Camping with Kids

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Smokey Bear and the Campers

In this week’s camping series I’ve been featuring pages from a fun vintage Little Golden Book, Smokey Bear and the Campers, that I found at a thrift store last summer. The story is about Ernest Swift and his sister, Mary. Yes, those are the children’s names. The book was first published in 1961.

In the story, Ernest and Mary are interested in bird-watching. They follow one bird too far and get lost in the woods. They are rescued, of course, by good ol’ Smokey Bear. He then proceeds to lecture them on fire safety (rather than the importance of obeying their dad, who had told them not to go further than the top of the hill).

Stuff like that cracks me up.

Our kids are great campers. Fortunately, they never got lost in the woods. But then, they never had the privilege of encountering Smokey the Bear, either.

Things Our Kids Love to Do When Camping

I remember the first time we were planning a camping trip after our kids came along. I think Rebecca was still crawling and Laura was about 3-and-a-half. I wasn’t sure how I was going to keep them occupied at the campsite.

My brother-in-law told me, “You don’t have to worry about that. Kids will do things like find a stick and hit it against a tree and think it’s great fun!”

You know what? He was right. The kids have never been bored camping.

Free Play

Here are a few of the things they have found to do:

  • exploring
    • With walkie-talkies, since we can’t count on Smokey to show up with a “field telephone.”
  • building a fort with fallen branches
  • riding their bikes or scooters around the camp loop
  • pulling each other (and the dog) in the wood wagon around the loop
  • climbing trees
  • scavenger hunts
  • catching frogs
  • taking pictures
  • playing on the playground when available
  • playing with glow sticks after dark
    • This may be one of their all-time favorite camping activities. Even now, as young adults, they make a run to the Dollar Tree to pick up glow sticks before nearly every camping trip.
    • Safety benefit: Makes it easier to see where they are and what they’re doing in the dark.

Field Games

At some campgrounds there are open spaces perfect for playing field games such as:

Picnic Table Activities

Back at the campsite here are some activities they’ve enjoyed at the table at different times:


Fun, kid-friendly reading material (even if your kids aren’t avid readers, which I hate to admit, mine aren’t):

  • graphic novels
  • kid magazines (check out the magazine rack at Wal-Mart!)
  • Archie comic books
  • Look-and-Find books

Educational Benefits to Camping

Learning is a lifestyle in our family, so I couldn’t help but notice some of the things my kids have learned from camping without even realizing it:

  • nature studies
  • survival skills
  • primitive cooking
  • fire safety (Thank you, Smokey Bear!)
  • physical fitness (hiking, biking, pumping and carrying water…)
  • exploration and discovery
  • socialization (They always meet any other kids whose families are camping at the same time!)
  • reading (A very relaxing way to spend a lazy afternoon at the campground, when electronics aren’t an option!)
  • photography
  • astronomy
  • meteorology

As young adults, our girls can set up and dismantle a campsite about as quickly and skillfully as their dad can. They can split kindling and build a fire, and cook over the fire. Hopefully, they’ll never really need those skills for survival, but I’m glad they have them, just in case.

Have you taken your kids camping? What kinds of things do they enjoy?

Other Posts in This Series


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