A friend asked me the other day: “What camping activities are there and what do you actually do with your day?”
I initially thought ‘erm…where do I start?’ as we do manage to cram in a few things during our trips. But it’s a valid concern – in fact we had the same anxieties at the start of our family camping journey: Will the children be bored? What will we do when it rains? What should we pack for entertainment? It would be a real shame if people are put off from giving camping a go simply because they fear not being able to fill their day. So, here are 10 camping activities to ensure a well-entertained, contented camp:
Children love to play with friends. They don’t like being lonely. The good news about campsites is that they tend to have lots of children about and they very quickly find each other. If your child is a little shy, help them out a bit by saying hello to other families and introducing the children.
One of the best tips to absolutely ensure your child has friends is to go with another family or families. We love doing this! It means that you also have your own pals to help out with any difficulties that might arise, can share equipment and have someone to share the beverages with – winning all round!
2. Campsite Activities
Think carefully about the campsite you are going to and make sure it’s right for the age and stage of your children. If you have young babies and toddlers, not a great deal is needed at the campsite specifically for their entertainment so go for what suits you as the adult (Check out our other blogs Top 7 considerations when taking babies camping. and Camping with Toddlers). As they grow older, you might want to ensure potential for a good range of camping activities such as wide open spaces for riding bikes, woodland to explore, a play area, sand pit, animals to pet, etc. Or you might even go for an all singing and dancing site with full sports facilities, swimming pool, evening entertainment, etc.
3. Meal times
Meal times will be communal and that is part of the beauty of camping. Your family will come together far more than you would at home and meal times do take up a large part of your day. Involve your children in meal prep where possible to help build the “team effort” approach – toasting marshmallows on a fire, for example, is something all can get involved in and is a real novelty and treat that you don’t get if you stay in a boring old hotel!
Don’t let wet weather put you off. If it rains, place your BBQ under an awning, set up a tarpaulin sheet or improvise like we did last week when we realised we’d forgotten ours!
We live in the middle of the country so tend to gravitate towards coastal areas for our holidays as a beach is a guaranteed few hours of pure outdoor fun. It doesn’t necessarily involve great costs and there are a huge range of things to keep little people happy: sandcastles, sand sculptures, collecting pebbles and shells, building stone towers, paddling, swimming, body boarding, sand boarding, exploring rock pools, searching for creatures, crabbing, burying various members of the family, etc.
5. Get into nature
One of the main motivations to get into camping is to spend time outside. So, embrace it. Wherever you camp, a walk isn’t far away – find a nearby woodland, river, coastline to explore and wander along at the pace that suits your pack. Look for things along the way such as animals or their trails and homes, try to identify different trees or plants, listen to the birdsong, climb that mound of earth!
For older children, get them to do a scavenger hunt – give them a list of items to collect and send them on their way. Get them to do a little art with the things they collect – sculptures, making faces out of leaves, twigs and stones, mud pies! (Make sure shower is nearby!)
6. Fly a kite
The thing with camping is you have to go with the weather. So, when the wind gets up, instead of battening down the hatches, get out there with the most classic of camping activities – a kite! You can get them for very little money from your local B&M or other such bargain basement and they take up hardly any room when packing. I wouldn’t have believed it, but our 2-year-old was fascinated by ours for hours at our most recent trip and her cries of “mine!” could be heard for miles around! (Much to the disgust of the older children who all desperately wanted a go but knew better than to mess with the tiny dictator!)
7. Ball games
Some campsites welcome these, some have designated areas and some have lots of signs up telling you it is BANNED! Avoid those.
So, take a football or a couple of tennis rackets and ball, swingball, rounders set, skittles, etc. You can either play with your children or when no.1 is accomplished, they can play with the many friends they have made whilst you read your book that you never get round to – winning!
Camping is a great opportunity to get kids going on their bikes – it is where ours learnt to manage the balance bike and stabilisers as they grew in confidence on grass after they realised it gave a soft landing. Groups of children tend to have races, engage with lots of bike swapping or just meander around the campsite, all of which helps to foster independence and improve their cycling skills.
When they’re tiring of all the running round and fresh air, bring them back in the tent for a good old-fashioned board game or game of cards. This can wile away a few hours and is especially useful as a winding down period before bedtime. We are currently big fans of the card game “Uno” as this is very easy for littlies to grasp, Connect 4, Guess Who and Snakes and Ladders. Jenga goes down well too (no pun intended) although we often end up just building random towers rather than playing the game as it is meant!
10. Rainy day?
When in Britain, we must expect rain to occur at some point. Now, you wouldn’t expect to spend all of your time in a hotel if you went on holiday, so you don’t need to spend all of your time at the campsite either. So, at the start of our holiday, we usually pinpoint a few potential excursions for times when the weather turns. This can be something simple like going to a local leisure centre for their swimming pool, game of table tennis, etc or a cinema trip to a big day out at a zoo, round a castle or local museum.
If it is still raining when you get back in the afternoon, you could set up a ‘movie night’ via that universal babysitter the iPad to keep them amused whilst you get tea ready. Do also pack some colouring pads, paper and pencils and set up a table inside your tent for artistic creations.
The overall message here is think about the sort of things your kids enjoy or want to try and go with it during your holiday. Camping activities don’t need to be complicated or expensive and you don’t have to be the one providing entertainment at all times. If they come to you and tell you that they are bored, by all means give them some ideas but send them off again as it is really important for their development that they learn to use their imagination and find their own way through it.
And don’t let them play on their iPad every day!