We will be going camping this weekend and plan to have our 8-month-old baby sleep next to me on the tent floor. Is this safe? Will it work?
I've been camping with a small toddler, and that worked reasonably well. The biggest problem was that he moved around a lot while he slept, so we had to be inventive to keep something soft under him.
I will say that camping is generally child-safe as long as you take reasonable precautions. Here are some considerations for you:
- Kids can sleep anywhere, anytime, if they're tired.
- Does your child move around during sleep? Depending on how mobile he is, you might want to "wall him in" a bit. We used one of our sports bags filled with clothing as a useful barrier.
- He needs some sort of sleeping mat, just so he isn't lying on hard ground. Can you ensure that he'll stay on that area?
- What's the weather going to be like? A fine summer night needs no special precautions, but what will you do if the night temperature drops to maybe 10-15 degrees above freezing? Also, dry summer weather is fine but if there's a lot of rain or humidity you can expect the inner tent to be very moist too.
- How big is your tent? If the tent is small enough for 2 parents plus one child tucked into a corner, that will be cozy and limit unwanted movement. A huge tent has a different advantage - you can make better arrangements between the child and yourself (and your luggage).
- Is the camp site safe? Obviously I don't expect you to go camping in a bear-infested wasteland, and if you are staying at a gated camp site like the photo below then it's only a matter of whether you feel safe among the other guests.
- How are you cooking meals? Where are you storing knives, foods, etc.? Just make sure that your child can't easily reach things that are dangerous or should be off-limits. Take special care while you're cooking because a gas burner with a pot of boiling water is an accident waiting to happen.
- How is the daily routine going to be? Outdoors you will have to adjust your routine to the whims of daylight. The child may not want to sleep if it's still (or already!) light outside.
- How will you adapt your usual routine to an outdoor life? There's no cuddle sofa, no TV, almost none of the comforts and toys and sounds and smells that make your home feel like home.
If you go on your trip with a can-do attitude and you're prepared to improvise and laugh at potential misery, then you're already well equipped. The only thing certain about going camping with small kids is that it won't go as planned - but it might be more fun that you thought!
Where to put babies in the tent is something that varies from baby to baby and over time for the same baby. We took our kids camping (with a car parked next to the tent) at two months of age or so, and canoe camping after 11 months. That's where all your stuff is in the canoe and you paddle all day then set up camp, repeat for several days. Of all the possible dangers camping involves (lakes, open fires, sunburn, wildlife, insects, dirt, unlevel ground you might trip and fall on, distance from help and civilization, ...) sleeping in the tent next to your parents sure isn't one of them.
Assuming you're car camping, bring things that smell familiar. We had a "moses basket" for naps anywhere and that's perfect for a two month old in a tent. We also had a baby sleeping bag that we often used at home or other people's houses for a toddler, and that's what we used in the tent. If the baby can crawl, make sure an adult is between them and the door of the tent.
Bring a variety of clothes for the baby. If the night is warm, use the lighter ones, if it's cold, use the warmer ones. You can't be sure what the temperature will be in a tent as you can in your house, and you can't count on blankets because a baby might kick them off.
There are a number of "camping with kids and babies" questions on the Great Outdoors that might interest you: https://outdoors.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/children