After searching the Internet for entertainment ideas to bring camping I did find a good idea here or there, but when it came right down to it some of the list were just vague.
Like one that said bring entertainment. Yet other than screens it gave no examples of what to bring. Considering I didn't even bring screens on our five day state park camping trip and we had tons to do and I never heard I am bored It kind of made me laugh.
So I wanted to share what I brought camping this trip.
KIDS CAMPING TOYS 2013
1. Good sized Rubbermaid tub- This holds all the items that are fine for the kids to dig into. When the day is done all the items end up back in this bin. It is kind of like the camping toy box. We packed all other items in this tub so they were ready to go. (we skipped the lid)
2. Frisbees- 4 was our magic number. We used them to play catch, used them to dig in the sand at the beach, as mud pie plates, with the help of a bunch of cottonwood trees we had a great round of Frisbee golf one evening. You can even use them for bases when we play kickball or baseball.
3. Sidewalk Chalk- We broke into this right away and decorated the sidewalk to our state park cabin with camp themed drawings of fires and marshmallows on sticks, giant fish we planned to catch when we fished and of course the words Camping 2013. It was a great way to claim our campsite and make it our own. A simple bucket of water on the last day will take care of any art that you don't want to leave for the next campers. Plus it rained our last night which took care of it anyway.
4. Small Metal Buckets- Our kids each have a little metal bucket. They used them to collect nature items they want to keep. They are sturdy so they can carry anything without breaking. They used them on a scavenger hunt, fossil hunting (if it is permitted where you camp) and to build sand castles with. These were used almost everywhere they went. Size is important. If the bucket is too large it will get to heavy and they will want you to carry it, also you want to keep collected treasures to those really important ones and not take everything home with you so keep the bucket size small. We got ours at world market for around $6.
5. Sling shot- Yep I said it, our daughter has a sling shot, made our of some wood, some rubber bands and a small rectangle of leather. You may think tossing and skipping rocks into the lake is fun, but trying to see how far you can shoot them with a sling shot is WAY FUN! They listen well and never shot anywhere but into the lake not in a swimming area.
6. Kite- Yep we bring a kite, we had an awesome airfoil kite that has no sticks but just a soft structured one that folds up into a small pouch even though it is a great sized kite. My husband had it ever since he was a little boy.... and he still would if it didn't get caught in a dead tree branch. Oh well it was super fun while it lasted, might want to make super sure you are away from all trees for this one, but if it is a windy day it is a great thing to bring.
7. Six Small Bottles of Craft Paint and Brushes- Toss in a butter dish too. The lid can be the pallet and the dish for water (we actually used lake water in our dish to wash our brushes since we were that close. What did we paint? This year we painted sticks! They turned our great! Walking sticks or just small colorful striped sticks. Sticks were abundant and a great new medium to pain on. You can also paint rocks, or make some great leaf prints by painting leaves and stamping with them. What is better than to do a messy paint project someplace where you know everyone is going to be dirty anyway and where the mess is outside and there is very little clean up. Regular craft paint makes great face paint too, it just peels off when it dries.
8. Clip board and scrap paper and pens- We stapled our paper together with one corner staple this way if it fell it would not blow away but stay together. We used it for paper airplanes, paper boats we folded and raced, fire starter, drawing, for a journal, list making, score keeping, scavenger hunts. It was super handy, and more open ended than a spiral bound notebook.
9. Kids Metal Detector- This was the one big thing on my daughters list for her birthday and to be honest we found a decent one on Amazon for around $50 which if you ask me is less than much of what could have been on her list. She turned 8 this year and she and her cousin who is in 4th grade spent hours using it while camping. They found 6 bottle caps, 25 nails around the campfire pit, two pop cans, and 14 cents in the sand at the beach.
10. Scrap Cardboard to make Stick Swords- Click here for example The reason we brought the scrap cardboard this time was to make swash buckling swords. My boys are all about light sabers but I made them keep them at home. I instead told them I had another idea to make swords at camp. This idea worked great. Just find a good sword stick, and add some cardboard to the bottom curved from the top of your hand around your hand to the bottom of the stick. We had our box cutter along to make this easier as well.
