If you’re worried your kids are going to be bored when you’re camping then these boredom-busting activities will ensure they have plenty to do and get close to nature too.
1. Make a simple mud kitchen
What you’ll need:
- A patch of soil – check there’s no animal poo in it first!
- Plastic or metal utensils, bowls, pots and pans – use ones from your camp kitchen (obviously clean them well after!) or bring a few extra from home
- A bucket or large bowl of water to make mud – alternatively, if you have a water dispenser in your camp kitchen you could let the kids borrow this so they have water on tap while they play
- A log or upturned crate to act as the kitchen work top
- Cup cake cases
- Small pine cones, pebbles, berries and flowers – always supervise your toddlers when picking flowers and berries to make sure the berries aren’t poisonous and the flowers aren’t rare – if in doubt, go for daisies and dandelions
Find a patch of soil and clear any debris, being extra sure to remove anything that’s prickly or that might sting! If there’s a log nearby, a small wall or if you can use an upturned crate this will be perfect as a workstation to act as your toddlers’ kitchen. Add some water to the soil and let your toddlers start making mud creations!
Help your kids fill cupcake cases with soil that’s not too muddy and decorate them with pretty stones, flowers, acorns, pine cones and berries.
Fill pans with a little soil and lots of water and add stones to make ‘soups’ and ‘stews’ and of course, no mud kitchen would be complete without mud pies make in bowls!
2. Mud kitchen rock food
If you have room in your car for paint and can cope with the potential extra mess, then you can use painted stones as mud kitchen food.
Find and clean some smooth stones and let your toddlers use paint to transform them into their favourite fruit and veg. If you have younger toddlers then you may need to help them.
3. Beautiful birds nests
This activity is great as it involves packing very little extra for at least an hour or so’s entertainment!
Give your toddlers a little basket each and help them search for feathers, moss, flowers, soft leaves and grasses to line it with to create a pretty bird’s nest.
Once it’s ready, help them find small round stones to act as bird’s eggs but make sure smaller toddlers don’t think they’re chocolate eggs and try to eat them!
4. Play witches and wizards with homemade wands and broomsticks
Help your toddler find a stick that’s the perfect wand shape. They can decorate it with flowers and feathers, or wrap grasses around it to personalise it. If you’ve brought paint with you then they can add colour, or even bio glitter to make a sparkly wand.
They can make home made broomsticks too, just find a larger stick and lots of smaller twigs then either use grasses or string to bind the twigs to the stick.
Once your toddlers have their broomsticks and wands you can start playing witches and wizard games.
Witches and wizard games
- Broomstick races – your toddlers can jump on their homemade broomsticks and have a race
- Hide and seek
- Use your mud kitchen (see above!) to make a gruesome witches brew
- Make a witches den – use sticks to make a teepee style witches house
5. Build a fairy house
Joni loves anything to do with fairies so whenever we go camping, or even to the park, she likes to build tiny fairy houses.
They’re simple to make and all you need is:
- about five or six sturdy sticks, about a foot long
- lots of leaves and thin twigs to weave in between these sticks
- lots more leaves with long stalks to lay vertically on the stick
- string to bind the sticks and stalks of the horizontal leaves together at the top
This will make a super cute teepee style fairy house. Make sure you leave a small gap in the sticks and leaves for a door.
You can encourage your kids to add extras such as a path made of small stones, flowers planted in the fair garden, or acorn cups, pebbles, petals and leaves for furniture and decoration inside the house.
6. Leaf and bark rubbings
Leaf and bark rubbings are a simple activity for toddlers of any age and the best part is, all you need is paper and a few crayons.
- collect leaves of all shapes and sizes
- turn the leaves vein side up (the bumpier side)
- place a piece of paper on top of it
- use a couple of stones to hold the paper in place
- get a crayon and turn it side
- rub the crayon over the paper and watch the leaf image appear!
Try to find flat leaves that haven’t yet started to dry out and curl – it will make rubbing them much easier.
To make a leaf collage, help your child to rub lots of different shapes and sizes of leaves in multiple colours on the same sheet of paper.
7. Go on a leaf hunt
You can make a whole nature hunt out of collecting leaves. Encourage your kids to find leaves of all shapes and size, you could ask them to find a certain number to help encourage them to count too.
Once they have a large collection, help them sort the leaves out into different shapes, sizes or colours. You can give prizes or points for whomever finds the smallest leaf, the reddest (or greenest!) leaf, the first yellow leaf, the largest leaf and so on.
You can arrange the collection of leaves into a picture, such as a scarecrow, rainbow or even a tree with sticks for the trunk.
8. Make nature shakers
This activity is great for toddlers of all ages and can help with recycling too!
Save any empty water bottles and give them to your toddlers to fill with pebbles, acorns, beech nuts and conkers. Experiment with different size bottles, different amounts of fillings and different types of fillings to make a range of shaking sounds.
