Children have a wonderful way of creating their own games when in the great outdoors, away from video games and television. Emulating squirrels gathering nuts, climbing trees, visualizing shapes in clouds are all examples of this. Kids love to go rolling down hills, racing each other over fields, and catching butterflies, moths, and fireflies.
If they have a notebook or sketchbook, children can draw the wonderful things they discover. Give them a plastic magnifying glass to study ants and other bugs. They can make leaf rubbings by placing the leaf vein side up under one of the pages of their notebook and lightly scribbling. Kids can write or draw each new life form they discover, and then follow their list to see if they can find them again the next day. A notebook makes a wonderful keepsake of the trip. They can share their findings with an adult, who can use this as a teaching opportunity.
Another wonderful learning experience for kids can be at bedtime, when they can be told about what creatures are going to sleep at the same time as them, and perhaps which stay awake all night. These stories can be animated with shadow puppets made with your hands in front of a flashlight shone on the side of the tent.
Most every child likes to make and care for a pet rock. Brooks and streams are great places to find smooth rocks to adopt. Have a permanent marker to draw eyes and other features on the rock. Make sure the selected rock is not too large or heavy. Ideally it should be able to fit in the child’s pocket easily.
Study the clouds – which make rain and which indicate fair weather? Study the birds – can you find them in a bird book? Study the stars – which constellations and planets can be found? Maybe you can make a wish on a falling star. Play and learning can be one and the same for kids.
If you are spending time at the camp site, play I-Spy and twenty questions. Choose an area to make a rock garden. Play card games such as crazy eights and old maid. Play hockey with sticks and a beach ball, or popsicle sticks and a small rock. Play earth ball and see how long you can keep the beach ball from touching the ground. Jump rope while singing jump rope rhymes. Toss around a Frisbee, or play Frisbee golf. Play with water balloons. If the space and equipment are available, play horseshoes.
Entertain kids with camping games, such as hide and seek or duck-duck-goose. Give them a list of items to find on a scavenger hunt. Play ABC categories, where one picks the subject, such as animals, and everyone else needs to name something in that subject with the next letter of the alphabet. Play Alibi, a game where the detective must figure out who the criminal is by asking everyone for an alibi. Play tag, freeze, mother-may-I, or red light/green light. Play wildlife or nature bingo.
For a quieter activity try group storytelling, where one person starts a story and the next continues it with their own twist. Blow bubbles and try to catch them. Have the kids collect items from around the campsite you can cover with a towel and play memory.
The great outdoors is a wonderful place to stimulate the five senses and learn in fresh air. Counter electronics withdrawal by entertaining kids with camping games. Encourage your children to explore and discover while having fun.