Camping. It’s all about family fun time. Setting up the tent, hiking, swimming, and hanging around the open campfire. This is easy if you’ve got older children who know all about campfire safety.
But what if your child is a toddler? They’re full of energy and always looking for something new and exciting to explore. And that blazing campfire is sure to be enticing and irresistible!
Don’t despair and think you need to stay home. There are some things you can do to keep your energetic toddler away from the fire without losing your mind.
7 Ways to Keep Your Toddler Safe Around a Campfire
1 – Supervise Your Toddler
It probably doesn’t need mentioning that your toddler should always be supervised around the campfire. Children are fascinated by fire, and that glowing campfire you’ve just lit is going to be a huge attraction. All it takes is for you to be distracted for even a few seconds for an accident to happen.
To be completely safe, always have another adult watch your little one if you need to go and do something else.
2 – Talk About Fire Safety
Your toddler is going to keep you on your toes no matter what and push to see just where his boundaries are. This means you need to communicate the seriousness of a campfire to him. Talk about fire safety. He can understand much more than you give him credit for. Let him know what fire is and what it’s for. And that it’s hot and can hurt!
Before your trip, see if you can get hold of some picture books about camping. Look for stories that show families safely enjoying time around the campfire. If possible, take one of these storybooks with you to the campsite. This way you can pull it out to read and remind your toddler what fire safety looks like.
3 – Keep Your Toddler Busy
There’s no doubt that your toddler is going to be riveted on the campfire. Try not to dwell all day on keeping him away from the fire. The more you go on and on about why he needs to stay away, the more he’s going to want to go there.
Plan on doing plenty of things that everyone, including your toddler, can participate in. Playing games, doing crafts, taking a walk, collecting leaves…these are all camp-friendly activities that will keep your child busy and away from the fire.
4 – Use a Playpen
If toddlers aren’t confined, they’ll need constant supervision when you’re camping. The best thing you can do for yourself is to pack a playpen with your camping gear. A simple one will do so long as it safely and securely keeps your child in and is easy to pack and set up. Make sure it’s a playpen that you can see through, so you can keep an eye on him, such as mesh or clear plastic. You can set the pen up close to where you are. This way your toddler can play to his heart’s content nearby in his playpen.
Place a few of his favorite toys inside. One way to make sure he doesn’t get bored is to have some toys put aside for your toddler that he only sees when you’re camping. He’ll be excited to be playing with something new, and you may get him to play on his own long enough for you to finish making coffee!
If your toddler is past the stage where he’s putting everything in his mouth, another way to amuse him when he’s in his playpen is to just let him get dirty (which is good for them anyway). Put some leaves, pine cones, stones, and twigs in with him. This way he gets to enjoy and explore the outdoors without you having to chase him around the campsite.
5 – Bring a Toddler Backpack
Another great piece of equipment to take on your camping trip is a toddler backpack. These are great for carrying your child around on your back. You can take him everywhere you go in the campsite, even when you’re making breakfast over the fire. He’ll get to be with you and feel as though he’s participating in camping activities and chores.
6 – Build a Safe Zone
Your toddler may not be able to fully understand the danger of fire and that he needs to stay away. But he’ll be fully onboard if you set up a fun safe zone, a space in your campsite where he knows he’s allowed to go. A safe zone is just an area away from the campfire where your child can safely sit and play. He’ll still be close enough to all the action, so he can enjoy the fire and you’ll have more peace of mind that he’s not right there beside the flames.
A good distance to set up the safe zone is about 7 to 10 feet from the fire. Buy your toddler a little camping chair and table that he can call his own. If he’s resistant to being that far away from you, pull the logs or chairs you’re sitting on into his area. There may have to be a compromise of where your family sits if you’re determined to enjoy a fire.
You’ll still need to supervise your toddler when he’s in a safe zone but watching him will be a little easier. And you may not have to chase him around and keep him away from the fire pit every minute that he’s awake.
7 – Create a Campfire Barrier
Another great way to keep your toddler away from the fire is to put up a barrier or fencing around the campfire. Just pile some large stones up around the fire, ones that your toddler isn’t going to easily climb.
As well, you can buy some infant outdoor fencing, like this one, and build a circle about 5 feet in diameter around the fire pit. The fencing doesn’t have to be higher than 2 feet. It’s just a barrier between your child and the hot zone, distracting him from the fire. Just make sure it’s high enough to keep him out and low enough so that you can safely step over.
Just remember that you can’t rely on the barrier to protect your toddler. You’ll still need to keep an eye on him at all times.
Safe Campfire Guidelines
There are a few things you can do to keep your campfire as safe as possible when camping with your toddler.
- Keep the fire small and away from dry grass and overhanging leaves.
- Buy a safety screen or two to lay over the fire, keeping stray sparks in the fire pit.
- Have a fire extinguisher, shovel, and bucket of water nearby.
- Circle the fire pit with rocks to keep it in a contained area.
- Never leave the campfire unattended.
4 Campfire Alternatives
If having your toddler around a campfire is just too stressful and inconvenient, there are some campfire alternatives that you might want to consider. This way you can still enjoy your camping trip and get the campfire experience.
1 – LED Campfire
Build your own fire pit and fire! Lay some larger stones in a small circle in the fire pit. Arrange some sticks and twigs into a pyramid shape over the stones. Then entwine a set or two of LED mini-lights around the sticks. You can then place your chairs around your self-made fire. Your toddler will be delighted, and you can all enjoy the glow of the “fire.”
2 – Color Flashlights
For some toddlers, it’s really all about the light and sparkle of the fire. They just want to get close to something that fascinates them. Forego the campfire and instead buy a few flashlights that are designed for children, the ones where the light filters through in different colors. Your toddler will love walking around when it’s dark, shining his light on everything and everyone he sees.
3 – Glow Sticks
No one, child or adult, can resist the whimsy of glow sticks. As an alternative to a campfire, arm your toddler, and everyone else in your camping party, with a few glow sticks. Attach them to chairs and tables. Buy the smaller glow sticks and wrap them around your toddler’s wrist. With so much light and sparkle around, no one will be missing a fire. And your glow in the dark child will be easy to see when the sun goes down.
4 – Fairy Lights
Turn your campsite into a magical place. Buy a few strands of fairy lights and weave them into nearby bushes and trees. Your toddler will still be fascinated by all the shining lights, but you won’t have to worry about keeping him out of danger.
It’s All About the S’mores!
Whether you have a real campfire, or one you’ve made with your own lights, a great camping trip isn’t complete without the S’mores. If you’re making them over an open fire, consider this a good time to find a safe place for your toddler away from the temptation of the fire and a sweet treat.
If your campfire is the glow of LED lights around a fire pit, make the S’mores on your barbeque or grill. Or bake chocolate chip cookies ahead of time and bring them instead of the S’mores.