Tents don’t naturally lend themselves to being tidy spaces. There’s zero storage and multiple people living in a small space. After a night (or hour!) or two, you’ll probably find yourself wading through mess. It doesn’t have to be this way though, you can create an oasis of tidiness in your tent, even if you’re camping with toddlers.
As with getting toddlers to sleep in a tent, the key is to keep your expectations low. Even with all the storage and organisation in the world, if you’re camping with toddlers your tent is going to get messy at some point as kids create clutter.
Below we take a closer look at ways to keep your tent clean, tidy and a stress-free zone.
The 5 golden rules for keeping your tent tidy
1. Limit the amount of stuff you bring with you. You can find out more about how to pack light when camping with toddlers here.
2. Use your car for storage. If you can park near your tent then your car offers valuable storage space for things you don’t need to keep in your tent, such as dirty clothes or footwear you might not need every day like wellies and walking boots.
3. Store items under camp beds. If you or your toddlers use camp beds that are raised off the ground, then the space under them is ideal for storing anything that will fit. You can test out different boxes and bags to see which easily slide under before you go. If you can fit regular under bed storage boxes under your can-beds then this is a great way to store your kids’ clothes or toys.
4. Know where everything is. If you’re scrambling around in the dark looking for your toddler’s cuddly toy at bedtime then things are bound to get messy. Knowing where everything is will save you unpacking everything when you’re looking for something specific.
5. Use storage that’s easy to take from your house, to the car, to the tent. And back again. Storage solutions like a boot organiser or stackable lidded boxes mean you don’t have to continually pack and unpack items when you get them in the car or when you arrive at camp.
How to keep your tent kitchen tidy
The key to a tidy camp kitchen is Tupperware boxes and foldable storage.
Plastic boxes in all shapes and sizes will be your saviour for transporting and storing kitchen items such as cutlery, crockery and utensils. Have a different box for each of these and store these boxes in a larger box containing your plates, pots, pans and cups.
Keep your toddlers grocery and cutlery in a separate box as we find this is safe as they’re not scrabbling around near knives or other dangerous objects if they’re looking for their favourite cup. Our toddlers also like taking ownership of their tableware too so know to get their plates etc out before the start of a meal. For them it signifies that their food is ready so we keep up this part of the routine when we’re camping.
Transfer food items such as cereal and rice from their flimsy packaging to sturdy plastic containers. This will help deter wildlife and will make storing the food much easier.
Make sure you either buy translucent plastic boxes so you can see what’s in them or label them clearly if you go for opaque boxes instead.
Foldable tent storage
Foldable storage takes little space up in the car and an instantly transform your camp kitchen into a slick food prepping and cooking station.
The following are definitely worth considering if you’re camping with toddlers and know you’ll be preparing a lot of meals on your trip:
- Foldable camp table with storage boxes underneath – this can double up as a food prep area and a dining table, plus you can store kitchen items underneath it.
- Store shoes by the tent door in a foldable crate to avoid getting mud in the tent. Keeping shoes in the one place avoids them boom strewn around, no shoes in the tent so swap to slippers. Pop a door mat and brush by your shoe chage area to help clean the worse off your shows before popping them in the storage box.
- Pack a foldable crate to put recycling in. Many campsites have recycling facilities onsite, but storing them in a foldable crate means you can avoid cluttering up your kitchen area and avoid multiple trips to the recycling bins.
- Buy a foldable camping cupboard to store your radio, iPad, and other breakables that are useful to have in the kitchen/living area, but which should be kept off the floor or crammed into storage boxes.
How to store clothes when camping
Even if you plan to pack light, you’ll know that toddlers need a lot of clothes. Storing multiple pieces of tiny clothing at home can be bad enough but in a tent it can take seconds for a bag of clothes to become messed up or strewn all over the floor.
You can avoid creating chaos in your tent with these handy tips for storing clothes in a family tent:
- Keep cool and warm weather clothing separate.
If you’re camping in spring or autumn you’ll need to take things like hats, gloves and jumpers, as well as sun hats, shorts and sandals, plus your regular wardrobes. To avoid clothing overload, it’s a good idea to keep the clothes you’ll only need for more extreme weather separate from your day-to-day clothing.
