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Batteries Not Included

Campsite activities for kids.

By Bernadette Noll

Even the most battery-dependent kids will jump at the chance to unplug and spend a weekend under the stars. Whether it is their first campout and you are hoping to inject them with a lifelong love of nature, or whether a child was born inside a tent, these activities will create a memorable and entertaining connection to the al fresco experience. These activities can all be done without special equipment — anywhere, anytime —even on those rainouts that might otherwise be considered a wash.

Nature Scavenger Hunt — Make a list of 10 or more items you might find around your campsite or on a hike: paw prints, a bird feather, river rock, bird’s nest, animal bone, berries, seeds, pinecones, etc. While hiking see how many things on the list you can find. Once you find them, don’t collect them; merely check them off the list. You can work together as a team or make it into a contest seeing who can find the most items.

Leaf Rubbings — Campsite artwork can provide a beautiful image to remind you of your campout after it’s over. For this project, you will need crayons, sketch paper and a magazine or newspaper. Gather up leaves, grasses, ferns, etc. Spread the magazine or newspaper on the table. A folded-up map would also work. Lay the leaves and other objects on the paper. Place the sketch paper on top of the leaves. Peel the paper off the crayon and rub them over the paper using the side of the crayon instead of the point. Press firmly enough so that the outline and veins will show through. Experiment using different color crayons and changing the arrangements. Hang them around your campsite with clothespins and carry them home as a camping memento.

Sock Seed Search — When you are in an area with a large meadow or grassy field you can participate in a fun search that will also help you identify different flowers and grasses. Put a pair of thick old socks on over your shoes. Walk meanderingly through the meadow. At the edge of the field take the socks carefully off your shoes. Pick off all the seeds and “hitchhikers” that have collected on your socks. Separate the seeds into groups. On a piece of cardboard or an index card, tape one of each of the different types. Carry the card with you back out into the meadow and see if you can identify the different varieties. If you don’t know the names, see if you can find them in a field guide. Write the name of each one under the seed. Take a couple of seeds home in a bag or an envelope and see if they will grow where you live.

Nature Bingo — This is a game that can be played after a long day’s hike or when the rain leaves you cabin bound. On index cards, write down different items found around your campsite: feather, stick, pebble, shell, bone, leaf, fossil, etc. On paper or cardboard, draw a grid of 9 or 12 2-inch squares. In each square, draw a picture of the items or write the names, being careful to make sure that each card has them in different order. On the center square, draw a tree or a small animal as the wild space. Give each player a card, and assign one person to be the caller. Now put all the names of the items in a pot or a hat. Have the caller pull them out one by one. As each item is called, the players can mark it off on their card with a small pebble or rock. First one to fill a row wins.

Camping with kids is a great opportunity for everyone involved to learn a little bit more about our natural world in the best classroom ever. Take advantage of your time outdoors and take some time for a little creative fun as well.

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