CAMPING WITH AN ENTOURAGE
Activities for Any Age
By Doris Ohlmann
Camping with kids is often a popular choice for families wanting to spend some quality time that’s a bit more relaxed than some family vacations. Planning to camp with other liked-minded parents you chum around with and who have children close to your kids’ ages helps to keep everyone entertained and in good spirits.
Here are some activities you can plan to do together while camping as a family or as a group with the other families along for the trip. There’s something for every age group.
Become an entomologist
For those interested in creepycrawlers, bring along a magnifying glass, butterfly net and maybe even a jar or two and look for interesting insects. Children always enjoy catching crayfish in shallow water and fireflies are fun to capture in a jar. Later at night you’ll have a readymade flashlight to watch and use if you have to take a nightly stroll to the outhouse.
Compete in relay races
Each family is a team for a tag relay. If numbers aren’t even, divide the groups so they are and choose new criteria such as adults against kids, boys against girls, etc. or have the extra people act as judges. Make your relay race more than just running and passing a baton. At each family campsite, set up a number of stations. Get everyone involved in a think tank session beforehand and think of different challenges that must be completed at each station. For example, at station one: Put a log on the campfire. Next, run to a table for step two. Get ingredients ready for a personal S’more: the traditional version with chocolate bar pieces, marshmallows and graham crackers or the breakfast version banana boat with a banana, marshmallows and chocolate chips. Then run to the water pump for step three and fill a cup with water. Once the player completes all the tasks, he passes the baton to the next person who then follows the same steps. The first team to have all their players complete the challenge
wins. For the described scenario by the end of the race, every family will have their nightly campfire ready, a dessert to share and water ready to wash down the tasty morsels or be ready for brushing teeth before sleeping bag time!
Use lawn chairs, fishing poles or firewood to set up an obstacle course at your campsite. Then have the kids run through it. Use a stopwatch to see which family member makes it through in the best time.
Go for a ride
Bring along your bikes and helmets so you can go for a bike ride on one of the smoother nature trails near the campsites for some exercise and a fun, family outing. Stopping for ice cream at the children’s centre will help you cool down for the ride back to camp.
Take a bird tour
Bring along a bird-identifying book of birds common to your area and then go in search of your feathered friends. Bring binoculars for those trying to hide under leaf covered tree branches or under low lying bushes. To attract birds to your campsite for a morning serenade, find and cover pine cones with vegetable shortening and then roll them in birdseed you’ve brought along. Hang your homemade birdfeeder by a string on a tree branch and watch the early morning activity.
Scavenger hunt or geocaching activity
Make a list of 20 items that must be found: a maple leaf, a park, a caterpillar, a feather, etc. and compete with the other families to see who can find them all first or the most after a limited time. For those items that can’t be collected, bring along a digital camera and take photos. Later, help your kids make a keepsake poster or book of the outing.
Collect small rocks from around the area. Each family member can personalize their rock with their name or a different marking. Then set a target about 10 to 12 feet (three meters) away and take turns throwing at the target to see who comes closest. Skipping rocks at the edge of the water is a favourite pastime at any age as you compete to see whose rock makes the most jumps. Just make sure rocks are thrown away from other people.
Time for a hike
Many camping locations have nature trails nearby well marked for those interested in keeping active during their camping stay and perhaps discovering nature at the same time with their children. Some places even have a list of natural finds to look for while on your trek. Birds’ nests, different types of leaves, anthills, tree mosses, woodpecker holes in trees, animal droppings, varying flower species or deer, squirrel and fox tracks are all popular.
If your camping location has a volleyball pit set up near the park area, organize a volleyball, badminton or Frisbee tournament with the families on your trip. If not everyone wants to play; some can keep score, cheerlead, or take photos on the sidelines. If you’ve brought along a deck of cards or two or board games, challenge the other families to a game as well.
Making your camping trip enjoyable for everyone just takes a little organization and imagination but often can be dreamt up on the spot by looking around you and discovering how you can utilize your natural surroundings into a group game or activity.
Doris Ohlmann is a mother of two, and freelance writer and editor specializing in parenting, health, education, safety and cultural issues.