We all know the routine – rush around in the week before you go camping, act like a crazy mumma trying to get everyone and everything ready to go, drive with your heart in your mouth (“Did I forget something?”), get there, set up, sit down and phew, you are done…then you hear those words, “mummy, I’m bored”. Insert furious, crazy mum here. But, it shouldn’t be like that! We simply cannot fit every toy conceivable into the camper / tent / swag, yet your little ones always want the toy that you left behind. It’s inevitable, but it shouldn’t ruin your camping trip. Here are a few camping tricks or tips to keep your little ones entertained throughout the camping experience.
Firstly, and I know I am going to ruffle some feathers here, but technology – in the way of iPods, iPads, DVD players, computers – has no business in my camping zone. Having been an Outdoor Education teacher for many years, I have been ‘that’ teacher who refuses to allow them on camps. Need a phone for photos? Get a camera: their batteries last longer anyway and are super cheap nowadays.
Get Cristie's top tips for camping with kids right here
But without these, what can the kids do?
Using sticks, trace out a picture of something – like mummy or daddy, a tree, the caravan…whatever takes their fancy! Walk around the local area, and find items to ‘colour in’ the picture: try different coloured leaves, gumnuts, acorns, flowers or ferny branches.
Using some rope and two or more trees, make a vertical maze. Then make them try to get through the maze, without touching any of the ropes. The bigger kids will have to help the younger ones through. If you google “rope mazes”, you will get some amazing inspiration. I make it harder for the older kids by saying that they can’t use the same holes / paths that the younger ones took.
Using one plastic plate per child, tape a stick to one side of the plate to make a bat. Blow up a balloon (obviously this is only a good game if the wind isn’t blowing, but I have done this inside too with a makeshift net), and tie a rope between two trees. Tennis anyone?
Make an obstacle course! Old tree stumps, ropes made into circles on the ground; something to jump over, something to jump through and something to collect on the way…The ideas are endless and will become easier to understand once your area is set up and can see what you have in front of you. A good use of a picnic table? Run over it, and crawl under it!
The good old scavenger hunt. Make it as easy or as hard as you like! For the bigger kids, teach them how to use a compass and make it a navigational exercise too (okay, there’s the Outdoor Ed teacher coming through!!!)
Got some canoes? Got a ball? Play rounders / baseball on the water! Have paddle races. If there's a games room play a game of ping pong or foosball. Play cricket. My older students used to love doing this, even if we were trying to get to the next camp down river, and the sun was setting. It also teaches them ball skills, team work and paddling skills.
Hide and Seek, with a twist. It was on a Peppa Pig episode where I heard of this game first. Set out a defined area, and make sure all kids know where the boundaries are. ONE person hides, while the others count. As each kid finds the original hider, they hide with them. The last person to find them becomes the next hider. A lot of fun!
Depending on how many kids you have, their ages and whether they like running, you could adapt a version of Capture the Flag for them. Divide the group into two, each team having a flag to look after. They can have a base camp (close to you, but far enough away that they can hide). The other team has to sneak up to the opposite teams flag and capture it without being captured themselves by being tagged. The team that gets the oppositions flag first wins!
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I have stolen this idea from a friend, who introduced my kids to Glow in the Dark ring toss. Using those cheap glow in the dark necklaces, stick a twig in the ground and get kids to stand back and try to throw the necklaces around the it. You can also use those same glow in the dark necklaces and put them inside clear bottles, then use them as 10 pin bowling pins.
Flashlight tiggy. You'll need a prize for this one...Place it on the ground in the middle of a designated area, with the person being ‘it’ having a torch and trying to defend the prize. Others scatter, then when the time starts, they have 5 minutes to try to get to the prize without being tagged with the flashlight. If no-one gets to the prize, the ‘it’ person gets to keep it!
Being in the outdoors can be a lot of fun, and relatively stress free. Maybe try some of these game ideas or change them to suit your kids. Why not try adapting other games they know and love? Most importantly, get out there and play with them. I know it’s hard when the campfire and happy hour are calling you, but these really are precious times with your family. Enjoy!