How to Keep Toddlers Clean When Camping

a little blonde is standing with her back wrapped in a towel

Keeping toddlers clean when camping can be tough and if your kids aren’t too keen on getting washed at home, then how can you make them wash on a campsite? My little girl is three and a half and hates getting washed, so before we went camping, I decided to look into how I can make sure she stays clean while we’re away.

So how do you keep toddlers clean when camping? You’ll need the following:

  • For full body washing – a plastic baby bath, large polythene tub, inflatable dingy or inflatable paddling pool filled with warm soapy water
  • For hands, faces and feet – baby wipes, antibacterial gel and two bowls of warm soapy water and towels (one for feet and one for hands and faces) outside the tent

Now you know the basics of what you’ll need, below is more specific information for what you need to pack and top tips for keeping soap-shy kids as clean as possible when camping.

Washing toddlers in a baby bath, paddling pool or dingy when camping

The benefit of washing a toddler in a paddling pool or dingy is that it’s likely you’ll be packing these anyway so they can double up as a bath. My little girl loves noting better than a dip in the paddling pool so it was nothing to add in a few bubbles and a flannel to clean her while she played. You can do exactly the same thing with a dingy, the only difference is it’ll be smaller and not as deep.

If you have the room then pack a baby bath, you can fill this with other things in your car to save on space. The downside of a baby bath is that they’re ridges so you may need a few attempts to get it in the right spot in your car. Some toddlers will be too large to fit in a baby bath but if you want to take one, stand them up in it and sponge them down to clean them.

An alternative to a baby bath is a large flexible polythene tub. These are huge flexible tubs that come in different sizes and are flexible enough to squeeze into awkward spaces in the car. These tubs, or a baby bath, can double up for clothes washing oir, fill with ice and keep your beers clean!

To make your child feel as comfortable as possible, pack a few familiar bath toys they’re used to playing with at home.

If you’re washing more than one child and using the same water, make sure that you wash the cleanest kid first! Dunking a child caked in mud in the bath before one who’s pretty clean will mean you’ll spend lots of time and effort replacing the dirty water.

How to warm water for washing on a campsite

If it’s a hot day then fill the paddling pool, dingy, bath or tub at the start of the day, then by the tie it comes to bath the kids before ned the water should have warmed up nicely. There are a couple of caveats to this tip though – always check the water temperature before putting your child in and always supervise children closely when there’s water about, even if it’s just a few inches in a paddling pool.

If your kids are used to taking a shower, then they might be perfectly happy to have one outside. If this is the case then pack a solar heated shower bag and leave this out to warm up for an evening shower.

If the weather isn’t warm enough to rely on the sun to warm up your water, then you have a couple of options:

  • Fill up a washing up bowl with warm water from the shower block if you’re camping on a site with facilities and use this to fill the bath. If you are on this kind of site then it should be easy enough to wash your toddlers in the shower block, either in the shower or a sponge bath by the sink.
  • Warm water over a campfire or gas stove and mix this with cold water from a standpipe, or from a fresh water source nearby.

As always, check the temperature of the water before letting your toddler get in.

How to wash a toddler quickly when camping

It’s unlikely you’ll have the time or energy to bath your toddler every day that you’re camping. Sure, they’re going to get grubby but there are a few things you can do to make sure they’re clean enough to be acceptable and that they don’t cover the inside of the tent in dirt.

  • Fill a washing up bowl with warm water, fill it with your kids’ toys and let them play with them in the water. This will get their hands super clean, while they play. We’ve done this with our little girl where we’ve made the washing up bowl a ‘swimming pool’ for her Peppa Pig characters – I just slide in with a face cloth to clean her face and she barely notices she’s playing so much.
  • Set up a wash station on your picnic table so you can easily wash your toddlers hands throughout the day. Bring a large bottle with a tap in the side of it – this out be a cleaned out detergent bottle, or a drinks dispenser. Fill it with clean water at the start of the day and have a towel to hand so you can quickly wash and dry your kids ’hands whenever they need it.
  • To keep feet clean – fill a washing up bowl with soapy water let your kids stop about in it to get the first of their bare feet. If you’re worried about them slipping then cut a washing up bowl size section of a non-slip shower mat and line the bottom of the bowl with this. Set this up right outside the tent and next to a towel then they can wash their feet, step on the towel to dry them and get into the tent without bringing dirt or water in.
  • Baby wipes and anti-bacterial wipes are ideal for on-the-go cleaning when camping or exploring. They’re especially useful for cleaning grubby hands and feet before your toddlers climb into bed.  If you want something a little more eco-friendly then pack lots of flannels and rinse them trough with warm water after you’ve used them.

What to pack to keep toddlers clean when camping

Below are my top 3 things to pack for squeaky clean (well, clean enough!) toddlers:

  1. Slip on sandals. Closed toe, clog-style sandals like Crocs are ideal for night time toilet trips to the shower block (or the woods!) as they’ll make sure your toddlers’ feet stay as clean as possible once you’ve washed them. They’re easy to put on, the closed toe helps prevent dirt from getting in and they can be worn day to day around the campsite.
  2. A spare blanket or old towel to act as a door mat. Lay an old blanket or towel  at the front entrap of your tent so that your kids can sit on this and wipe down their feet, hands, faces and anything else covered in dirt to stop them taking it into the tent.
  3. Lots of flannels! As mentioned above, flannels are essential for a camping trip with toddlers. They’re easy to wash and dry and you can use them to clean your toddler from top to toe in minutes. Better still, if you’re camping near a river or lake in warm weather, then let them get clean in nature! Take a flannel with you to clean your toddler but avoid using soap or shampoo as these contain chemicals that can pollute water.

Related Questions

Can you get a camping bath for toddlers?

You can get foldable baths, inflatable baths, or you can just use a dingy or paddling pool like I said above. Foldable baths have slides that fold down so the whole bath becomes flat. Although this does save space, it’s probably not worth spending money on a foldable bath if you’re only going to use it a few times as you can just pack and regular baby bath and fill it with camping gear to save space in the car.

Do all campsites have running water?

Most campsites will have running water, although this could range from a single tap as your source for drinking and washing or a shower block with laundry and pot washing facilities.

If you’re not sure if a water is safe to drink then always asked on managed websites. If you’re camping where there is no mains water then make sure you boil or purify the water before you drink it.

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