Your kids can decorate the bottles with leaves or feathers too.
If you don’t have any plastic bottles, your kids can still make music using dry leaves and sticks:
- find 10-15 very dry, very crunchy leaves
- find a stick and push it through the centre of all the leaves
- shake the stick for an instant rustle rattle!
9. Make a nature sensory box
Grab a large plastic box from your camp kitchen and fill it with different textures from nature, including:
- soft and spongy moss
- crunchy dry leaves
- smooth leaves
- smooth stones, conkers and acorns
- rough acorn shells and bark
- bumpy pine cones
Let your toddlers explore and talk about the different textures.
10. Create a mini world with toy animals
Create a mini world by playing with toy animals in nature. You can help kids create a mini farm with farm animals and even a tractor or combine harvester, you could create tracks in the mud and tiny fences out of twigs or stones as pens for the toy animals.
Create a mini forest for toy foxes, badgers and deer to hide in by putting sticks in the ground to act as trees, moss can be hedges and you can even make a den for them in the form of a fairy house (see above!).
11. Go barefoot in the woods
Our kids do not like wearing socks or shoes of any kind so they love exploring different textures with their feet when we’re camping.
We create different areas for them to try out with their toes. This ‘nature run’ is easy to set up:
- collect different textured items from nature such as crunchy leaves, rough bark, soft moss, smooth pebbles, cold water and squelchy mud
- lay these out in a line, you could separate the areas with stones or sticks laid on their side. for the water you could use a paddling pool, a puddle or the lid off a large plastic box (just make sure it’s not too slippy!)
Help your kids walk from area to area and encourage them to describe how their feet feel as they experience each texture
If your toddlers are anything like ours’ they’ll be big fans of the squelchy mud! Just make sure you check that there’s nothing sharp in any of the areas before your toddlers start exploring.
12. Go foraging for food
This activity needs to be closely supervised to avoid children eating anything they shouldn’t! take a trip into the woods and look for blackberries, bilberries and apples.
Take an identification book with you so you can help your kids start to recognise different plants and fruit.
You won’t have the facilities to cook a delicious apple and blackberry crumble on your campsite, but you can still enjoy a fresh fruit salad.
And remember the golden rule of foraging, if you don’t know what it is then don’t pick it!
13. Go on a mini beast hunt
Uncover creepy crawlies under logs and stones and tick them off on a list.
14. Make natural paint brushes
What you’ll need for the paint brushes:
- sticks that will become paintbrush handles
- string or twine
- natural materials to become the paint brush bristles. These can include:
- flowers (budlea)
- spruce needles
- lavender or rosemary springs
Gather a small bunch of each type of bristles and attach them to the end of a stick with string to make a natural paintbrush.
If you don’t want to bring paints from home, then encourage the kids to paint patterns in sand or soil and see what different shapes the different brushes make.
15. Hold a campsite sports day
If you’re camping with a lot of kids, or if your kids make friends with other children on the campsite, you could organise a sports day.
Include classic games such as:
- egg and spoon race (use a potato if you don’t want to boil any eggs)
- a sack race – use rubble bags or pillow cases that need washing
- three legged race
- wheel barrow race
- relay race
If there are enough children playing then you could split them into teams and have award points per team. You can even get the adults to join in too!
16. Make a mini building site
This activity is extremely easy to set up and should keep kids occupied for hours, particularly if they’re into diggers!
Find a patch of glass or mug about half a metre square and fill it with small rocks, stones and mud. Pop some sticks vertically in the ground to act as trees. Create a track using a small sandpit rake for a toy digger and dumper truck to travel round. You could even pack some small sign posts – we use the ones the come with wooden train track sets.
Help your child use their toy digger to move small stones, gravel and mud around the site.
17. Bubble play
This one is pretty simple – kids love bubbles!
You can make playing with buddies educational (and last longer!) by trying the following:
- encourage them to talk about the size of the bubbles
- help them count the different bubbles
- see if they can keep the bubbles up in the air for longer by blowing them upwards
- see if they can catch the bubbles without popping them
- chase the bubbles!
18. Make apple sailing boats
- Chop an apple in half down the core and this is forms the basis of your toddler’s new sailing craft!
- Cut a sail shape out of a piece of card – you could use card from any empty food box and get your kids to colour it in.
- Use a small sharp stick, such as a cocktail stick, to skewer the piece of card and attach it to the centre of the apple – this will be the boat’s sail.
- Fill a washing up bowl with water, or find a natural pool or stream and help your child to sail their apple boat!
19. Put up a hammock
Hammocks pack up really small and while you may not want your toddler to sleep in one at night, they make an excellent place for kids to relax and read in the day. Find a couple of sturdy trees to secure your hammock too and pop your toddler in it. They will no doubt want to play in it and use it as a huge swing or climb in and out of it. But after all that playing they may just have their afternoon nap in it!