Keeping Camping Fun For Kids
Four Ways To Keep Kids Engaged While Roughing It
Rather than making young kids an audience to the adult’s tasks, involving them in the steps to set up camp can help them gain a sense of ownership and independence. We break down four ways to either involve your young ones or at least keep them entertained.
Get Their Help
With many jobs to take care of while camping, there are plenty of ways for kids to get involved with set-up and cozying up your campsite. Depending on how many kids you have along, or how many nights you’re out, these jobs can be rotated through your group.
Tent Site Selection & Set Up
- Try pointing out what makes a good tent site if there isn’t one designated by asking: “notice how flat the ground is?” and “what do you see around us that might make it easier, or harder, to get in and out of the tent?”
- When setting up the tent, it can help to model this the first time around, particularly staking the tent with enough tension.
- Setting up one another’s sleeping pads and bags can be an opportunity for kindness towards others.
- If you’re in an area where you can have a campfire and need to gather wood from around the site, this is a great way to keep kids engaged. If you’re cooking over the fire, you’ll need lots of smaller twigs–aim for no larger than your thumb so you can control the blaze.
- Make sure anything you collect is already dead, dry, and down–it’s better for the forest and safer for your campers
- Show your group of young ones how large a pile you’ll need–a camp chair is a good vessel for firewood as you gather.
- Make sure to point out any hazards and create a boundary for their exploring, for example, “let’s stay between me and the big pine tree for gathering wood”
Kitchen Set Up
- Before cooking can even begin the kitchen needs to get set up. Whether this involves popping up folding tables or excavating pots from the car, this is a perfect moment to recruit some help.
- If there’s not an obvious kitchen spot, like a picnic table, this can be another chance for kids to have some ownership over their trip. Ask: “where do you think we should cook?” and “what looks like a good spot to set up a table and our stove?”
- Camp cooking is prime time for young chefs. Recruit a couple of young folks to be your sous chefs, or if they’re experienced enough, have them take the lead and you play support to their cooking.
Bring A Friend
Few things keep kids engaged during campsite setup and in good spirits like a pal. Having a peer allows kids to form their own friendships and collaborate more closely than they often can with adults. Having a few of the kids head off on tent duty or firewood collection gives them some time to foster those friendships.
Find more tips from Backcountry’s experienced family campers in the article Tips for Camping With Kids.
Outdoor Art Show
If you have a crew of fairly creative young ones, an outdoor art show provides them the chance to explore, create, and showcase a bit to your group. Start as you did for firewood collecting: defining boundaries and what is allowed to collect. Make sure everything is dead and already down (ie, no picking flowers, but pinecones, rocks, twigs already off trees, and fallen leaves are all fair game!)
You can set a theme, a goal, or any framework you like to keep your crew occupied and engaged. This could be “must use 4 different kinds of natural objects” or “must be 1 foot tall.”
After the artists have finished their masterpieces, gather everyone for a “gallery tour” to hear more about the work. You’ll be delighted at what they can create from a blank canvas.
We all need a break at different points, and providing some downtime for your young campers can help them feel refreshed and avoid fatigue that comes from being in a new space. Depending on your campers’ ages, cards, journaling, reading, and coloring books can be great ways to give them some quieter time to recharge.
If you’re car camping and have a little more space, lawn games translate perfectly to the campsite. From bocce ball to cornhole, there are plenty of ways to bring familiar games to new spaces.
Now that you have some ideas for keeping kids engaged and having fun while camping, you’re ready to hit the road and find that perfect spot to reconnect with one another and nature.
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