Golden summer has arrived. You load the car with kids and consumables, and you head for your cottage or favourite campsite. Then you break into a cold sweat: What will you do to encourage your children’s physical literacy while you’re in the woods?
Don’t panic! If you are heading to the cabin this summer, or camping in the great outdoors, there are plenty of ways for your kids to have fun being active and developing fundamental movement skills.
Canoeing and kayaking
This is an obvious one if you are next to a lake and have access to canoes or kayaks — and if you don’t have any, you can often rent them hourly at a local marina or resort. Paddling is fun, it’s a great workout, and it gets kids experiencing the water in a way other than swimming.
With kayaking, keep it safe and simple: stay away from traditional kayaks with small cockpits and the apron-like spray decks that basically lock you into the boat. Go for the open-top variety or the short mini kayaks with the extra-big cockpits that are easy to exit if you flip over.
Do you have access to a dock and deep water for diving? Assuming your kids know how to swim, challenge them to a diving contest. Create a panel of judges and see who can produce the Most Silly Dive, the Most Artistic Dive, the Best Somersault Dive, and the Best Cannonball Dive.
Again, if your kids are swimmers, challenge them to retrieve an object from the lake bottom. Find a brightly colored object that sinks — and isn’t made of glass or metal — and tell your kids to toss it into various depths of water to dive after and retrieve. Kids who are accomplished swimmers will immediately relish the challenge, while developing swimmers will gain more confidence in the water through repeated practice in diving, holding their breath, and even opening their eyes underwater.
Throwing stones at water targets
If there are swimmers and boaters around your cottage or campsite, you don’t want your kids throwing rocks and sticks into the water. However, when no one is boating or swimming, you can suggest a little target practice with sticks and stones. Simply find a fist-sized piece of wood or bark and toss it out onto the water. Then collect a few handfuls of marble-sized stones and challenge each other to hit the piece of wood with your throws. It’s better than a video game!
How about a little friendly family triathlon competition? Assemble your own race course with activities you can manage in your camp setting. For example, you might start with a short 10-20 metre swim, followed by a short run around the cottage or campground, and finish with either a bicycle ride around the same running course or a short paddle in a canoe or kayak.
Time each competitor individually as they complete the course, and then compare times at the end. If you have kids of very different sizes, ages, and abilities, you can shorten or lengthen each leg of the race course for different individuals to make it a fair competition. Be sure to make a lot of noise as you cheer each other on!
Got rope? This is a camp classic that gets everyone involved. You need a rope 8 to 12 metres in length and at least 2 cm thick, otherwise it is too small for hands to grip well. Stretch out the rope in a clear area free of obstacles. Tie a coloured ribbon, piece of cloth, or t-shirt around the rope at the midpoint of its length and place a marker on the ground underneath it (such as a shoe, plastic bottle, or stick). Then place two more markers on the ground two metres on each side of the centre marker.
Contestants win the tug-o-war by pulling the coloured ribbon or cloth past the marker nearest to them. If you have a mix of adults and kids, mix up the teams to make them fair. For example, you might have one adult against three small kids, or four teenagers against two adults and one or two small kids. Have fun remixing the teams and playing again!
Trick catch over water
Find a Frisbee or a soft ball that floats, then have someone throw it to you as you jump off a dock! Make sure you jump vertically and away from the dock, and keep your head and hands up to make the catch. This activity tests catching and jumping abilities of the receiver as well as throwing abilities of the thrower, so it’s challenging and fun!
Bocce and badminton
These games might require a bit of money and planning before you arrive at the cottage or camp, but they are good value for hours of activity. They are easy for kids to play on their own, and they can be played in small or unusual spaces in and around trees and uneven ground (unlike games such as soccer or baseball). You can usually buy an inexpensive bocce or badminton set at just about any toy store or sporting goods outlet in Canada during the summer.
Do you have any favourite physical activities for summer camp? Add your ideas in our Comments section below or share them on the Active for Life Facebook page.