For those who love the great outdoors, camping is its kind of entertainment. Things like cooking meals or walking from one place to another morph into fun activities that go to make up some of the charms of spending time in nature.
That much is true for adults anyway.
Children can enjoy hiking or making eggs over a fire, but those who have spent quality time with someone under ten certainly knows two words well: “I’m bored.”
The wrong way to try and solve this problem is to bring small electronic devices, such as tablets and portable video game systems. Here are ten different ways for making the most of what goes on when children and the great outdoors meet.
You can have a scavenger hunt in nature. Make a list of things for children to find while they are camping. It can be as challenging or simple as your child would appreciate. Some ideas include finding a rock in the shape of a heart. They can search for different kinds of tree leaves. They can clean up liter, or find a bird with the color brown on it. They can search for different colors of moss, provided there is moss to be found. Be creative.
Children can collect insects or merely observe them. All you need are a few clear plastic jars, holes in the lid, perhaps a net for butterflies, and notebook if the child is old enough to write down things they observe. Can they count the number of legs the bug has? What are some of the colors on its body? What shape is the body? What does it eat?
You can build a fort with the children. Using old sheets, clothespins, and rope, you can build something to attach to trees. Another great hiking gear that kids can bring are some ultralight camping hammocks. Let them make their hideout, castle, fort, or whatever structure they want.
Then there is one of my personal favorites: shadow puppet theater. All you need is a white sheet to be hung by the campfire (you might use what you brought to build the fort with) and put a light source (flashlight or lantern) behind. Shadow puppets can be made with paper silhouettes. You can make characters and shapes with your hands, too, to act out stories.
Then there are ice blocks made from milk cartons; only if you are camping in freezing conditions. All you have to do is put rectangular milk cartons, filled with water, before turning in for sleep. By the time morning comes, you can take the ice from the cartons and make a wall or igloo, or put a small candle in them and see how the light reflects by placing a small candle near them. During the summer, you could make an ice block before you come and keep it in a cooler. Maybe even put some toys inside the ice, and let the children dig into the ice with picks and get the toys out.
Of course, there is always sharing stories by the campfire, reading aloud, or playing story games where each person says one sentence and passes the story to the next person to continue from there. These are, of course, extremely simple activities, but often the simplest activities are the best ones. Pick out an interesting book and read it to the kids during rest time or before bed. Makes sure the way you end the stories leaves the children wanting to hear more.
Set small challenges for the kids. Bring a dartboard if they are old enough for that, or even a board game that everyone loves. You could take the front of the box of your kid’s breakfast cereal and cut that into squares, and see how long it takes the kids to put the pieces back together like a puzzle. You could do a blind taste test with different kind of sodas to see how well they know what they are drinking. They could sing part of a song a play name that song.
They could play with water and dirt, making a little mud, using shovels to mix it and building bricks. This can make for several hours of fun. And of course, everything can be cleaned afterward.
And perhaps the best thing one can do to pass the time with children outdoors is to take them hiking. There is so much to be observed and learned on a hike, and hikes can often result in an adventure at its greatest for kids.