Just like grownups, kids need little things to keep them happy, especially on camping trips. For some kids, a simple, wooden car and a pile of dirt will do. For others, something pink and sparkly is in order. Still others maintain a positive outlook with the help of a math workbook and a handful of sharp pencils.
Here’s a bunch of kid-tested, low-tech gadgets that will help a variety of individuals stay optimistic out in the wild:
1. A Compass. The eternal question is: “How does the compass know which way is north?” The answer is: It’s magic. No, the real answer is that the needle on a compass is a teeny-tiny magnet and the North Pole is magnetic, so the magnet points to the North Pole. I mean, that’s basically it – it’s really called magnetic north, not the North Pole. But if I said that, I wouldn’t be able to work Santa Claus into the explanation.
2. A Magnifying Glass. When your daughter befriends a giant, green caterpillar with a cute, orange nose, what better way to celebrate than to whip out a magnifying glass and cross its personal boundaries?
3. Glow Bracelets or Necklaces. I thought I was the only one who put glow bracelets on my kids at night, but then I heard that a lot of people do this – for safety. That never occurred to me – I was just appeasing grumpy campers – but of course, that makes total sense. When your kids glow you can find them in the dark. Either way, don’t let your kids chew on the glow sticks. They’re filled with toxic goo.
4. A Flashlight. When I say “a flashlight” what I really mean is lots of flashlights and tons of batteries. Take a flashlight or two and go for a walk at night. Not only is it spooky and magical, but when you shine a spotlight on something at night, like a rock with moss on it, it seems extra important and interesting.
5. Maps. Road maps, star maps, trail maps – our kids even think campground maps are interesting. The best part? “You Are Here.”
6. Bubbles. Bubbles have the magical power to change the subject. “He was hitting me!” turns instantly into, “Bubbles! With glitter!” Don’t leave home without them.
7. Binoculars. Who invented this amazing device that allows children to see everything in miniature when they look in the “wrong” end?
8. A Camera. Kids love cameras. Kids break cameras. What’s the solution? Well, we’re too cheap to buy our kids those digital “kid cameras” – last time I looked they were about forty bucks each. What we do is we let them play with all the broken cameras that still sort of work, and then we supervise them closely when they use our real camera to take a hundred archival photos of the tent zipper.
9. Balsa Wood Airplanes. We usually get these on Christmas, Hanukah and birthdays, all of which happen during the winter. So we basically fly them three times indoors, then crash them into a wall and break them into a thousand splinters. Camping is the best place to have these simple, elegant aircrafts, because you have the space to really make them soar and the time to try to make them do the tricks outlined on the plastic wrapper. The real crowd-pleasers are the ones powered by rubber bands, just a tip.
10. Walkie-Talkies. These can be kind of annoying for other campers, so keep the volume low and don’t use them all the time. But what’s funnier than hearing your kids say, “Daddy, what’s your 20?” (Where are you?) “Go for Little Pete.” (I’m here, go ahead and talk.) “10-100, Mommy!” (I’m in the bathroom!) and my personal favorite, “Glitter Pony has landed!” (Daddy’s back from the store!)
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