Tips to help your child sleep when camping

Lighting cues

This is our newest and BEST hack. We started using this nightlight at home. It changes colors to give a visual reminder to the kids that it’s bedtime or morning.  We picked blue for bedtime, red for stay in bed, and green for get up and go! We can change the color using an app on our phone. It has been tremendously helpful for us at home and camping.  The key is using it consistently so when you go camping, the kiddos are already familiar with how it works. We have power in our van so we use the same light we have at home, but if you need a battery operated version there’s several out there. (Something like this nightlight might work) We also noted that this light helps illuminate their sleeping area.  Our daughter used to wake up scared at night when it was too dark in the van because she didn’t know where she was.  Seeing her familiar light and being able to see where she was has also helped if she wakes during the night. 

Pack familiar items

We usually bring a blanket or stuffed animal that they sleep with every night.  We keep our same routine of a book before bed to set the tone for bedtime.

White Noise

We use a white noise machine at home and always keep a portable sound machine in the van or our tent.  It helps everyone sleep better.  We can usually get two nights out of a charge and we pack a little USB charger for longer backpacking trips to give it a boost if necessary.  


Unfamiliar sleeping situations are stressful for kids (and adults). Practicing at home provides a great opportunity to get comfortable with the tent.  Setting up the tent in either your living room or backyard to practice for night is great.  You can test all of your gear and it’s easy to bail if needed!  We’ve noticed the more time we spend camping, the better the kids sleep.  They know the routine and it’s much easier.

All of these tips can help, but the reality is there is no guarantee kids will sleep well camping, especially on their first trips.  Heck, we camp frequently, and depending on where our kids are developmentally, their ability to sleep well camping changes.  We noticed our most difficult time with our daughter was around 18 months when she was more aware of her surroundings and had serious FOMO.  We adjusted our camping plans and went for one night knowing it we wouldn’t sleep well.  We managed expectations. With more time and practice she settled back in (and the night light helped too)! We are waiting for Luke to hit this phase soon. Hopefully we coast right through!  So our thought is, even if doesn’t go well, don’t give up.  Just wait a bit and try again!

How do your kids sleep when you camp? What tips work for you?

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