Ok, I swear this will be my last post (for a while anyway) on kids and camping. When I’m camping one of my favorite things to do is people watch. This year we had some all-time awesome people watching. We had a group of Japanese tourists that only ate corn for dinner and started their fire with pine needles and lighter fluid, a family brawl across the way, and Ryan Cabrera. He was just one site away from us for three of the days we were there. He was actually pretty quiet. This was fun because we got to say things like, “Stars: They’re just like us! Ryan Cabrera plays Yatzee and sips vodka in Yosemite National Park.”
In order to truly enjoy this epic people watching, I need to have occupied kids. Ever since Lou’s 2nd year camping, I’ve brought a box with some extra special activities in addition to the usual fun stuff. Here are a few things we’ve done over the years that the kids have loved.
- Nature Creations at the Beach – Each year a new creation is made using only what you can find on the beach. This started because the sand was not the best for making sand castles.
- Nature Bracelets and pipe cleaner jewelry – These are easy and fun to make. Don’t stop at bracelets, think head dresses with feathers and necklaces. You need duct tape, packing tape, a hole punch, and some ribbon. Have the kids look around for a few things to doll up their creation like flowers and feathers and things. Stick those things to a strip of duct tape the perfect size for their wrist. Then put a piece of packing tape right over the top to secure the natural elements. Punch two holes in either end and tie with a bow. The pipe cleaner jewelry is pretty self explanatory. All you need is pipe cleaners and beads.
- Rock Art – The first year we did this, it was pretty rudimentary. After that, better supplies were purchased, goggly eyes got involved, and sculptures were created. We have the collection proudly displayed on our backyard.
- Pipe Cleaner Sculptures – I’m not so good at making these, but the kids and adults alike always love this!
- God’s Eyes with Sticks – This was something I did when I was in Girl Scouts. Find two or three thin, similar sized sticks and make them into an asterisk or cross shape. Use any color or color combo of yarn you like and begin by securing the three sticks together with the yarn. Then start weaving the yarn around one stick, then around the next and so on and so on until you’ve made it to the end of the sticks.
- Find the Key Game – This game started because someone actually lost their key to a cabin. The kids were told to find it and they did! After that they wanted to play “Find the Key” over and over again. This year, Poppy went to a locksmith and asked if he had any extra keys, turns out he had a ton of them! He created a guide giving all the keys different values. He put flags on trees saying how many keys would be around the trees and if there were any with bonus points and handed out the guide to all the kids. The kids LOVED this game! All the little ones and all the older ones had a great time!
- Nature Scavenger Hunt – I found this free printable (similar here) and put it on the bags with the kids names.
- Glow Bath – The same concept as this post, just while camping. Still a family favorite and even more exciting when bathing alfresco.
- Camp Journal – I bought these blank books in the “Dolla dolla bins y’all!” at Target for $3. They are perfect for writing about each day, coloring, or adding pictures.
In addition to these fun activities there are tons of things kids can explore in Yosemite Valley. Taking a shuttle bus is always a fun idea, swimming at the river, checking out the wild life, and stargazing in the meadow are all fun things. Here’s a few more to add to your list.
The horse stables in Yosemite is a great place to see some huge and beautiful horses, mules, and donkeys. You have to be 7 to go on a trail ride, but they offer free stable rides to young kids everyday. You have to go in the morning and ask for the stable master. They will tell you when the best time to come back for a ride. You have to sign a liability waiver, but it’s absolutely free. Lou has been doing it since she was two. This was B’s first time riding a horse. He did great and loved it!
While there are tons of amazing hikes to be had in Yosemite, most are a little too dangerous or strenuous for the little ones. However, “hiking” to Lower Yosemite Falls is a quick and easy trip with a big payout during years without a drought. You can ride the shuttle and push a stroller up the paved path to the bridge.
Happy Isle Nature Center is an adorable little place that has tons of things for the kiddos to do. You can see taxidermy versions of the animals that live in Yosemite, they have buttons to press to hear the sounds different animals make, and hands on exhibits for the kids to feel things like bear fur. My kids love this place. We make several trips here each year. This is also where you meet-up for the Junior Ranger Program.
The Indian Village of the Ahwanee behind the Yosemite Museum is a super fun place for kids to experience what life must have been like as a Native American in Yosemite Valley. There are structures to explore and people to meet.
One of my favorite places to explore before and after kids is the Indian Caves. You won’t find much info about this place in Yosemite, but they are worth the hunt. There area several caves that are stacked high and go pretty deep. Last year, my daughter was wild for crystals. Sher told me that crystals grow in caves and she was hoping she would be able to find some when we explore the Indian Caves. Because I’m a memory maker, I decided to buy some from the gift store and hide them in the caves for her and her brother to find. They loved it!!! It was a success and she even took her crystal for show and tell at school this past year. Well, my fantastic idea backfired this year when she was soooooo upset that she didn’t find one. I guess I inadvertently set her up for a lifetime of disappointment. We were up in one of the caves and we saw this image made by smoke from a fire. Do you see the bear? Find out more about the caves here.