Canadian kids, just like their parents, just passed the one-year milestone of Covid-19 restrictions. Our youngest citizens have had to sacrifice so much. They’ve endured months of homeschooling and haven’t been able to socialize with their friends, see extended family members or attend extracurricular activities — and even when in-person learning resumed, their experience of school was far from normal.
Some school boards, including those in Ontario, have postponed March break, and even if kids do get a break from school, travel restrictions mean they likely won’t be roaming that far from home.
So, to get them back in touch with the big, beautiful world and all that is waiting to be explored as soon as we are able, we rounded up books, educational toys, outdoor gear and more that can help reignite their wanderlust and curiosity in the natural world. We’ve even included some camping and hiking gear so you can join them in a weekend getaway at your local parks and natural green spaces.
‘Wild Outside: Around the World With Survivorman’ by Les Stroud ($22.95; amazon.ca)
Canada’s own survival expert Les Stroud has written a new book for kids. It includes kid-friendly tips on surviving in the wilderness, activities for them to try and some fun stories along the way from Stroud’s adventures.
‘National Geographic Kids Bird Guide of North America’ by Jonathan Alderfer(21.77; amazon.ca)
Arm your little one with this bird guide and some binoculars and set off into the forest to look for common and rare birds alike. It includes birding activities and crafts to complete on those rainy days when you have to stay inside.
‘Campfire Stories for Kids’ by Drake Quinn ($8.11; amazon.ca)
This book contains 21 tales ranging from spooky ghost stories to urban legends and funny yarns that will have everyone laughing.
‘National Geographic Kids in My Backyard Sticker Activity Book’ ($8.90; amazon.ca)
Even if your adventuring is strictly confined to your own backyard, kids can still explore the natural world with this sticker activity book featuring maze, games and over 1,000 stickers.
‘Camp Out!: The Ultimate Kids’ Guide Paperback’ by Lynn Brunelle ($13.95; amazon.ca)
This comprehensive kids’ guide to camping will soon have your junior camper outsmarting you with their wilderness knowledge. It includes campfire recipes, tips and tricks on setting up a tent, advice to leave the site as they found it and some creepy ghost stories to read aloud under the stars.
Fisher-Price S’More Fun Campfire Play Set ($31.99; amazon.ca)
Prepare small children with campfire safety training courtesy of this fun make-believe set. It includes everything you need to make delicious imaginary s’mores, including firewood, play food and sticks.
Playmobil Family Camping Trip ($37.99; amazon.ca)
Get kids excited about your next camping trip with this 78-piece set from Playmobil, which includes a tent, characters, sleeping bags and accessories for fun, imaginative play.
Playmobil Volkswagen T1 Camper Van ($74.99; amazon.ca)
Go old-school and introduce them to a retro, off-the-grid camping experience with the iconic Volkswagen camper van. The seats inside convert to a bed when the stars come out, and the set includes accessories like luggage, maps and food.
Mad Mattr Glow ($19.99; amazon.ca)
After a long and fun day of running around the camp and exploring the great outdoors, it’s nice to have a gentle, relaxing activity kids can do at the picnic table while grown-ups make supper and decompress a bit themselves. This Mad Mattr compound shapes easily into the supplied moulds, never dries out and is nontoxic and safe for kids ages 3 and up. The set comes with a UV light and glows in the dark, which is particularly fun around the campfire.
Hape Outdoor Adventure Collection Hide-and-Seek Periscope ($27.54; amazon.ca)
Tuck this periscope into kids’ backpacks before you set off to explore the wilderness and then play a game of hide-and-seek where they can see you undetected. Made from sustainable bamboo, this is a fun, quality toy that will be passed down to siblings.
LBLA Outdoor Explorer Kit ($31.99; amazon.ca)
This extensive kit comes with 27 pieces, including binoculars, a headlamp, a compass and a variety of tools to collect and observe insects. It also comes with a backpack so they can pack up the fun and take it out into the woods.
Easony Walkie-Talkies for Kids ($30.99; amazon.ca)
This bestselling set of walkie-talkies will keep kids entertained and connected around the camp or just the neighbourhood. They come in four bright colours and feature an ergonomic, child-friendly design. There are 22 channels and a 3-kilometer range as well as a light on top to illuminate a dark tent come nighttime.