11. Bubbles - I honestly think bubbles are a must if you have a child under 5. My older two who are 6 and 8 were not super interested in them but my 4 year old played with them plenty and was interested in them more than some of the other items that appealed more to the older crowd.
12. Four Square Ball- Honestly this got used the least out of our items but did get used once. There was a little game of soccer that broke out for a few minutes, but was soon over when the kids opted for the playground instead. For the space it took up, next time for our kids ages, we may leave it at home but I can see how older kids may really get into playing kickball using the Frisbees as bases, or even a game of 500 by drop kicking it.
13. Uno Cards - Uno is the one game that all three of my kids can play. Their ages again are 4, 6 and 8. One afternoon we played Uno for almost and hour and a half, while sitting at the picnic table in the shade and munching on snack mix. Sure the 4 year old gave up before the others and went and blew bubbles instead, but it was a great time sitting and playing that wouldn't always happen at home because of life's distractions. We stored our Uno cards in a plastic travel soap dish container. This kept then dry and dirt free in our tub of camping toys. Cards are also great to have for rainy days.
14. A Bug Box- We took a plastic sided one with vented lid. We not only caught our fair share of may flies, and lightning bugs, but we were also able to bring home some tadpoles because our container could hold water too.
15. Small Squirt Guns - I bought a pack of small squirt guns and the kids used them to cool off. We used our fire bucket as our refilling station. Also small squirt guns are an awesome way for the kids to put the fire out. It will keep them busy for a good 30 minutes and makes a fun hissing sound.
What we didn't take:
Screens- besides my boring non-smart phone for emergencies, we didn't bring any screened electronics. When a screen did show up brought by my niece, it only caused fighting and separated the kids from participating in other activities. Some may argue that your child may need some down time, but a little quiet time in their bunk with a clipboard and a pen and no other options can create wonderful thoughts, drawings and other things that screens can not. Plus when they are done they have something to show and share with you besides a new high score.
Other Awesome things we did, or took advantage of.
Scheduled activities in the parks: May state parks will give you a schedule of activities going on on the days you stay. We attended talks about snakes, and butterflies, and stinky animals. The kids came away with posters and booklets about local wildlife they used later to try to spot things they saw. There were also free outdoor movies with free popcorn and freeze pops in the evenings.
Visit the Local Visitors Centers: Some parks have a visitor's center that has fun things for kids to see or do. The staff in the ones we visited were great! We were able to see examples of things such as fossils they found locally, and types of wildlife to look out for. We also visited a dam that had a center nearby. They had educational videos you can watch, many interactive play areas where the kids learned about the dam, local wildlife including fish that live in the river, about boat safety and much more. Visitor centers are a great place to spend the early afternoon when the sun is hot because they are air conditioned. We also found a fish hatchery nearby that had an aquarium. These were all free and educational places to visit. Visitors centers also have equipment you can rent or sometimes check out for free if you are looking for something to do.
Playgrounds: Where we stayed there were a few smaller state park camp grounds. We made the rounds to them all and tried to see how many different playgrounds we could play on. I believe we found a total of 12 playgrounds within a few miles of our campground. Did we play a long time at each? Nah, but it was fun to say we checked out so many and it was fun to rate them all. We judged the best slide, the most fun equipment.
State Park Passport Program: Our state parks have a passport program where you can get a stamp in a booklet for every park you visit. The visitors signs have a code lock box and the books contain the codes you need to open the box and get to the stamp for your book. When you earn a certain amount of stamps you get a prize. The kids really love having a code to open a secret box and to get stamps.
Here is a link to our State's Passport Program.
Try Geocache!: What better way to go on a hike than to go on an actual treasure hunt with the kids. They feel there is a purpose to hiking around other than just a walk. We bring along our star wars rocks to leave as a trade for any trinkets we may find and want to keep in a geo cache otherwise it is just fun to seek and find something! All of our state parks have geo caches hidden in them. If you have a smart phone you can download the state park app and start searching!
Find a link to our state park App here. They contain the geo cache info.
Or visit this site to learn more about geocaching in your area.
Links to my other Camping Related Blog Posts.
For a fun water game to play while camping check out Drip Drip Splash Here!
For our favorite Campfire treat click here.