Parents often plan RV or tent camping experiences for a chance to spend that all-elusive “quality” time with their children. You may have visions of deep and meaningful conversations while roasting perfectly toasted golden-brown marshmallows. In reality, your children bicker and complain about the lack of WiFi. Here are some ways to let loose, go no-tech and show your children a side of your personality they seldom see. In other words…get wacky with these no-tech, high fun activities!

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Photo credit: Allan Clark

Low Tech? NO-Tech! (Get Wacky)

Ask your child if he or she wants to play Monopoly and you’ll get the ever-popular combination of eye rolling accompanied by an emphatic “No way!” It’s easy to assume your children aren’t interested in traditional games and family pastimes. Many researchers label children as being “pseudo-sophisticated”. Kids act as if they are too cool to spend time interacting with parents or doing something as mundane as going camping for the weekend. Yet have them put down their devices and go no-tech and get them involved in a lively family activity, and suddenly they become engaged in age-appropriate fun. Face it, as parents we are usually so darned serious! Camping is a great time to let children see the fun and cool side of you that was probably evident before you became a responsible parent. The following are some ways to enjoy being with your children as they wonder where you come up with these ideas. It also creates a positive experience for first-time campers.

Start with some spontaneous magic tricks. Don’t worry, you won’t need to cut anyone in half. These tricks are easy yet have a big impact in impressing your kids.

The Non-Popping Balloon

Ahead of time, blow up an ordinary balloon and tie the end shut. Take about a 2” strip of ordinary clear tape and put it anywhere on the balloon. Now add another piece of tape on top, forming an “X”. With great flourish, show everyone that you have an ordinary balloon. Bounce it in the air, so your family knows it isn’t a trick balloon. Bring out a straight pin. Make up some sort of magician-sounding patter and announce you will put the needle in the balloon and it will NOT pop. Poke the needle right through the middle of the “X” with the tape. The balloon will very slowly loose air, but will not pop. Let everyone see that yes indeed, you did stick the pin in the balloon without popping it. To show the balloon is real, remove the pin and quickly pop the balloon on any other location.

No-tech

Photo credit: Allan Clark

The Amazing Appearing Name

Here’s a trick you can use over and over for different occasions. Let’s say you want to honor someone bringing home a good report card. Ahead of time, when no one is watching, use clear Chap Stick to print the child’s name on the underside of your arm. Then stand in front of the group, announcing you have nothing up your sleeve. Wave your arms back and forth so everyone sees your arms look “normal.”

Again, in your best magician’s voice, announce, “Ladies and gentlemen. We’re here to celebrate a very special person today who brought home an amazing report card!. That person’s name will now be revealed to all of us.” At this point, simply sprinkle some colored sand, or even  flour, over your arm with the Chap Stick. (We’ve even simply used dirt from under our feet.) The flour or dirt sticks to the Chap Stick. Shake your arm to remove excess powder and the person’s name will magically be written on your arm. Watch out, David Copperfield! It’s fun to write your child’s name with Chap Stick and announce, “Ladies and gentlemen. Some lucky person around this campfire will not have to collect firewood tonight. Let’s all say “Hocus Pocus” together and that person’s name will magically appear on my arm.” Your child will be thrilled to see her name appear after you sprinkle flour on your arm!

No-tech

Photo credit: Allan Clark

The Opposite of America’s Got Talent

After you’ve amazed your children with your magical skills, it’s time to add humor with this unique type of talent show. Before the camping trip, focus on every person’s special talents. One slight difference…the talent has to be something that wouldn’t be seen at a traditional talent show. Advance notice allows them to bring along any props they might need. These talents include skills such as Dad balancing a broom handle on the palm of his hand or your 12-year-old demonstrating how he can burp on command. (Now that’s a skill!) Can you regale your family by doing your perky high school cheerleading routine? Some families report people demonstrating their “talent” of boiling water or cracking their knuckles. Yes, your children will think their family deserves to be on the reality show, “My Family is Totally Weird and Bizarre”, but they’ll also end up demonstrating their ability to play the tambourine while tap dancing in tennis shoes.

Do you see how family members can be actively engaged without high tech toys?

Have a SPARK’s Party!

Buy a roll of Wintergreen Lifesavers. Find a place that is very dark such as inside the RV at night with the lights off.  Hand your child one of the white Lifesavers to place between her front teeth. You do the same. Bite down on the Lifesavers and watch the “sparks” pop out of your mouth! See? Your child can go to school and proudly tell her friends, “My family had a SPARK party in our RV.”

Easiest Activity Ever!

No-tech

Photo credit: Allan Clark

Simply go to a major office supply store and buy a bag of bio-degradable packing peanuts. (Make sure they are BIO-DEGRADABLE!) Simply set them out and have family members lick one end and stick it to another. They bond instantly! If licking grosses you out, have a damp towel handy so you can dab the end of a peanut on the towel to get the moisture to make them stick. After you’ve created a sculpture, take it outside and spritz with a spray bottle of water. The sculpture will totally dissolve because it’s made of cornstarch. Your child has no choice but to admit you are an amazing parent!

Some of you may be thinking, “My kids would never go for such basic silliness.”  I encourage you to give some of these ideas a try. While spending a weekend with four foster children, they all proclaimed any type of game, crafts or activities were either boring or lame. Within ten minutes of being part of our “Magic” show, their defenses dropped and they wanted to do the tricks over and over and over. We were happy to oblige.

Silly low-tech and no-tech ways to entertain kids while traveling.