Tent & Car Campers Handbook

Worried about being stuck in the tent on a rainy day with restless kids? Try this sampling of activities suggested by Buck Tilton and Kristin Hostetter, authors of Tent and Car Camper's Handbook: Advice for Families & First-Timers.

Story Time. Someone starts a story by making up the first line. Each family member adds a line, and the story grows as it's passed from person to person. "Once upon a time there was a…."

Natural Art. Pack a tube of glue and several pieces of paper. Gather what you can reach from the tent door (small sticks, pine needles, leaves) and what "trash" you can find in your tent or pockets (gum wrappers, lint, pennies). Create family memorabilia by gluing the stuff to the paper in creative designs.

Pick-Up Twiggies. Gather a handful of small twigs, as straight as possible, and use them to play the old game of Pick-Up Sticks. One child holds the handful of twigs and lets them drop into a tangled pile. If the initial player can pick up a twig without disturbing the rest of the pile, that player gets the twig and the chance to go again. It's okay to use a twig you've won to help pick up the next twig. Disturb another twig in the pile and the play passes to the next group member.

Twig Writing. Use the twigs from Pick-Up Twiggies, or any other twigs or pine needles, to form letters or words on the floor of the tent. For an advanced form of the game, write a word with twigs and remove several of the twigs. The rest of the family has to figure out the word and replace the missing twigs.

Twig Home Building. Use twigs, and rocks and leaves, to construct miniature log homes inside the tent. Glue, if you've packed it, can be useful.

"Easter Egg Hunt." You'll need a handful of small rocks. While everyone hides their eyes, you hide the rocks around the inside of the tent (in, for example, pockets, sleeping bags, stuff sacks, unused socks). When you're ready, say "go" and see who finds the most "eggs." You can make it a timed event if you like—three minutes and the game starts again.

Caterpillar. Everyone will have to have their sleeping bags handy. "It" closes his or her eyes, and everybody else switches bags and scrunches down deep inside, like caterpillars in their cocoons. "It" has to figure out who's who by feeling through the bag.

Checkers. Prior to leaving home, use a permanent marker to draw a checkerboard on the bottom of a foamlite sleeping pad. Use rocks for one player and small sticks for the other.

Basket Weaving. You'll need long stems of grass. Lay a dozen stems flat on the tent floor. Weave another dozen, over and under, perpendicular to the first dozen, and tighten up the weaving so that you end up with a square with twelve stems sticking out in all four directions. Turn up the loose ends to form the sides and weave more grass in and out until the sides are complete. Turn down the tops of the stems left sticking up, and weave them into the sides. Voila! A small basket.

Micro-Exploration. You'll need a magnifying glass. Sometimes you'll find one as a part of your compass. Spend time closely examining common things around the tent and camp: the weave of cloth, a bug's legs and antennae, the composition of a leaf, the surface of a rock, human skin. There's a whole new world waiting to be explored.


—Adapted from Tent and Car Camper's Handbook: Advice for Families & First-Timers by Buck Tilton, M.S., with Kristin Hostetter, $17.95, paperback.

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