Last year we went camping for two nights for the first time in years. We pictured the second day as being relaxing with the kids running around happy just to be in nature. It was about 2 o'clock that everyone started getting bored and hungry with at least 3 more hours until dinner. Ah! Now I come with a plan of a couple little ideas of things that I can pull out to help entertain when they day is long and the kids are bored.
1. Nature Journal
Observe and draw all the different animals, plants, bugs, and rocks you find. A new little notebook and a fresh box of crayons goes a long way with my kids. Of course you could just leave it as open ended drawing too. Don't be surprised if you end up with calvin and hobbes style snowman pictures though.
This was the main event at our camp. It's so relaxing and fun - everyone's favorite. Tie a rope to another tree to make it easy to pull and rock yourself at your desired speed. Kids loved it!
3. Special Snacks
We bring a whole bag full of special treats that we don't normally have that are free for all. Jerky, trail mix, rice krispies, candy, whatever you guys like that'll make it feel special and fun. A cooler dedicated to juice and soda would also be well received.
We always bring a book or two to read out loud to the kids. This year we brought Pippi Longstocking and it was so much fun. The kids laughed and laughed. Choose your own adventure books are also fun.
5. Bubble Gum
This is obviously only going to work for a certain age, but this year we brought bubble gum to teach Jonas and Gwen how to blow bubbles. It was so fun and funny. Gwen, unfortunately and bafflingly didn't like the taste of bubble gum. But Jonas got the hang of it after a day of practicing. It also helped to wiggly loose his other front tooth which finally fell out a few days after getting back. Bonus.
This is a fun way to look around during the day and see if you can spot any wildlife. And at night it's obviously awesome to look at the stars and moon. We even got a bad picture of it with my phone:
Russell had an app that told you can point in the sky and it shows you what stars are where and names the constellations. We saw mars, and last night even saw the rings on Saturn. So cool.
7. Color/Nature Scavenger Hunt
This is something that we've done multiple times over the years, modified in different ways and the kids love it. I didn't get a picture of it this time, but it's simple. Give the kids an empty egg carton to decorate and then collect things in. We've done it in the past in the fall with a different color to collect in each section. This time I just let the kids do whatever they want. Works great. You can use it as a chance to talk about all the different kinds of leaves, plants, and trees in your area. Differences between deciduous and coniferous trees etc.
8. Textural crayon rubbings
Old fashioned, but still fun. Rip the paper off some crayons and see how many different textures you can get on one piece of paper. Then you could draw over it, add characters, etc.
10. Fun New Individual Flashlight / Toy
Each of the kids get their own glowstick/flashlight every time we go. They love it and play with it and carry it anywhere. The novelty is what's great about this one. Any type of toy would work, something fun that they can take with them and play with. Binoculars are great, bubbles, etc.
Gwen is our little nature lover. She had fun finding bugs around and making little "houses" for them out of other things she could find. They could do little log cabins or nests out of sticks and leaves etc.
12. Disposable Camera/Old Phone
Set your little monsters loose with an old fashioned disposable camera - or the new version of a disposable camera which is an old phone that you don't use anymore. It's fun to see the world from the kids perspective and they might surprise you with some great pictures!
13. Cards and Board Games
Any little game that you can throw in and bring along in the car is great. Something to keep the kids happy while you're waiting for your tinfoil dinners to cook (translation = FOREVER!). My kids especially like card games. Just bring whatever works for you guys!
14. Take a Day Trip of Explore on a Hike
We weren't really able to do this one this time because of my health - but this is normally one of my very favorite things to do. When you're out there in nature - you might as well get out there in nature a little bit more! I love going around and seeing how beautiful all the trees and rivers are. So much to see! Jonas however... hates it. He gets cold and tired so easily. This time I enticed him for a little walk by telling him we'd look for stinging nettle. Anything that can potentially hurt you is fascinating for a 6 yr old boy.
Everything about the fire is awesome. Let them help build it and keep it going. My kids love songs and stories around the fire. They like to take turns making up stories, songs, jokes, etc. They never get sick of hearing stories from when I was younger. And they are absolutely voracious for any story that is mildly scary. But not too scary. They have to sleep in the woods with you that night after all.