Hape Outdoor Adventure Collection Pocket Swing Hammock ($28.99; amazon.ca)
Kids like to enjoy downtime too. String this child-size hammock between two trees, give them a book and let them relax in the splendour of nature. It can also be used as a swing and is made from recycled bottles.
Camping gear for kids
Clothing Label Pack ($25.95; mabelslabels.ca)
If you’re camping with multiple kids or your child is heading off for their first night away from home with school or an organization, you’ll want to make sure all their belongings are well labelled. Trust the Canadian brand Mabel’s Labels with its personalized and durable collection of clothing labels. This set includes tag mates and shoe labels. The brand also make labels for bags, lunch boxes and water bottles as well as a clever and easy little clothing stamp that lasts for up to 40 washes.
Coleman 45 Degree Youth Sleeping Bag ($48.50; amazon.ca)
Whether kids are camping out under the stars or just getting cozy in front of the TV at home, this sleeping bag provides a snug and comfortable layer to rest upon. It’s suitable for kids up to 5 feet, 5 inches tall and comes in a blue camo pattern or a pink-and-purple design.
Nature Bound Light and Sound Lantern Kit ($19.99; amazon.ca)
Kids can light the way on nighttime walks around the camp or simply have a reassuring glow in their tent at night with this safe soft glow lantern. It also features fun nature sound effects.
Bentgo Kids Prints, Shark ($39.99; amazon.ca)
For picnics midhike or just to keep kids’ snacks cool on the road, try this fun, leakproof design from the makers of bento-style lunch boxes. It’s available in 12 designs, including sharks, dinosaurs and flamingos.
Narmay Play Tent ($49.99; amazon.ca)
Although you may be sharing a tent with your child for sleeping, it’s a nice idea to bring an additional pop-up tent that they can use to play in and store their toys and belongings. They can also relive the memories of your camping adventure playing in this tent once they get home. It’s available in two colour combinations and comes with a travel bag.
Obersee Kids Preschool All-in-One Backpack ($39; amazon.ca)
This clever backpack features a front pocket that’s also an insulated lunch cooler, keeping snacks and treats fresh during long walks and days outside. It comes in a bright and cheerful transport-themed design.
Melissa & Doug Sunny Patch Giddy Buggy Flashlight With Easy-Grip Handle ($16.64; amazon.ca)
Moonlit walks before bedtime are even more fun with this chunky and easy-to-hold flashlight from Melissa & Doug. The bug’s legs give a sturdy stand when it’s placed down on the ground, and the adorable face is perfect for little ones.
Matador Pocket Blanket ($38.20; amazon.ca)
Kids can use this blanket to play on or to have picnics. It’s incredibly lightweight and folds up into a tiny square they can easily toss in a backpack and carry themselves. It even comes with built-in ground stakes to stop it from blowing away in the wind.
Magical Flames, 12-Pack ($17.99; amazon.ca)
Delight kids around the campfire with this magical kit that turns the flames different colours, including blue, red and purple, and it will last for over an hour.
Outdoor clothes for kids
Knockaround Kids’ Premium Sunglasses (starting at $17.37; amazon.ca)
Kids will be happy to protect their eyes on long hikes with glasses that make them look this cool. The durable plastic frames should cope with rough handling, and the fun patterns and mirrored lenses should make them a favourite with your kid.
Toomett Outdoor Fleece-Lined Soft Shell Pants ($32.99; amazon.ca)
When children are playing outside all day, staying warm is important, even when it might not seem that cold out. These fleece-lined pants provide the right amount of heat and soft cozy comfort so that the adventure doesn’t need to be interrupted.
Toddler Rain Suit (starting at $36.99; amazon.ca)
Some days when you’re trying to enjoy the wilderness and get out and hike and camp with your kids, the weather just doesn’t cooperate. However, you can only stay inside your tent for so long before you go stir-crazy, so remember to pack a rain suit to keep them warm and dry no matter how much they jump in the puddles.
Columbia Kids Fast Trek II Fleece Hoodie (starting at $35.04; amazon.ca)
Chilly nights at the camp call for an extra layer to keep little ones warm. The thumb loops and binding on this high-quality fleece, which comes in several different colours, helps to keep the cold wind out.
Merrell Kids Chameleon 7 Access Mid A/C Boot (starting at $80.31; amazon.ca)
The waterproof construction on these hardy hiking boots for kids will keep toes warm and dry no matter where they play in the great outdoors. They also provide excellent grip for all-terrain traction and come in three colours.