The days are long, but summer is short. We know just how to make the most out of this special time of year. Summer vacation serves as a golden opportunity for families to make the outdoors their classroom, and camping is one of the easiest ways to get outside without straying outside of your backyard – or your budget.

Here are some camping-related activities you can try with your kids:

  1. Pitch a Tent
    Tents are relatively cheap and require some skill to assemble. Work with your child to learn how to follow the steps to pitch a tent, then let them help in making some of the decisions like location and needed items such as sleeping bags, food, drinks, games. Planning is a vital skill for success, so take time to discuss the plan for camping. Lists are good to model executive functioning skills such as: taking initiative, planning, and following through. So make lists and let your child check them off as you complete the tasks together.
  1. Game on!
    Have some outdoor games that require social interaction. Focus on social skills such as sportsmanship, reframing defeat, turn-taking, following rules, and being fair. These are lifelong skills that will help your child be successful in more structured sports and activities when they return to school. Games can be simple and inexpensive like badminton, croquet, volleyball, egg toss, water balloon toss, etc. Make sure the games are appropriate for your child’s age and development and consider more water activities on hotter days. Small wading pool or sprinklers can be loads of fun and occupy children for long periods of time.

solar ovens - Suzie's Farm copyright

  1. Solar Science
    Real campfires can be a lot of work, but exciting and therapeutic for some children. However, they are not always feasible without constant parental supervision. A unique spin can be to make your own solar oven. Have you ever tried s’mores in a solar oven? You can cook yummy food while learning about science. Here is the link for step by step directions.
  1. Happy Hammocking
    There has been a recent craze for a special kind of hammock called an Eno. These hammocks are portable, lightweight, and made out of great durable material. Whether you’re taking a break and relaxing in an Eno to read a good book or your child is swinging in the repetitive way that makes them feel safe and calm, hammocking can make the whole family happy. Check out this article about how children with autism and sensory integration issues can benefit from Enos.
  1. Reading for Fun!
    Summer is the perfect time to nurture a love for reading. During the school year, there are many assignments and pressures around reading. Some children do not have the desire to read for fun after a long day at school. Middle school children like books of survival which go with the camping theme. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen or My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George are two classics that are suspenseful and never seem to get old. Suspense and mysteries are great choices to read by the campfire also! The most important thing is that your child has a wonderful experience with reading and get immersed in the story, where they do not want it to end!
  1. Movie Magic
    Make your own movie magic by hosting an outdoor movie for your family! All you need is a laptop, projector, white sheet, and of course popcorn! Projectors can be purchased relatively cheaply online. Find a great movie online (or a DVD if you have one) and hang up your white sheet. Project the movie on the white sheet set up your lawn chairs, and get the popcorn ready!

  1. Nature Walk/Obstacle Course/Building a Fort
    Helping your children explore the world around them will foster an appreciation for nature and hopefully a desire to care for it. They might not initially want to but are sure to find something they can enjoy. Depending on your child’s interests or abilities a nature walk, a fort, or a homemade obstacle course can be lots of fun. If your child(ren) is interested in insects or birds you could do some collecting and identifying on your nature walk. If your child needs to be more active, use some items around the house (buckets, hula hoops, ropes, sheets, sticks, etc.) to build an obstacle course or fort. You do not have to go buy items to do either. A large part of the learning process here is being creative, problem-solving, and thinking outside the box!

So this summer get outdoors and enjoy the time with your children and you both will be happy campers!

Photo credit: Solar pizza ovens by Suzie’s Farm