Top Things to Do With The Kids
Family Camping Activities – Fun things to do with the kids while camping and caravanning in Western Australia
You’ve finally taken the plunge. You’ve decided on which spot amongst the abundance on offer in this great state you are going to explore and discover.
The bags are packed, the car is loaded, the kids are excited, and you are about to begin your camping adventure! But what do you do when you are there?
Here are a few family camping activities to keep your kids engaged and entertained.
One of the best aspects of camping is the sense of freedom, and the exploration opportunities presented to kids. Whether you are in a caravan park or enjoying nature in a quiet bush camp, you will often be surrounded by other families all trying to provide their kids with the same unstructured enjoyment. Some of the best memories are made on holidays. Give your kids safeguards, but let them roam. Explore the caravan park. Find the playground. Check out the camp kitchen.
Make friends with other kids in the park. And if you are in the bush, let them explore around the camp. Have them collect some firewood.
Give them a little freedom. There have been many research papers issued suggesting that some of the benefits of unsupervised free play are increased self-confidence, the ability to risk manage and the lower risk of physical and mental health issues.
Once you are set up, then move away from the campsite and explore. Explore the forest. Explore the beach. We are so lucky here in WA that much of our state remains unpopulated and untouched. Give your kids the freedom to just roam. They can climb rocks and trees. Follow along behind but let them lead the way.
Download the TrailsWA app and pick a walk. You will learn, they will enjoy, and you will see what our fabulous state has to offer. Don’t forget to take your camera to capture some of the stunning beauty on offer.
Here are a few great hikes to start with:
- Castle Rock, Porongorups
- Bluff Knoll, Stirling Ranges
- Frenchman Peak Walktrail, Cape Le Grand National Park
- Hyden Rock Walk, Wave Rock, Hyden
- Cape Naturaliste to Sugarloaf Rock, Dunsborough.
There is something therapeutic about sitting on the edge of a river, a stream or the ocean bathing in the late afternoon sunshine. Whether you catch something or not, it’s about being in nature, listening to the environment. You can pick up kids fishing rods relatively inexpensively. Fishing kits are readily available at most fishing shops.
Whether you catch something or not is not really important, it’s about getting out there, doing something as a family. And just imagine the sheer euphoria your child will experience if they catch a fish. It’s a rite of passage. Plus the benefits of fishing are many. It teaches patience; you seldom catch a fish on the first cast. It teaches perseverance; it generally takes many casts to try and land a fish. It teaches independence; kids needs to learn how to cast a rod, how to reel in the line, how to bait the hook. It teaches them an appreciation of the environment; fish are a finite resource. Responsible fishing is an important lesson in sustainable living.
It’s important that kids grow up with an appreciation of their environment and an understanding they must protect it in order to enjoy the benefits in the future. Plus a feed of fresh fish is a highlight of a camping trip!
This is a great activity and one that can last for an hour or a week, and limited only by imagination. Using fallen trees, broken branches, sticks and discarded ropes, bottles, pieces of plastic, anything that can be modified or ‘imagined’ into a wall, a table, a door, a bed or a pathway. It’s not just about the creation of the structure, it’s about the design, the beautification both within and around the area.
Cubbies can be modified. They can be adapted. Building cubbies is an inclusive activity meaning that there are no age limits or the number of kids involved in the build or gender restrictions. It requires negotiation, imagination and planning. Not to mention the sense of achievement that kids receive from building something and enjoying it.
If you don’t have the abundant resources of a bush environment, then an old sheet, and some rope is a great start for them to develop these skills. Let them create their own secret ‘cave’ for meetings away from parents. Preparing meals in their ‘house’. All these activities encourage imaginative play.
There are endless studies purporting the benefits of nature play for kids. Kids exposed to nature play are sick less often, they are more physically active, have a higher self-worth and lower levels of anxiety and depression. Maggie Dent, well-known author and educator with a particular interest in early years and adolescence, has long supported a commitment to encouraging kids to enjoy nature.
Camping makes this an easy option. A couple of old tins, a bit of water and dirt and you will soon have an appetising array of mud pies for your enjoyment. Some leaves, a few sticks, a waterway and you’ll have them building tiny eucalyptus boats to qualify for the equivalent of the Campers America’s Cup. How far will they sail? Which boat wins a race in the waterway?
Collect and paint rocks. Build rock sculptures. Climb trees. Make sand sculptures. Collect shells, make necklaces. Their play is limited to their imagination, and the more you let them play the more they will create. It’s actually exciting to see their young minds at work.
Learn about the Stars
When you move away from the city and from the reflected and artificially illuminated night sky, you will be blown away by the sheer number of stars shining in the sky. It’s mesmerising.
Lay out on picnic rugs and take in the sheer number of stars and how brightly they shine in our skies. Watch the satellites as they speed across the sky. Have the kids use their imaginations to find animals, plants, fairies, and dragons. Anything that takes their fancy.
