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December 2013 Issue
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Camping with kids

Old favourites such as toasting marshmallows on the campfire are always popular with kids. Photo: Edith Leigh

Most kids love camping. There is something about wide open spaces and untamed wilderness that really speaks to children. But having a few tricks up your sleeve can save a rainy day, give you an extra half hour with that book, or conversely allow you to really connect and spend time playing with them. Edith Leigh lists a few ideas for camping with kids.


Bicycles are a no-brainer. They are great energy burners. They allow kids to get to the playground and toilets faster and most other kids will have their bikes too, so they are a great ice-breaker. Families can also explore local cycle tracks together.

Give kids their own special camping gear

Give each kid their own headlamp. This not only prevents arguments, they are great for night time play, reading and making shadow puppets on the side of the tent.

Give everybody their own disposable camera; these may be some of your favourite photos of the trip.

Make a camping necklace for everyone, or better still get the kids to make their own. Along with some beads, thread on a whistle, a small magnifying glass and a tiny, lightweight light.

Camping activity box

Instead of whining to you, bored kids can go straight to the activity box. Pack stuff like bubbles, crayons, paper, glue, scissors, matchbox cars, a beach ball, a rope for tug of war, a frisbee and toy binoculars. A few games are always good for quiet afternoons or wet days. Try cards, fish, memory, ludo or your own family favourites. Throw in some pre-prepared scavenger hunt lists, with items such as a rock with stripes, a wildflower, a stick that looks like a dog, or simply print lists

Go geocaching

Even if you don’t have a GPS, geocaching apps can be downloaded for free, or very little charge, and the whole family can go treasure hunting. Kids love looking for, and finding, stuff. Make sure you have a small supply of cheap toys, or swag, to trade when they hit the jackpot.

Build a dam

Kids just love building dams. They will fetch and carry rocks and stones for hours. When you’re getting them started, remember enthusiasm is contagious.

Get arty

Land art is simply making art and sculptures using materials found in nature, such as leaves, twigs, pebbles, rocks, sand and shells. Make animals, patterns, circles, spirals, even life size outlines of a child. For inspiration, check out some land artists like Andy Goldsworthy, Jean-Yves Piffard or Nils-Udo before you go. Don’t forget to take photographs of any creations so you can frame them for a special camping holiday memory.

Let them be

Unstructured time away from screens, daily routines and endless organised activities can be a balm for kids. Often it is after the “I’m bored” stage that kids will come up with their most creative and imaginative play.