For many people, a lot of planning goes into what to bring for a camping trip – gear, food, clothes – and how to set up an ideal campsite, but the activities to do once you’re all there … well, it can fall to the wayside. Specifically, nighttime activities. It’s important to think about how to spend your time after dark, especially with children.
In Jennifer Aist’s book “Babes in the Woods: Hiking, Camping, Boating with Babies and Young Children,” she points out that “one of the biggest differences between camping with adults and camping with young ones is the ‘down time,’” and night time is no exception.
Once the campsite is set up and the sun goes down, how does one keep kids entertained (and safe!) around the campsite?
For the littlest campers
For the littlest campers– infants – Aist recommends for parents to “start thinking of your baby as a scientist and suddenly the smallest things are super interesting.” Hopefully these young ones go to sleep before long, but you can use the time to explore and observe. Build your child’s vocabulary for nature by talking about what you see or hear.
Allow toddlers to explore the night
Exploration is everything for toddlers – even at nighttime. They need little more than a bucket and a shovel to conduct their important business of carrying or collecting things. If you have access to a telescope, they’ll be fascinated to look at the moon or planets.
You can also give toddlers a flashlight or headlamp and let them look around the campsite; that’s always entertaining for them. Glow sticks – you can often find them at the dollar store – are also a crowd pleaser. Additionally, a few favorite board books are good to have on hand to transition into bedtime.
For the preschoolers
The preschool set can be entertained with simple scientific instruments: magnifying glass, tweezers, bug nets, buckets or jars for collecting water. As a bonus, these things double as open-ended toys, and they may discover new uses for them once it gets dark.
Hike it Baby mom Brandi Rondinelli says they’ve made up some fun games with nature: Count the pine cones, throw the pine cones in a bucket, draw a picture with mud on a blank piece of paper. Or count the sounds of the things you hear: fire crackling, crickets chirping, river gurgling. If you saw animals or animal tracks earlier in the day, make up stories about what you saw.
Stargazing is another tried and true activity and it can be especially fun during a meteor shower.
Hike it Baby dad Ryan Idryo says that for big family trips – with lots of kids – his family makes hand-crank ice cream. “Sometimes we can find wild blackberries to flavor it with,” he said. “If we don’t finish it, we’ll re-crank it in the morning and have it as a pancake topping.”
For school age kids
For older kids, playing an in-the-dark game of Capture the Flag has been a huge hit for years, Ryan said, along with board games or interactive story games.
And as children get older, you can involve them with some of the tried and true night-time camping activities: roasting marshmallows or making S’mores, singing songs or playing music around the campfire. Have them don pajamas and read (or tell) a bedtime story by the campfire.
A nighttime hike can also be a lot of fun if you’re familiar with the terrain and it’d fit your group’s abilities. It can be a great opportunity to check out the stars or find a dark spot and have everyone sit fairly close. Bring along some Wintergreen Life Savers and crunch them with open mouths – when it’s super dark, they’ll spark when you bite them!
How do you pass the time at night at camp? Tell us below!
This post is sponsored by Easy Camp: At Easy Out Camp Inc., we are passionate about camping and we believe that everyone should experience the enjoyment of living outdoors at least once in their lifetime. We want to make the outdoors easy for everyone – a fun, vibrant environment in which to enjoy the freedom of life. And our aim is to play the fullest role in making a fantastic camping experience that creates great memories – including developing an exciting online community where you can meet new friends and find inspiration and advice. Easy Out Camp Inc.– “Just Add People.” More information is available at www.easycamp.com