Storing clothes this way means you can find them quickly when you need them and can avoid unpacking all your clothing just to find your child’s woolly hat for example. You can store extreme weather clothing somewhere where you won’t need it to hand, such as your car or under your camp bed.
- Fold and store clothes so you can see every item
Take the Marie Kondo approach to folding clothes and store them in a bag with a top that fully opens so you can easily see what’s in there. Folding and storing clothes vertically means you can see at a glance where everything is and it makes it much easier to pack and unpack.
- Pack small items separately
Toddler socks and pants are very easy to lose in a large bag of clothing so pop these in a separate bag within your hold-all or box. This avoids digging through your toddlers’ entire bag to find a pair of pants. Mesh laundry bags are ideal for this purpose as they clearly allow you to see exactly whats in each small bag.
- Keep all the clothes in one area
This is near impossible to do, even at home, but when you’re super short of space, keeping everything in one area drastically reduces the odds of having clothing scattered from one end of the tent to the other. If you have the luxury of having a spare room in your tent, use this as a dressing room so everyone can get changed in it and store their clothes in it.
- Take a foldable ottoman with you
This might seem like the height of glamping but a foldable ottoman is a very affordable way to store a lot of items in your tent. Ideal for bulky clothing such as fleeces, coats or spare blankets and bedding, an ottoman also acts as a comfy padded seat.
- Store dirty clothes outside the tent
Use a pop up laundry basket or garden bin to store dirty clothes and when this is full, transfer the clothes to a rubble sack and put into car to store. Rubble sacks are stronger than bin bags and less likely to rip.
How to keep toddlers’ toys and games tidy in a tent
Toddlers toys are not only a key source of mess when camping but they can also be a death trap if you’re trying to navigate your tent in semi-darkness. You could try encouraging kids to get involved in tidying up the tent with star charts or rewards for keeping the tent clean but ulktimately, if you’re on holiday, training your kids might not be top of your list!
Bringing minimal toys is ideal but, but there has to be a balance. If you’re stuck in your tent on a rainy day you’ll want enough toys to keep your toddlers entertained. There are two options for toy storage and which you pick will depend how tidy (and old) your kids are:
- for young toddlers (one to two) pop their toys in a plastic box, the size is up to you, and have this as the transporting and storage box for their stuff. A plastic box with a lid is great as you can store it in the car, outside or in any area of the tent, and even use it as an extra seat for the little ones.
- for older toddlers (two to four) give them a small rucksack and ask them to fill it with the toys they want to take with them. This rucksack and the toys in it is their responsibility so when it’s time to tidy up, everything goes back in their rucksack.
To stop toys spreading all over the inside (and outside) of your tent, create a designated play area in the tent. One option is to transform one of the bedrooms into a playroom in the day time by moving out the bedding and camp bed and putting all the toys in instead.
If the weather’s nice and there’s adequate shade then you could create a play area outside using wind breakers or a camping fence. You could even bring a small spare tent for the kids to have as their very own space (though there’s no guarantee it’ll be kept tidy of course!).
You can find out more about using these to create a dedicated kids’ area with our guide Can I go camping with a crawling baby?
Keep the outdoors, outdoors!
Don’t let toddlers bring things like leaves or pine cones into the tent, no one wants to roll over onto a pine cone in the middle of the night! Instead, create a nature box outside so your toddlers can add any interesting things they find to it. Include a magnifying glass and laminated cards of things they might find to encourage them to keep anything they find in the nature box, rather than the tent.
If you bring outdoor toys for them to play with then have a designated area outside for these (or in the car if it’s raining). Bringing large toys into the tent will transfer mud and create multiple tripping hazards.
Don’t forget – if your kids aren’t potty trained then have a tub or bag with all of their nappy change items in a designated place and try to remember to put it back into the same place! The same goes for kids who are potty training – create a ‘toilet’ area in the tent and encourage them not to move the potty out of it!
You can find out more about keeping toddlers clean when camping here.
If you’re worried that the amount of stuff you take camping will inevitably lead to uintidiness then read our guide How to pack light for a fmaily camping trip.