Activities for camping with a 5 year old - Mothering Forums

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Old 07-22-2012, 08:00 AM - Thread Starter
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Hi everyone!

I wasn't sure where to post this, so I hope this is ok!

We have a 5 day camping trip planned for the August long weekend, and I need some great activities to keep DS busy during the down times. This will be DS's 3rd camping trip (his first was when he was a year and a half, his second was last summer). This is definitely our longest trip at 5 days when we usually do 3, and I don't want him to get bored. Bored DS = crazy DS lol.

We have all the typical activities planned: hiking, time at the beach every day, canoeing, plus we are bringing our dog, so we'll do lots of walking around and playing with her (this is also her first camping trip, please share if you have any dog camping tips too!)

I'm bringing some of his favorite toys, action figures and cars, etc. as well as some larger toys for digging in the dirt (trucks, shovels, buckets, etc.) and a bug box for catching interesting bugs (the rule is we put them back in 24 hours). Coloring books and crayons and a few board and card games....anything else?

What have you done with your kids that has been a big hit? I'm mostly concerned that what I bring will become boring after a few days, and I certainly don't want to pack too many toys...more variety in activity would be great!


Just me and DS.
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Old 07-22-2012, 04:29 PM
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When we go camping (which is several times a year) we don't bring any toys except stuff for the car (depending on length of drive that might be a lot of stuff or just a little).  Ds (5 in August) is happy to putter around the campsite, move rocks, help with the fire, help with cooking, collect things, etc.  We do bring our Nook for bedtime (with its built in light it means we don't need another light for reading).  Ds loves the fire, collecting kindling, helping start and tend the fire.  We search for things in the woods; mostly edible plants, but other stuff as well.  We are lucky that we often go camping with other people who have kids.


Are you "rustic" camping? Or are you car camping at a campground? 


I wouldn't bring too much stuff.  I would assume "camping" is the activity.  Bring some sand stuff for the beach.  Assume you are going to be immersed in activity most of the time.  The back at the campground stuff is usually just chilling out.  Ds is thrilled to go in and out of the tent a million times as an activity.  And pee outside.  Yep, peeing is a popular activity!!!


However, I would say you must invest in glow sticks.  Probably at least 50.  Glow sticks are some easy fun!  We like to give ds 4 (one for each ankle and each wrist).  He also likes to "decorate" with them.  And we usually put them around all our tent ropes to prevent tripping.

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Old 07-22-2012, 05:28 PM
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I would add his bike, bubbles, a ball and maybe a magnifying glass. Also, bring lots of bandaids and polysporin. Ask me how I know! 


I also really love having our wagon with us. Kids can play with it for hours giving each other rides and it's great for hauling wood and water. 

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Old 07-22-2012, 08:49 PM
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I never brought any toys, not even 1.   I think the point of camping is to NOT have all kinds of entertainment.   If he gets bored, let him be bored.   Ds plays with sticks, rocks, finds other kids to play with, climbs trees, play with leaves, digs in the dirt, pokes the fire pit, collects wood for the fire, plays with the flashlight, etc. 

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Old 07-22-2012, 08:57 PM
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When we camp, we don't typically bring toys. What we do bring is DD's "adventure pack", which usually has things like a magnifying glass, binoculars, birdcall book, something like this to catch and examine bugs, a net to catch minnows in a creek, a small journal for her to draw pictures about what we did, and a few trinkets if we decide to go geocaching. We also bring along a few books to read, one favorite stuffed animal, maybe a coloring book, and music. That's about it.


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Old 07-23-2012, 10:00 AM
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Originally Posted by leighi123 View Post

I never brought any toys, not even 1.   I think the point of camping is to NOT have all kinds of entertainment.   If he gets bored, let him be bored.   Ds plays with sticks, rocks, finds other kids to play with, climbs trees, play with leaves, digs in the dirt, pokes the fire pit, collects wood for the fire, plays with the flashlight, etc. 

Same here. Sticks, rocks, sand, leaves make the best toys.


We bring a ball and some sand toys for the beach.


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Old 07-23-2012, 11:17 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the suggestions everyone, I'm really rethinking my whole approach!!

Just me and DS.
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Old 07-23-2012, 03:22 PM
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Ditto everyone else.

The things I have brought are badminton rackets, deck of cards, a football or baseball and gloves to toss, frisbee. Things to do together, things that we dont  always have time for at home.


And this game,  ladder baseball, I see this set up on campsites, alot.

Sara - Mum to C (10/02) ; m/c 10/07; 7/08; 3/09; Lucy Olive Feb 28, 2010 !
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Old 07-23-2012, 03:40 PM
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We're don't take that many toys with us when we camp, we spend most of the time at the beach so most of the stuff we take can be used either there or on the site. Ball, sand toys, kites and frisbees and the kids usally spend time collecting sticks/pebbles etc which they play with later.


For drawing we find a clipboard is useful to give them a firm surface and we usually have a pack of cards and the uno cards.


The kids have cuddly toys which they sleep with so those always come along with a few story books and that's about it. They love thier wind up torches and no worries about the batteries running out. We do have a couple of battery ones too though in case they need them in the night.

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Old 07-23-2012, 03:58 PM
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Hi :-)


  Will there be other children or only your DS?  Brothers, sisters, cousins, friends?  I only have my DD who is also 5, but when we go camping I try to bring a friend or her 6yr old sister (half sis :-) ) along.  It makes a world of difference for them to have someone close to their age to explore and play.  

  As for the doggie, my dogs usually don't like to eat their usual dog food when we are out, so I bring extra food to feed them what we are eating. We eat grass fed beef, organic stuff etc so its good for them too :-) 

  Since it can get hot here I have to worry about the heat for the dogs, their feet can also burn on the hot sand.  One of my dogs is white and short fur (dogo argentino) and she gets sunburned pretty easily and I always have to bring extra shade.  I can't carry her like I can with my other two little ones, so I will have to get her some botties for the long walks on the hot sand.

