Sleep Easy - Getting Your Kids to Sleep While Camping

No matter where you’re sleeping, it’s always a rough way to end the day with wild kids who refuse to be quiet and go to bed. It’s all in fun, but after a day in the wilderness, I’m exhausted, and all I want is a few minutes of peace and quiet before I drift off to sleep.

The bedtime struggle is real, even when the kids are snug in their own beds with their regular routine. Throw in a tent, lack of daily structure, and late night smores, and all of sudden you find yourself in bedtime chaos.

It’s one of the most common responses I get when I share our outdoor life – I wish we could camp, but my kids won’t sleep in a tent.

Step one…get out of the backyard! One night out in the lawn IS going to be exciting, and you shouldn’t rule out camping based on this limited experience.

Here are six tips when you’re in the wilderness to help you get the babes to sleep. Hallelujah for bedtime – I love our fun-filled days, but a good night of sleep makes me a much better mom, ready to wake up and do it all over again!

1. Comfort

Before you get serious about camping, one of the best decisions you can make is getting everyone a good quality sleeping bag and sleeping pad. We purchased ours from REI – I highly recommend visiting your local outdoor store and exploring options. It’s tempting to skimp on the pad, but it’d guestimate it accounts for 80% of your comfort. Not only does it make the ground much softer, but it adds warmth to your bag

We do most of our camping in Colorado where it gets really chilly at night. We pack fleece PJs for the kids and everyone sleeps in warm socks. On really chilly nights, we even put them to sleep with a stocking hat on.

Some people love an air mattress, but it hasn’t worked well for us. We tried it for one night and I froze my bum off all night long. You may be able to get away with this in warmer climates, but the air mattress gets really cold. Besides the chill, it lost air fast once the temp started to cool down, and pretty soon we had a large sinkhole in the middle. It was awful. Never again. After that trip, I hightailed it to REI and purchased myself a quality bag and sleep pad.

Also, don’t forget the lovies! We bring favorite blankets and pillows from home so no one is missing their comfort items.

2. Abandon Regular Bedtimes

I know. All you want is a hot minute. I have a hard time giving on this one, but know it’s a battle I’m going to lose every time. Enforce regular bedtime, and the kids are up for hours giggle and acting ridiculous in the tent.

We follow the sun when we camp. When it’s dark, we’re usually all ready for bed. For us, this is around nine o’clock, and thankfully everyone is pretty exhausted by then.

3. Follow your Bedtime Routine

Even when camping, we still brush our teeth, put on our pajamas, and read a book before bed. I’ve learned that it’s much easier to brush our teeth and do our last bathroom run right before total darkness, so sundown usually sets the timeline.

Once we’re in the tent, the kids get into PJs and I’ll read a book under the lantern.

4. Eat Healthy-ish

I’m not sure what it is about camping, but it makes us feel like we can eat whatever, whenever. I buy all kinds of things for camping that I would never buy for our cupboards. (Twizzlers and Oreos, I’m looking at you.) Everyone feels better if we stick to somewhat of a normal meal schedule and pack a few fruit and vegetables for snacking. Smores around the fire are non-negotiable, but we limit our treat consumption throughout the day to make sure we avoid tummy aches and keep our energy levels up.

5. Wear Them Out

Hiking, exploring, fishing, playing in the creek, canoeing, biking, going on a nature hike, looking for wildlife, walking through the campground….we keep the kids busy all day long.

6. Don’t Expect a Miracle

Camping is SO EXCITING when you’re a kid! Everything is new and your senses are alive. Be patient. They’re taking in their surroundings their first night, just like you. This can be so incredibly frustrating after a long day in the woods. But, I promise, if you can just get over night one, they’ll sleep like a baby on night two. The time together is so worth it!


I hope these tips help you get a restful night of sleep on your next adventure! Adventure on, friends!

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© 2019 by Pioneers not Princesses™