Pull some of these tricks on your kids or grandkids, and they’ll thank you.
By Silvana Clark
Have your children or grandkids ever returned home from summer camp and bragged about the silly skits, wild games, and oh-so-cool counselors? Home life is pretty boring compared to learning how to play a nose kazoo or “Dress the Counselor” at camp.
Most children look forward to relaxed family RV trips, but, at times, a little “formal” entertainment is needed. The following are ways that ordinary parents or grandparents can re-create that wild and crazy summer camp experience. Your kids may surprise you by saying, “Mom, you’re almost as cool as my counselor, Ronny Rambo!”
Start with some spontaneous magic tricks. Don’t worry; you won’t need to cut anyone in half. These tricks are easy, yet really can impress the kids.
The Non-Popping Balloon: Ahead of time, blow up an ordinary balloon and tie the end shut. Take about a 2-inch 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” you made with the tape. The balloon will very slowly lose air, but it will not pop. Let everyone see that, yes, indeed, you did stick the pin in the balloon without popping it. To show that the balloon is real, remove the pin and quickly pop the balloon by poking it in another location. Your family is guaranteed to burst into applause!
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 having a birthday. Ahead of time, when no one is watching, use a tube of colorless lip balm to write the birthday person’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 having a birthday today. That person’s name will now be revealed to all of us.” At this point, simply sprinkle some colored sand from your craft closet, or even some flour, over your arm where the lip balm is. The sand or flour will stick to it. Shake your arm to remove the excess powder, and the person’s name will magically appear on your arm. Watch out, David Copperfield!
This trick also can be used for special prizes or awards. “Ladies and gentlemen. Some lucky person in this motorhome will not have to do any chores this weekend. Let’s all say ‘hocus pocus’ together, and that person’s name will magically appear on my arm!” Your child or grandchild will be thrilled to see her name appear after you sprinkle flour on your arm!
Talents and skills galore! After you’ve amazed the kids with your magical skills, it’s time to add humor with an unusual talent show. The next time the family is together on a camping trip, have each family member take turns demonstrating a special talent, but it has to be something you wouldn’t see at a traditional talent show. Oh, no! These 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 daughter will think her family deserves to be on a reality show called “My Family is Totally Weird and Bizarre,” but she’ll also end up demonstrating her ability to balance a roll of toilet paper on her head while tap dancing.
A fish tale. Announce to your family that they each will get a personal aquarium on this motorhome trip. Ahead of time, buy an inexpensive jar of blue hair styling gel. Put a few tablespoons of the gel in clear, resealable sandwich bags. Toss in a few small plastic or gummy fish. Seal the bags and reinforce them with a strip of duct tape. Then present each family member with a mini-aquarium, and watch them gasp in amazement at your creativity.
Have a spark party. Buy a roll of Wint-O-Green Life Savers brand candy. Take your child with you inside a bathroom in the motor coach when it’s dark. Hand your child one of the Life Savers and have her place it between her front teeth. You do the same. Close the door so it’s completely dark. Bite down on the Life Savers and watch the “sparks” pop out of your mouths! Your child can go to school and proudly tell her friends, “My mom and I had a spark party in our bathroom.”
Lasso an ice cube. Offer a prize if your children can lasso an ice cube. Simply set out a glass of water filled with ice cubes. Give each child a 12-inch length of embroidery floss or thread. Tie a small loop at the end of the thread and challenge your child to lasso the ice cube and pick it up. After a few minutes of splashing, reveal the secret. Place the thread loop on top of an ice cube. Sprinkle salt on top. Wait 15 to 20 seconds as the salt freezes the thread to the ice cube. Slowly lift your string to find an ice cube attached to the end.
Popcorn delights. Camping trips usually involve some popcorn. Show your kids how creative you can be with these popcorn-related activities.
- Try a new breakfast treat. The Pilgrims ate popcorn with milk and sugar. See if you can get your family to substitute their breakfast cereal for popcorn, Pilgrim style.
- Fill an empty plastic film canister with unpopped popcorn. Have family members guess the number of kernels inside. The winner gets to be the first to help pop and eat the popcorn.
- Give each person a bowl of plain, unbuttered, unsalted popcorn. Set out a variety of items that can be sprinkled, such as garlic powder, cinnamon, salt, taco flavoring, Parmesan cheese, or chocolate sprinkles. Give everyone 10 minutes to create a new seasoning or flavor for their popcorn. Then, encourage them to come up with a special name for their concoction and put it on a sign. Then sample each other’s culinary delights.
- Set out a cupcake or muffin baking tin for a game of Popcorn Toss. Using masking tape, section off and label each section with a point value such as 5, 10, 20, etc. Take turns trying to toss popped popcorn into the muffin pan. The first person to get 50 points wins. (The kids may not even realize they are learning math.)
- Practice baseball hitting by giving each participant a Popsicle stick to use as a bat. Pitch popped popcorn to them and see if they can hit it out of the ballpark with their mini-bat.
- Pop a batch of popcorn and let it sit overnight. (It is easier to string that way.) The next day, using a needle and thread, string the popcorn on the thread, alternating with pieces of apples or dried bread. Form a long necklace to wrap around a tree so birds can enjoy their own popcorn treat.
By the way, you are cool now. By the time you’ve done only a few of these activities, the children will have no choice but to admit you are an oh-so-cool adult!