with putting up the tent. She could click the poles in place and handed me the pegs as I put them in. When it was up and the sleeping bags were in she excitingly got in and said we should go to sleep (despite it only being 1 o’clock).

I persuaded her that it might be nicer to have a spot of lunch and then maybe visit a castle before bed. Rose seemed to like this idea. Following a nice pub lunch we made our way down to Keyhaven where we could get the ferry over to Hurst Castle. For Rose, the ferry trip was a bit of a treat in itself and she almost seemed a bit disappointed when we arrived at the Castle.

View from Hurst Castle
View from Hurst Castle

The castle itself was originally built by King Henry VIII but was substantially added to during the 1860s-80s and became one of ‘Palmerston’s follies’. We had a good time looking at, and in Rose’s case climbing on, the massive guns and climbing the walls. There is a good view of the Solent and the Isle of Wight! Rose also devoured a massive ice cream!

Canon or climbing frame?
Canon or climbing frame?

Before getting the ferry back we both enjoyed a little paddle in the sea and a walk along the shingle. Back at camp, it was time for a spot of dinner so it was out with the camping stove and on with some pasta. I also had a tin of mild curry too but only just realised that i’d failed to bring along a tin opener. doh! I therefore went off to beg for the use of someone else’s.

Dinner eaten, Rose declared that she wanted to go to bed (it was around her normal bedtime) so I thought why not and said we should get in the tent. She then asked questioningly ‘are we sleeping here’?? I think she slightly couldn’t believe that we’d actually sleep in tent. She didn’t put up much protest and got into her sleeping bag. Two hours later, three long trips to the loo and a walk to go and pick blackberries (and see the sunset) later she was finally asleep. At times she was like a whirling dervish in the tent. Mostly, it was quite funny and i’d always thought it unlikely that she’d go to sleep that early.

My plan was to stay in the tent with Rose and once she was asleep read my book or play a game on the iPhone and this seemed to more or less work out. Fairly promptly at 6am, though, Rose awoke and made it pretty clear she wasn’t going to be going back to sleep. I took her to the toilet and, as the campsite was still very much asleep, suggested we walk down to the sea. This turned out to be a great move as we got there to see the very beautiful dawn.

Dawn Solent
Dawn Solent

We walked up and down for a bit seeing a fish leap out of the water a couple of times before heading back to the campsite for breakfast. I made us some nuttella on bread (and a coffee for me) and it was really nice, just sitting in our camp chairs watching people emerge from their tents and start their own morning rituals. After brekkie, we ‘broke camp’, which Rose was a lot less keen to hep out with and hit the road. Rose said that she was keen to go to the beach so I thought we’d head to Christchurch as it has proper sand. We didn’t get very far, however, before she was out for the count and whilst I could have made her wake up I thought I’d treat her to a nap. I at least got a very pleasant and mildly picturesque drive along the coast and then back towards Lyndhurst.

Midnight Tryst?
Midnight Tryst?

I didn’t want to go home without going in at least some of the actual ‘New Forest’ so we stopped and had a wander about. As ever, the best bit for Rose was looking under logs for ‘bugs’ and climbing on fallen trees. And why not? In a little clearing we also found this (empty) wine bottle and two glasses that must have been for some midnight tryst?!

The weather was a bit iffy with spells of rain so I thought we should go for home while the going was good.


Well, I have to say that it all went pretty swimingly. Rose had a great time and since we’ve been back has requested to go again many times.

I was really keen to make it fun and really worried that I’d put her off on her first trip. I’m therefore quite glad that I was relatively unambitious this time.

The only slight error I made was pitching the tent so far away from either the toilet or the field edge. It wasn’t so big a problem but next time I’d bring more pillows and blankets to pad out the tent a bit. I’m so used to very minimal camping that I didn’t think about it. A portable DVD player might have helped with a calm bed time too.

Altogether, both of us can’t wait till next time!


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