You'll enjoy beautiful natural scenery, twinkling stars, s'mores, and plenty of fresh air, but the best part, by far, is the abundance of totally uninterrupted bonding time with your family. But how do you fill those hours, especially if your kids are used to having nonstop wi-fi to keep them connected and entertained? It's time to think back to your days at sleepaway camp and break out the analog camping activities and games.
During the day, you can spend your hours doing lawn games — plenty of them are small enough to pack away into a trunk, including bocce, kubb, and certain cornhole sets. You can also find ways to explore the wilderness through scavenger hunts, treasure searches, and orienteering activities. Then, when it gets dark, you'll probably have to stick close to the campfire, so be sure to bring plenty of outdoor-appropriate card and board games, along with party activities like charades and storytelling games. And, of course, anything that glows in the dark is fair game for nighttime competitions, so make sure to pick up a glow-in-the-dark frisbee. When you're done, they're not going to miss the wifi.
Get kids to really notice nature by challenging them to spot different animals, trees, leaves, and plants. If you want, you can distribute paper bags and get the kids to collect some of the items, and then make an art project with their findings.
A good deck of cards can unlock hours upon hours of entertainment. What's your game: hearts, spades, rummy, or go fish? This Wild + Wolf set comes with neon waterproof cards, six dice, a scoring pad and pencil, and a tin to keep it all in,
The best thing about cornhole is that anyone can grab a challenger and wander over to start a game. If you have room enough to bring a set with you, can keep a running tally of wins and losses for the duration of your trip to crown an ultimate winner in the end.
Do Amateur Astronomy
You don't even need a telescope to try out some stargazing. If you're not practiced at identifying different planets and constellations, there are plenty of apps that can tell you what you're looking at and many of them are even free.
An Exquisite Corpse Story
No doubt, you've played some version of "the exquisite corpse" at a party: You write a portion of a story on a piece of paper, then fold the paper down so that everything but the last sentence or so is obscured. Then you pass it on to the next player, who continues writing based only on the words that remain visible. In the end, choose a player to do a dramatic reading of the whole thing, which is no doubt hilariously disjointed.
A game that also teaches a skill: Hide some kind of dollar-store treasure a short walk from your campsite, and then give your kids a map and directions to try and find it. For older kids, you can use a real map; for younger ones, you might have to make your own simplified version. Map-reading skills will stick with them their whole lives, even in this GPS-ready world.
Murder in the Dark
Place one small piece of paper per person in a jar, bowl, or hat. All of the papers should have nothing but a star drawn on them except two: one of those should have and "D" written on it, and the other should have an "M." Each person chooses a piece of paper, and whoever gets the "D" is the Detective, and the "M" is the murderer. The murderer proceeds to "kill" people by making eye contact in winking; the victims get to make a big, dramatic show of dying. The detective is challenged with figuring out who the murderer is before all the victims are killed.
Do you remember this old card game? Place a bunch of spoons (or fork, or twig, or pinecone) in the center of a table; there should be enough for every person to have one, except one person. Then deal four cards to every player, and leave them face-up on the table. The dealer then takes cards one at a time from the deck, she can either keep it, or pass it to her left. The player to the left takes the card from the dealer and also can either keep it or pass it to the left, while at the same time the dealer picks up a second card from the deck. The play continues seamlessly until someone gets four of a kind. That person grabs a spoon from the center. Once that happens, everyone races to grab their own spoon, and the one left empty-handed is the loser.
Obstacle courses and team relay races are great because you can design them with whatever you have on hand. Jump ropes, hula hoops, and water balloons can all be strung together in a series of mini-challenges that can be tailored to your kids' abilities.
Nighttime Glow-in-the-Dark Games
Darkness adds another layer of challenge to some simple outdoor games. You can make a target game out of glow-in-the-dark frisbee, or get glow sticks and make an illuminated nighttime ring toss.
Don't forget Jenga! Of course, this stacking-block game is fun to play in daylight, but if you get too comfortable with your skills, you can try it after sundown.
Morse Code Messages
Morse code is one of those almost-lost skills that's still totally fun to play around with. Send an adult into the woods with a flashlight, and have them flash a message in morse code for the rest of the family to decipher.
Sleeping Bag Race
You've already brought your sleeping bags with you. Put them to work doubling as potato sacks, and set up a family sack race.
Have extra marshmallows from your S'mores? Everyone should put one in their mouth and try to say the phrase "Chubby Bunny." No problem? Okay, then get another one, and see if you can say it with two marshmallows in your mouth. Keep going until you can't say it, either because your mouth is too full, or you're laughing too hard.
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