Summer! We're in the throes of the happiest months of the year, the place we pine for all year long. Family vacation is a huge part of summer, and if you've got camping on the docket for you and the kiddos, you're looking forward to sun and water and all kinds of nature. No internet, no fighting with your kids about screens, pure unadulterated family time.
But what happens when the mosquitoes are biting, the kids are fighting, or the rainy days come? We've pulled together five fun, let's-get-back-to-happy activities, just to have in your back pocket in case your fun camping vacation starts to go a little south.
Monet's Rocks. You're in the mountains on an epic trail or along the ocean in the later afternoon. The kids are collecting rocks. For the forty-seventh time. Before you get irritated at the heft, get excited about the crafting possibilities. With a few small bottles of acrylic paint and a couple of brushes, you and yours can be sitting around the picnic table in the afternoon or inside the camper during the rain transforming nature's beauty into something even more memorable. Have a paint-yourself contest, or brush the letters of your names on individual rocks. Even your teenagers will get into this, if you invent a challenge on their level: try texting each other on rocks or painting something you love about them as a teeny token of your trip!
Nature's Tic-Tac-Toe. It's been a full day of exploring, and now your big and little ones are sitting around the campsite, tired, hungry, and irritated. What do you do? Try a spin on the old classic tic-tac-toe! Have the children collect rocks and sticks, then lay out the sticks in a grid pattern. Break some sticks for the X's, then take turns “playing” by placing your rocks or your stick X's inside the squares. Bonus points for rocks that “match”! And if you're in the desert or on the beach, forget the grid and use sticks to draw out the entire game.
Flashlight Tag. Even the grown-ups can get excited about this nighttime version of the game we all played as kids. Equip every “player” with a flashlight, and instead of tagging each other, shine your beam of light at one another. It only counts if you see the light on the target's clothes. Try amping up your game of tag for older kids by adding in Hide-n-Seek, or even a flashlight game of Capture the Flag. Bonus points if the kids are old enough to play by themselves so the grown-ups can enjoy bonfire time!
Storytelling. We've all been around the bonfire when the ghost stories start flying, and that can be a fun activity, depending on the ages of your kids. But, why not try an even more bonding version of storytelling? For each of your kids, tell a story of when they were little, a time they made you proud, or a funny story. Take turns so each of your children gets to be in the limelight for a few moments. Keep it positive, of course, and watch the kids take the reigns and build on your stories, or start telling their own. Bonus points if you've can tell a story no one's heard before!
S'mores Beyond S'mores. We've all had the old standbys, and they're super yummy, there's no denying. BUT, what if you add a little pizzazz? Make a quick run to the grocery store, grab a few extras, and watch the contented, sticky smiles shine. We recommend: rainbow sprinkles across sticky marshmallows, fudgy pinwheel cookies instead of graham crackers, colored or flavored marshmallows instead of standard-issue whites, or go big with bacon instead of graham crackers! Because you're camping, and all bets are off.
Camping vacations with the family will be some of the best memories your kids will have. With a little elbow grease on your part, you can divert tantrums or boredom with these fun activities and turn this summer's vacation into one for the record books.