It’s summer and it is time to dust off the tent and camping supplies and head to the nearest campground. Camping with kids can be challenging but also loads of fun. When our family camps we are entertaining children from tween to toddler. While my youngest calls playing in a mud puddle, “the BEST day ever”, our oldest feigns disgust and doesn’t dare get that close to worms. We started camping as a family 4 years ago when our youngest was only 18 months old and we have learned a lot about camping with littles.
If you are taking kids with you as you set out to camp, it is best to have a few things planned to keep your little ones busy. Sometimes the most fun is just letting the kids run wild in the open. (I don’t know about you, but in our “normal life” my kids don’t get enough time to run til they drop.)
In case you need a few more things up your sleeve to keep your children busy while you are enjoying Mother Nature, we have put together a great list of activities to help you explore nature around you.
Hiking – There’s nothing better than exploring the campgrounds you are visiting. Scouting out new trails and “going on bear hunts” were the highlights of our trip.
Pick Wildflowers – Coneflowers, Wild Asters, Milkweed, some of my favorite bouquets are from the campgrounds we visited. Who doesn’t love flowers picked by love?!
Nature Art – So many things can be made with sticks, flowers, leaves, sand, anything that you find in the campground. Grab some glue and make nature masterpieces, or use the scenery around you to inspire your art. Kids can spend lots of time with crayons and a sketchbook drawing trees, bugs, and butterflies.
Scavenger Hunt – You can make up a fun scavenger hunt for kids with little effort. Children will have lots of fun running around and finding smooth stones, an acorn top, a forked stick, a yellow leaf, and spend lots of time exploring the things around them. When we hear “I’m Bored”, we give them a scavenger list and they take off on a mission to collect the things they need. Reward at the end of the hunt….more things to find! (LOL)
Camping Crafts – For this crafty momma, this is my favorite thing to do with my kids. Who am I kidding, sometimes I am the only one doing the crafting. You can buy kits at any hobby store to make bracelets, paper dolls, picture frames, and basically anything…just name it! OR you can use a little glue, duct tape, and your imagination.
Stones – Stones can become pet rocks, buildings of a castle, skipping stones, those little things have lots of uses. A child’s mind can dream up the most brilliant stories with just one stone.
Play doh – Here is a confession, I am not a big fan of play doh. It is messy, gets in the carpeting, and is such a pain. BUT play doh outside… genius! We have a family rule now that play doh is a camping activity and the kids can spend hours playing with the play doh at the campground. I just shake off the plastic tablecloth… and like magic, the mess is gone!
Journaling – When you need some down time, journaling can be a great thing to do. The kids can grab a notebook and pencil, plop down at the base of the nearest tree and write anything. Some of my kids (my son in particular) thinks this feels way to much like homework, but my girls love to write about their adventures and draw pictures of what they did that weekend. These also become great keepsakes.
Geo-Caching – Geo – what??? Geo-caching is a outdoor activity in which the participant uses a GPS device to find a “cache” or small container hidden somewhere in nature. There are geocaches all over the country. It’s a hide and seek game, where the treasure is a small waterproof container which includes a log book to record your find and sometimes treasures. If you are lucky enough to find a box with treasures, you take a treasure and leave a treasure. My kids love to look through the “loot”. (seriously it is usually small McDonald’s toys, coins, and other small trinkets… but to my kids you would think they found Blackbeard’s long lost treasure)
Leaf Collecting – There are thousands of different types of trees, shrubs, and flowers out there. Comparing and collecting a few different types of leaves can be fascinating. Grab yourself a tree book from the library and try to use the characteristics of the leaf to identify different trees around you.
Cloud Day Dreaming – A hippopotamus, a clown riding a zebra, a grandma with a hat…. yep, grab a blanket and lay down in the grass and see those little puffs of clouds become whatever your imagination sees.
Glow Sticks – We have found many uses for glow sticks while camping. They are perfect for keeping track of where the kids are when it gets to dark to see, they also can become flying rings, and light sabers, but our favorite family night game is “glow ball”. We stick glowsticks in a wiffle ball and play pickle with the kids. The glowing ball is easy to see in the dark and the kids have a fun time stealing the ball from mom and dad. Name patent pending…. LOL.
Animal Catching – If you’ve ever spent a night in a tent, you know there is tons of wildlife around you. Cue the crickets, croaking frogs, and raccoons. Whether it is catching lightning bugs or capturing a tree frog, kids learn a lot about nature through it’s little critters.
The activities above are certainly not things that can only be done on an “official campground.” Many of them can be done in your own backyard!
Camping is a fun and cheap way to get away from it all, even if you are only camping 20 feet from your back door. Star gaze, lay in the grass, enjoy nature….you won’t regret it.