There's going to come a day when our own little grandson will be old enough to join us on some of our adventures. We plan to be 'hands on' in teaching him about the world around him in the deserts, mountains, forests, and beaches. I'm willing to bet he's going to be that kid that has the coolest stories and things to share at show 'n tell.
Until then, we will just have to watch others enjoy their children or grandchildren grow, learn and experience the cool places they get to go to and fun activities to do.
Today, families are super busy with school, church, band, athletics, social obligations, and work. Trying to get time away for family camping is hard enough, but getting children interested in camping activities can be daunting. Whether it’s movies, social media, or video games, or trying to get them to unplug for an overnight or weekend can be a challenge.
So, pack up the RV or Camper Van, drive to the nearest campground and let the fun begin!! Here's a cool list of ways to get the kids off the couch and out there exploring the great outdoors (you too!). No more "I'm bored" or eye rolls. Whether its for a weekend or a year-long cross country RV trip, these are some fun ways to bond with your family and teach them a few things along the way.
Prior to leaving for your camping trip, make paper copies of a list of things children can gather. Parents or leaders can make this age appropriate and/or create teams to make this extra fun. For the younger ages, list more accessible and easily identifiable objects. For the newer kids, list items that will be a bit more of a challenge to spot and acquire.
Tween and Teen Campers (ages 12+): Teens love their phones, so allow your teens take theirs’ for this photo scavenger hunt. Make sure their wifi is shut off so they can't cheat. Send them out with a list to take photos of: 3 different types of clouds, a live bug, a live butterfly, bird on a rock, 3 different types of tree leaves, granite rock, flower bud, trail marker, etc. This should keep them busy because they will need to practice patience and quiet observance of their surroundings.
Kiddie Campers (ages 8-12): Step up the game by sending them out with a list of things that could involve other campers (make sure this is okay with them prior to starting the game). Items should be disposable so your children don’t have to return them: Bottle cap, twistie bread tie, aluminum foil ball, etc.
Tiny Campers (ages 4-7): make a short list based on shorter attention spans. For example, make up a checklist listing the following: Brown Acorn, Green Leaf, Yellow Flower, etc. It’s important that they be accompanied by an adult. You surely don’t want them bringing back poison ivy or toxic flowers. It’s a good idea for adults or leaders to be familiar with plant identification.
Should you have a mix of ages, you can pair a younger child with an older one acting as their guide.
This camping activity is especially fun for the older kids; even young adults. Send the kids out to take photos at different times of the day. Have them learn about simple apertures, horizons, lighting, and patience, etc. Add in the requirement that they include a selfie or two to show they were the one's doing the exploring (and to post on their social media accounts!).
Below is a Photography Scavenger Hunt Checklist to get you started.
This activity, like the Scavenger Hunt, can be a great memory maker for the older kids as they can print off or Instagram their awesome photos showing what they did on their adventures. When other kids see them, they’ll be envious of the cool experiences and will want to go camping with your family next time.
Check out this easy Smartphone Photography Guide.
This is another one of those camping activities that the littles can team up with the big guys. This is also cool because it teaches kids about geography, land navigation, patience, attention to detail and will keep them busy. There are Geocaching Apps you can download. I recommend taking a trekking pole for the kids to poke into holes before reaching their hands into. I also suggest having tiny trinkets to put into the geocaching containers. Don’t forget a pen so players can sign the logbook so they can prove they found it. Remember, when caching, ‘take something, leave something’ to continue the fun for other geocachers, so make sure to have little trinkets to replace ones they've taken.
To find a cache, you’ll need to enter its coordinates in a handheld GPS Receiver or Smart Phone. You don’t need a complex GPS. Pick an affordable and easy-to-use geocache-specific GPS unit that your kids can use.
Tips to locate a cache: First, be patient and take your time. Recall the size of the cache and use the hint (if needed) from www.geocaching.com
There is so many things kids create with the nature all around them. First, while preparing for your family camping trip, make up a ‘camping craft box’ filled with craft-making supplies.
Have the kids then, find and gather ‘fallen’ elements (sticks, leaves, acorns, etc.)and create artsy crafts. They can decorate pine cones with wiggly eyes and feathers, paint rocks, leaf and flower pressing, leaf rubbings with crayons, make birdhouses out of sticks and moss, etc. The world is literally at their feet.
I remember one of our Nature Craft Camping Activities we did with our son when he was in Tiger Cub Scouts was making suet bird seed hanging blocks out of bacon grease or lard and birdseed. We’d mix the two together, add in some raisens and nuts and then press the mixture into cookie cutters. We would take a pencil to make a hole to loop our string for hanging. We also would cover pine cones with peanut butter, sprinkle bird seed and hang with a ribbon. Both are a great way to teach good stewardship towards wildlife.
So, there are some great suggestions to get your kids off the couch and on their feet exploring. You don't have to spend a ton of money to keep the kids occupied or entertained; just a little creativity. The added bonus is if you do these as a family, you'll bond, strengthen relationships and even learn about each other.
We've noticed an abundance of carelessness that’s occurring in our BLM areas, National Parks, State Parks and Campgrounds. This camping activity would be a great lesson in teaching youngsters volunteerism, conservation and stewardship.
An adult or older team can organize this event into teams. Send each individual or team out with a bag and sterile rubber gloves. Make it even more fun by creating a list of trash things the kids must find (i.e. bottle cap, pull-tab, paper towel, aluminum foil, water bottle, soda can, fishing line, chip bag, etc.). Construct a points system (i.e. bottle cap 5 points, pull-tab 3 points, cigarette butt 1 point, etc.).
*Lisa Brown (Always On Liberty) is a paid contributor to the Heartland Blog. All opinions expressed are her own.*