Activities for Camping with Children

Kathleen Roberts
Lynn Brunelle with her two sons.

Finding activities for camping with children has just become much easier with the new book written by Lynn Brunelle entitled Camp Out! The Ultimate Kids' Guide. This book is much more than a camping guidebook. Packed with fun activities, Camp Out! is a science based book that will teach kids (and adults) tons of amazing facts about nature along with its camping lists, games and safety information.

About the Author

Lynn Brunelle is a four-time Emmy Award-winning writer for her work on the kids' science show Bill Nye the Science Guy. In her 20 years of writing she has written over 40 books along with writing and developing projects for National Geographic, Scholastic, Disney, The Discovery Channel and many others.

This Seattle based mom enjoys camping with her husband and two sons, where they explore the wonders of nature together. Thankfully, she hasn't kept these learning moments to herself. Readers have an opportunity to learn as well through her fantastic books.

Lynn's Favorite Activities for Camping with Children

LTK recently had the privilege of interviewing Ms. Brunelle about her book as well as her favorite activities for camping with children. Here are her responses:

What Inspired You to Write this Book?

I think it's so important in this time of increasing urbanization and plugged-in-ness for kids to be given the chance to unplug and get out and find themselves in a place much bigger than they are used to.

It's such a treat and a privilege to walk through the woods or on the beach and smell the smells, listen to the sounds and be able to putter and discover in nature-be it backyard or backwoods.

Camping is the perfect opportunity for families to reconnect, for kids to learn a little self-reliance and have a lot of fun discovering new things. If we don't get kids to care about wild places now there won't be anything left for their own grandkids to explore.

A lifetime of collecting experiences and trying things out has gone into this book. It's a book I wish I had when I was a kid. It combines practical stuff with naturalistic stuff:

  • Observation
  • Science experiments
  • Art projects
  • Ghost stories
  • Games
  • Songs
  • Food on a stick
  • Stars
  • Clouds
  • Reading compasses
  • Tying knots

I want kids to know how amazingly fun it is to get out!

Some Guidelines for Planning Activities

I love to get kids involved and excited. The more they have a hand in where we're going, what we're bringing, what we are packing and what we'll be eating, the more exciting it is to get ready for the trip.

If we're going to a specific ecosystem we do a lot of projects and research beforehand so they can gear up for their experience. Because my kids are small, we do a camping out in the living room first, and then we move to the yard. Once they feel confident about that we're ready for adventure. Preparation is key. Pack well and be prepared for anything that comes your way. No trip goes as planned though, and rolling with what comes is as much fun as planning for it.

What Skills do Kids Learn from Camping?

I can't imagine anyone not getting a lot out of camping. I think every age has something to gain.

  • Wonder
  • Excitement
  • Adventure
  • New experiences
  • Self-reliance
  • Observation skills
  • Action
  • Connectedness

These are things we can all grow from.

Do You Find Respect for Nature Lacking in Kids Today?

I think it can be a problem. It's human nature to be looking at things from a single perspective. Getting outside, relying on your wits and seeing that we're really pretty small in the great scheme of things can bring about a deep respect in something other than ourselves. It's nice to see how we fit into nature as opposed to ruling over it. It's a big difference.

Your Favorite Kid-Friendly Campgrounds?

Right now, since we are living in the Pacific Northwest, we frequent the Cascade National and Olympic National parks. My kids just turned three and five. When they get a bit bigger and we get a bit bolder we'll venture forth. I suspect there are great places all over this beautiful country.

Kid's Favorite Recipes

I have this die-hard need to make sure they get as many fruits, vegetables and whole grains as possible so I made these recipes up with that in mind. I went through a number of recipes that I loved that didn't pass the kid test.

These work for us. They're tasty, healthy and easy. Plus everything tastes better when you are on an outdoor adventure doesn't it?

Breakfast in a Bag

  • 3 to 4 thick slices of bacon
  • 2 fresh eggs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • A brown paper lunch bag
  • A good stick
  1. Open paper bag and place on a flat surface
  2. Lay bacon on the bottom of bag to cover completely
  3. Crack eggs into bag on top of bacon
  4. Close bag by folding three or four times, run your fingers across fold until it is secure
  5. Have an adult poke two holes through the top of the folded bag, thread the stick through both holes securely
  6. Using the stick, hold bag over the hot coals for 10 to 15 minutes
  7. Peek in the bag to see if the food has cooked
  8. Place bag on plate, roll top open or tear off top to make a dish
  9. Add salt and pepper and eat

Favorite Activities

Fern Smash T-shirt

  • Newspaper
  • A white t-shirt
  • Cardboard to fit inside the t-shirt
  • Fern leaves (be mindful of the environment while gathering leaves, only gathering a few from different plants)
  • Paper towels
  • A hammer
  • A plastic shopping bag
  • Clothes dryer (at home)
  1. Spread out newspaper on a flat surface and place t-shirt on top
  2. Slide cardboard inside
  3. Place fern leaves face down on t-shirt in whatever pattern you like
  4. Place paper towels over ferns
  5. Carefully hammer paper towels and ferns, hitting every part of the design
  6. Remove paper towels slowly, then gently remove ferns
  7. Lift newspaper with t-shirt and move to a shady spot to dry, wrap loosely in plastic bag
  8. At home, put t-shirt in the dryer for 10 minutes to set the design

Branch Weavings

  • An interesting branch with a forked end
  • Enough lightweight string or embroidery thread to wrap around the fork at least five times
  • A collection of leaves, grasses, flowers, feathers, shells, etc.
  • White glue
  1. While sitting, place long end of branch between your knees. Wrap on end of string around the left side of the branch's fork where it begins, tie it in a tight knot
  2. Stretch the string across to the right side and wrap around once
  3. Wrap back around to the left side above the first wrap.
  4. Continue wrapping toward the tips of the branch, stopping an inch from the ends. Use an overhand knot (on page 105 of the book!) to tie the end to the branch
  5. Weave collected materials back and forth through the string
  6. Use a dab of glue where needed to secure the items in your weaving

Sprout Your Socks

  • A pair of nubby wool socks
  • Large zip-top bag
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • A sunny location
  1. Find an interesting natural area to walk in
  2. Pull socks over your shoes. Hike through the place you have found, allowing socks to bush against the plant life
  3. Take socks off and put them in the zip-top bag, sprinkle water to make the socks damp and seal the bag
  4. Put bag in the sun for a few days and see what sprouts
  5. See what happens if one sock is in a sunny place and the other in the dark
  6. Try planting your sock and see if you get a mini meadow

Final Notes

Just take a chance. Activities for camping with children don't have to be overwhelming or hard at all. It can even be something as easy as hanging out in the backyard or a park for a time each day. Just getting out and realizing how lucky we are to be on this planet is such a great gift to give your kids.

LoveToKnow would like to thank Lynn Brunelle for taking the time for this interview and for telling us about her awesome book.

Activities for Camping with Children