The Camping Toybox

Since turning 40 the fun and excitement in my life is deciding where will my family camp this summer. (Also pretty exciting: where will we vacation next spring? We’re headed back to Maui again and I cannot lie, I have a countdown for this on my phone and not one for my kid’s 6th birthday. I’m a jerk, sue me.)

For camping this year, we’ve booked four weekend getaway trips for fun and excitement: Fort Ebey State Park on Whidbey Island, Washington, USA (blog post about that trip here), Monck Provincial Park, Saturna Island at a friend’s private lot, and the 4th Annual Hicks Lake Camp-Stravaganza. There are no 3600 km trips this summer (see also: HAWAII ISN’T FREE.)

For those times when you can't bring along a giant firetruck piñata, bring along a Camping Toybox!
For those times when you can’t bring along a giant firetruck piñata, bring along a Camping Toybox!

At two of this year’s trips, Kale will be the only kid, and because of that, one of the things in the trailer is the Camping Toybox. This is a small clear Rubbermaid tote bin with a locking top that fits easily in the tent trailer, where it lives. It is stocked with an assortment of toys and distractions for those afternoons at the campground where I’ve got my face in a book, Ross is whittling, and we’ve already had a hike. Kale is 5 (nearly 6) and while he’s started reading, he has not yet mastered the fine art of the “spending an entire day reading”, the “afternoon nap for pleasure”, or the “keep myself occupied doing nothing”.

The Toybox is something he looks forward to, and he spends a great deal of time sifting through it and checking things out. It takes a long time for him to tire of the Toybox, and so I work hard to keep it entertaining and interesting for him.

Here’s a general idea of what’s in the Toybox so you can build your own:

  • A deck of cards. We taught Kale Go Fish and that was a huge hit. We will also teach him Crazy 8s, Old Maid and a handful of other card games that you can play with one deck
  • A fresh pad of paper and a box of pencil crayons with a sharpener. (pencil shavings can go in your firepit). This next trip I’m going to pick up some of those ½ and ½ lined notebooks since Kale is now writing well and I want to encourage him to journal or write letters to friends
  • A pocket kite – seriously this thing is hours of fun
  • Two bent tent pegs that were destined to get tossed, and eight foam horseshoes I cut out of some packing material
  • Some random small crafts, like beads you string or stickers you stick.
  • a colouring book
  • a book of “campfire crafts” – he hasn’t really gotten into this one yet, but I suspect will soon
  • string. Because string
  • A pop-up frisbee
  • A fabric tic-tac-toe board, that folds up with paper Xs and Os
  • A few books he can read
  • A very small two sided puzzle
  • Small figurines for pretend play

Things I’m adding for this next trip: some glue, popsicle sticks, and yarn, so Kale can make a craft (I’m thinking something woven or something like a mobile with shells and sticks). Each trip I try and add one thing and take something he’s grown out of out, so the box is something he looks forward to.

I also stow it right at the front of the trailer, so while I’m making busy getting the trailer set up and camp sorted out when we arrive, Kale can get to his box and go bonkers ASAP and leave us the heck alone to get the camp prepared.

The Camping Toybox is a lifesaver, and is makes camping fun for Kale when the woods and quiet aren’t enough.



7 years ago

1 Comment

  1. Great post! I really like the idea of a camp-specific box. We have been known to thrust iPads in the hands of the 3 and 5-year-olds as we get the tent up, and I’d really rather not. We are heading off again this weekend, so I’m going to get more organized. Love the look of that kite.

    Scavenger hunts have been a huge hit with my kids on camping trips. I printed and laminated some, and bring along dry-erase markers so we can reuse them. I also brought some “grown-up” colouring books for myself ( – totally relaxing when the kids are colouring too.

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