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Take command of your adventure
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By:    On: 2011-10-26

Let’s face it – kids have a very short attention span.  In the age of electronics, kids’ attention spans are even shorter.  So how do keep your kids’ attention on a camping trip without bringing along the Xbox and DSi?  Yes, there will always be card games, Frisbees and the like, but after a while those things get a little boring. With a little imagination and a few inexpensive – or even free – tools, every camping trip can be fun for kids of all ages.

Do you have digi-kids?  The kind who can’t leave their room without an iPod, iPad or video gamer of some sort?  Instead of banning all things electronic, trade with them – an inexpensive digital camera for the toy.  You might be thinking “But the toy has a camera, so why buy something new?” The easy answer: a camera doesn’t have built-in games. Prepare a photo-scavenger hunt list to go along with the camera.  Have each child take a photo of the items on the list throughout the camping trip to prove they found the item (Remember to keep your list age-appropriate. For example, smaller kids would have a difficult time photographing a bird’s nest; older kids wouldn’t be challenged by finding an orange leaf.)  When you get home, upload the photos.  This game has two prizes: one for finding all the items, and a digital scrapbook of the trip.   An added bonus: nothing in nature gets disturbed for this game.

Campfire Top-It is a game my kids really enjoy and the only materials needed for it is an imagination.  When everyone is sitting around the campfire, one person begins a story with only a couple of sentences.  The person to his left adds a few lines, trying to “top” the theme of the story.  The story can be silly, scary…whatever.  Have fun with it!

Edible finger painting can be really fun, especially on rainy days (we always seem to have at least one day of rain on our camping trips).  The paint is just pudding – chocolate for brown and vanilla for everything else – and food-safe coloring.  I have found it easiest to just buy $.99 packs of four pudding cups and add a different color to each cup, but if you want to save even more money feel free to buy the boxed pudding and make it up the day you need it.  Add a few drops of your desired color to the pudding, stir and voila!  Finger paint you can lick off at clean up time!  Let the kids paint on plates, using their fingers, a fork, spoon…whatever.  If you want to take it a step farther, add gumdrops, mini marshmallows, etc., for a bit of a 3-D effect.

Have you ever put together a gingerbread house?  Try making one with wafer cookies, townhouse crackers and cream cheese?  Celery makes for a cool chimney. I think you’re catching on…

I bet you’re probably looking around your house and wondering what you have that could make for a fun thing to do on your next camping trip.  Do you have any of those plastic 2- or three-liter bottles?  Cut them in half lengthwise – they make great boats when there’s a stream nearby!  No stream?  How about sand?  The cut bottles are also great shovels.  Just make sure to recycle them when you’re finished playing with them. Cardboard egg cartons, when cut apart, make great building blocks.  Add some leaves, twigs and a few pebbles and challenge the kids to build a castle with the loot.

My kids are just as addicted to the electronic game monsters as any other kids.  But they have learned that the toys are off-limits when we’re camping.  It did take a while but they (almost) never resist anymore.  I’m willing to bet your kids will be the same way.

What activities do your kids like to play while camping?  Leave your tips below to share with our readers!

Happy camping,


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