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Guide to Safe Toddler Camp Activities and Games

written by: Sylvia Cochran • edited by: Jacqueline Chinappi • updated: 1/5/2012

Camping safety tips abound, but do you know how to host safe toddler camp activities and games that allow for a measure of freedom while anticipating potential hazards? Read on and find some great info on how to balance the mix of safety concerns with a toddler's need for exploration.

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    First Things First: Camping Safety Tips

    Prior to even considering playing camp games or activities, it is vital that you think through safety tips for all members of the outing. In The Best Backpacking List for Primitive Camping, by Daniel P. McGoldrick, he reviews the basics of preparing a backpacking list and bringing along supplies for first aid, basic survival, and also some much appreciated creature comforts. If you plan on enjoying many camping activities and outings this year, it is a good idea to put together a sturdy bag that contains all of the items suggested, even though you may be venturing to a nearby drive-up campsite versus a long hike into the backcountry.

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    Anticipating the 3 I's

    The three I's that could easily mar your toddler camp activities are insects, insomnia, and inclement weather. Insomnia and inclement weather may go hand in hand, and a sleep deprived, cold, grouchy child is not one who will mind your warnings. Head off this potential pitfall simply by bringing along a child sized sleeping bag as well as numerous changes of clothes that may replace wet ones and which also lend themselves to layered dressing. Try to maintain the toddler’s sleeping routines and schedule as much as possible, and you most likely will eliminate insomnia.

    Bug repellent can keep away the biting, stinging insects, but as a parent you still want to keep an eye out for the insects that might capture the child’s interest, and which could deliver harmful – perhaps even poisonous – bites. While toddler camp activities do involve an introduction to nature, make sure this happens on your terms, not the child’s.

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    Two Safe and Fun Activities

    Once the predictable threats to the child’s safety have been curtailed or eliminated, it is time for some fun, educational, and also enjoyable toddler camp activities. Remember: toddler camping safety must always come first, and while you are participating with the child in the activities, constantly keep a vigilant eye on potential hazards that might crop up along the way.

    After Dark Flashlight Hike

    Invest in several inexpensive flashlights, plenty of batteries, and bring along rock climbing ropes. The ropes are a clever way of playing pretend while at the same time offering a safety device as well as a hands-off opportunity for the parent. Explain how on expeditions in snowy or desert areas the leader and the other members of the party are roped together to prevent anyone from getting lost due to poor visibility in a snow or sand storm.

    Rope everyone securely together, hand each child a flashlight, and take off on a hike in the evening. This is one of the most beloved toddler camp activities, since it actually allows the kids to not be holding hands with their parents – they are securely roped to the parents, so there is little need – and they can explore the shadow play they create with the flashlights when shining them into the trees. Children may get to see some nocturnal animals they thus far only know from pictures.

    Scavenger Hunt

    This requires a bit more attention to toddler camping safety, but it is most certainly one of those camp activities that can take up several hours. A scavenger hunt may be adapted to the child’s knowledge of trees, leaves, and names of these items. Arm yourself with a bag, paper, crayons, and a camera. Outline the items that need to be found. You might choose a clover leaf, a brown rock, pictures of an insect, a bark rubbing, and a muddy footprint.

    Explain to the children that each toddler must present the found items to the bag carrier (the adult). This ensures that they will not venture off too far. Ideally, an older child or an adult should always be little more than an arm’s length away from the toddler at any time. Then set off on a leisurely walk through the area in search of the items. This allows you to introduce the child to the names of various trees and plants you might see along the way.

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    A Final Thought

    It is a good idea to give each child a whistle attached to a hook that can in turn be attached to their clothes. Explain to the child that if they ever believe they wandered off and cannot see anyone, they are to immediately sit down and blow the whistle as loud as possible. By not having the toddler walk around lost in the woods and relying on a weakening voice, you have a better chance at finding the child right away. Run some mock hide-and-go-seek activities with the child to ensure that s/he understands what to do, should s/he ever get scared while away from the camp. These fun camp activities will surely keep your little ones busy!

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    The Best Backpacking List for Primitive Camping