Whilst I know part of camping is ‘unplugging’, there are some excellent apps that allow you to point your phone at the sky and the app will interpret what you are seeing. It’s an excellent tool for kids to use.
Try SkyView, StarMap or SkyWalk. They are all free on either Android or IOS. Laying out and watching the stars put our place in the universe into perspective.
So what happens when it rains? Even in the height of summer, when you are camping you always have to be prepared for a little wet weather. And when the sun goes down, what activities can keep the kids entertained?
There are actually loads of family games and activities that are inexpensive and can be adapted to any situation.
Most can be modified to accommodate a large or small group. In fact often the more the merrier! Here are a couple of suggestions — charades. You can purchase this from any game store, but you can improvise by taking turns to pick a topic for someone else to act.
It keeps the game interactive and makes everyone think!
Similarly ‘Who am I?’ is another good option. Have everyone think of a character, a singer, an actor, a movie star. Write it secretly on a piece of paper. Stick the name on the hat of the person sitting next to you. Each person is allowed to ask a yes/no question.
Keep going around and through a process of elimination, try and work out who you are!
Pictionary is another great activity for a big group and one guaranteed to make you laugh. Take the game with you, or take turns thinking up something for everyone to draw.
Have the kids put on a concert one night. This is great if you are camping with a few friends. The kids can put on several skits or plays. The parents can re-live their youth with a great karaoke number! All these activities are fun for everyone and a guaranteed laugh.
They can be as complex or as easy as you want dependant on the age of the children and the area around you. An easy hunt is to give each child a sheet of paper with every colour of the rainbow represented, and then ask them to find something to match each colour. A flower, a rock, a leaf, a piece of paper, a stick, bark. Nature is a marvel. It will have them seeking out their environment and appreciating the many colours that occur naturally.
Or create a list of items for them to find i.e., something fuzzy, a seed, two different types of leaves, a flower, something shiny, something that makes noise, a treasure.
Or another idea is divide it into different categories. I.e. Texture; something smooth, rough, soft, hard. Colours; green, brown, yellow etc. Shapes; something round, square, triangle, pyramid, cone.
A hunt is limited only to your imagination and their inquisitive nature, but equally, it can also be a fun way to do a final equipment check or get the camp area cleaned just before you depart. It would be a shame to leave those special items behind leaning against a tree; or worse still some uncollected litter to be digested by some innocent bush critter.
Throw in a few decks of cards. They are easy to transport, can be used for lots of different games and require very little additional equipment. Card games can be played by all ages and remain one of the most popular games worldwide. They are great for encouraging kids to think ahead, they enhance a strategic mind, require co-ordination, develop fine and gross motor skills and are a great way to entertain kids and adults on a wet day, or a cold night when adventuring is limited to the confines of your tent. Take a pack of Uno cards. A normal pack of cards can be used to play fish, or presidents, or Rummy. Download the Bicycle How to Play app for the rules of 75 different card games. So challenge your kids to a game, you will have fun, guaranteed.
Roasting marshmallows. Buy yourself the biggest bag of marshmallows, instruct the kids to seek out the best roasting stick (long and thin works best). Then after dinner when the fire has died down to a bed of glowing embers, put the marshmallows on the end of your stick, tease them in the fire until they start to darken and bubble slightly. Then before they slip off into the fire, pop them in your mouth for a warmed gooey sugar hit. You won’t be able to stop at just one!
If you really want a really decadent treat, try making an S’mores. They are an American treat but a delicious delicacy around the campfire. You will need a packet of digestive biscuits, (you can use Arnott’s Marie biscuits), and thin chocolate squares (Lindt chocolate is perfect). To make the perfect S’more keep the chocolate close to the fire so it is softer than normal.
Take two biscuits, place a piece of chocolate on one side, roast your marshmallow until slightly browned and gooey, place on top of the chocolate, then sandwich this with another Marie biscuit. Squeeze together so the warmed marshmallow melts the chocolate. Now enjoy!!!
Take a Frisbee or two with you everywhere. They will easily fit under the seat in your car but can provide hours of entertainment and are great for all ages. There are no limits to the number of games that can be played. Frisbees are great for skill building. You can play with as few as two people.
Physical strength doesn’t equate to your ability to throw a Frisbee. They are a great way to keep kids entertained while you are busy trying to set up camp, or prepare dinner, or even as you are packing up to depart. Set up a challenge to see how many times a Frisbee can be thrown before it is dropped, how many throws in two minutes, try and land it close to a designated spot, set up a course of objects to hit, and see how far can you throw it are just a few of the many options.
So why don’t you give camping a go? It really is a fantastic family activity, and although it does take some planning before you leave, once you have arrived the costs are minimal and the fun is endless. So start planning now!
Get out there and enjoy the beauty of our great state! And don’t forget, when you get home, download all those photos that you took and have the kids create a photo book to remember the fun had whilst camping.
– By Vanessa Brown
This article was originally published by So Perth.