  Here it is hard to find a safe place to camp that allows dogs, so we haven't had the pleasure of going camping in a while.


  Enjoy your trip! 

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Old 07-24-2012, 08:59 AM
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We do bring some toys, because the tent is such a treat for the girls that they want to bring a few toys to play inside it.  Our best camping trip was last year when we let them call all the shots as to whether we would climb in the car and visit another beach further up.  They didn't want to, and we stayed and had the best vacation of our lives.  The girls were very easily entertained by sand, water, rocks, whatever.


So, I wouldn't plan too much.  You don't have to let them decide everything, but let them make some of the decisions, and be willing to let go of a few activities if they seem to want to stay put.


We've picked our campsites to suit the kids.  Always close to bathrooms, one site had a kid-friendly stream behind it and a wooden foot bridge for hours of troll play.  Yes, during that trip we were camping near Mt. Rainier but we spent our time playing at the campground.   

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Old 07-25-2012, 05:45 PM
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Bring him his own flashlight. I'm sure he'll have fun with that. I personally think its good to bring some toys. We've had camping trips where it has rained. It's really nice for them to have something to do in the tent in case of bad weather.

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Old 07-26-2012, 08:49 AM
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Print out a star chart or take a book about astronomy. Try to identify the constellations at night. The Perseid meteor shower will peak on August 12, but they should be visible by early August. 


We like wildcrafting - like making whistles from tree twigs or building a lean-to or tipi from deadfall branches or making little art projects with collected stones and shells. Perhaps you can find a good book at the library (the Boy Scouts handbook or the Dangerous Book for Boys have good ideas but there are lots of wildcrafting books and books for camping with kids). 

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Old 07-26-2012, 01:11 PM
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Activities for camping? I always think of camping as the perfect time for them to come up with their own activities. We usually take a box or bag of toys and books that goes untouched. There are too many sticks, bugs, trails, fires, etc. I would definitely take a bug catcher, marshmallows, roasting forks. If there is a camp store you can check out what they have, sometimes they have nets for fish or butterflies. I like to take one read-aloud book for the campfire, either a scary stories or a poetry book.

But mainly I try to stay out of the way and let them find things to do. If there is only one child, it's possibly to find nearby camp friends.

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Old 07-23-2013, 03:08 AM
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Hey There are some really good things posted here. I'm a single dad who was debating taking our son camping for the first time. We did butlins for the first time early in the year and are going to do it again in August. I was thinking about going up a day early and have 1 nights camping to see how he gets on. 


I love some of the things and have made a list of what we can do together, don't really want to take toys or nintendo. so we can have a back to basics camping experience.

I like the Bug Box, magnifiy glass and would also take some paper and crayons for Leaf Rubbing. also a pocket guide to trees so we can identfy some country stuff together. Do they still do those ispy books?


I'm also sure I got some basic things to make a kite, I know it dont really have to fly, my son is quite happy just running around dragging it in the wind behind him.


He loves collecting stuff, and of course has an intrest in pirates so I think an old shoe box will make a good holiday treasure chest for his precious finds, stones, twigs, shells.


We always have a football in the car for randon kick abouts but i did manage to find some small cones in the pound shop so i brought 8  and we practice our soccer skills. (in & out)


I love the glow stick Idea, Did'nt think of this but as I work in nightclubs I have 1000's at my disposal, what Im going to do is take some kitchen toll tubes and we can cut eye shapes into them put the cglow sticks in them so we can scare off any scary monsters.


As I'm going to be on the south Coast the first week of august We might catch the Persird Meteor shower, I've seen this a few times but I think he'll be asleep as night fall is late this time. 

The only toy we'll take will be his FooFoos, But he'll have a couple in the car. We role play and use these to tell stories. It's quite funny using a Ninja Turtle to act out the Little Ginger Bread man at story time. - Oh that reminds me take a story book. 


This post has been helpful - Thanks 

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Old 07-25-2013, 02:36 PM
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We made a little fairyland when we were camping a few days ago and it kept my kids entertained for HOURS!  We lined an area with rocks and made little structures with sticks and leaves, plus little trails that went throughout the space.  Super fun! :)

Single mama to DD 10/18/03 and DS 9/15/05 

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Old 07-26-2013, 11:50 AM
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We take something like the aforementioned adventure pack:
Magnifying glass
Tweezers (great for dissecting flowers)
Bug box
Minnow catcher
Field guides
Pencil crayons

And for bedtime we have books to read, and an iPod with audiostories.

And for bedtime

dust.gifFour-eyed tattooed fairy godmother queer, mama to my lucky star (5) and little bird (2.5). Resident storyteller at Enchanting audiostories for curious kids. Come play in the forest!
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Old 07-26-2013, 07:06 PM
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Boredom breeds genius. Kids rarely think up especially fantastic things to do if they're not first bored.

We bring zero toys anywhere with us. Not even in the car (long drives are for looking out the window and "thinking thoughts"). It's gone so well that ultimately we got rid of all the toys even when we're home. For serious. smile.gif

Camping is the most fun of anything, ever. Don't worry! Trust!


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Old 07-28-2013, 04:55 PM
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I agree that camping is the most fun with friends.  


If we're camping at the beach (which we love), we bring sand castle supplies, a bucket and boogie boards.  For short trips we don't pack anything else.  On our week long trips we also bring bicycles and one other toy.  One year while my youngest still napped, I brought part of our wooden train set.  This year I brought the bristle blocks.  I usually go for something that is pretty simple to use, store, clean, etc.  


We camp in a pop up and I think there's a deck of cards in there for rainy days, but we rarely use those. 

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