Most kids really enjoy camping. Kids grow up to cherish those moments spent out in the wilderness with family and friends. Even children who’d rather stay home, glued to whatever screen they have handy, welcome the change of pace once you get them out to the site. It is a formative experience that they will carry with them forever, and maybe even share with their own children someday.
We know that you want your child to have the best time possible on this camping trip. But you could use some ideas on activities for them to do. You want activities that are fun, and that encourage kids to engage with the world around them. These camping activities, for new and veteran camping kids alike, should do the trick. Add some to your camping itinerary and make some awesome memories!
Plan a nature walk! Together, you can really take in the surroundings and get some exercise. If the trail comes with a map, teach them how to read it. Get them to pretend they are explorers like Indiana Jones, off searching for important treasure. Only, to get there they must watch out for poison ivy.
Either at the campsite or on the nature walk, have children look for specific creatures that are native to the terrain. Teach them which ones are harmless, and which ones to avoid. Have them count how many squirrels or native birds they see, and offer a prize for kids with the highest numbers.
This is an extra task that kids can do when looking for animals on the trail. Teach them which how to tell the difference between deer tracks and beaver tracks. Point out tracks from animals that could pose a threat, as well.
Turn the nature walk into a scavenger hunt. Create a list of items for your little explorers to find on their journey. The one who finds the most items gets a special prize. Let them use their phones to capture animals or tracks they have found on the list (if the campground has cell service). Just be careful to make the hunt interesting and doable for their age group. And their play should not lead to disturbing the environment.
Cooking around a campfire is a must. Teach them how to make simple shish kebabs on sticks to roast over the flames. If you really want them to rough it, have them cook caught fish! And of course, you can’t forget the s’mores. Your kids certainly won’t.
Most kids love scary stories. The mood that a campfire creates at night is perfect for stories about bitter ghosts, mythological creatures lurking in the darkness, and aliens dropping out of the sky. If you aren’t the best storyteller in the family, let one of the kids take over!
Play card or board games to liven up quiet moments. Classic games work here, like Uno, Monopoly or chess. You can teach them the game rules that then let them have at it in groups. These games work inside the tent or outside around the campfire.
Bring chalk and paint so that they can make colorful rock keepsakes. Encourage them to find pretty stones during the nature walk or scavenger hunt. Then have them paint their stones into cute pets, with adorable faces and patterns. Then let them show off their work.
The night can get a little scary for your children, especially if this is their first time out in the wild. Make the night fun by playing Flashlight Tag. Sneaky players hide in the darkness, while the person with the flashlight tries to find them. For safety reasons players should hide as close to the campsite as possible.
Another fun campfire activity: Singing. Encourage your kids to sing songs they know or teach them new campfire songs. They could be educational or just plain silly. After some time, you may find it difficult to carry a tune with all the laughter going around. Mission accomplished.
Here’s another way to get the kids engaged with just a flashlight: Shadow Puppets! Cast the light against a wall of your tent or do it against a tree outside. Let them make butterflies, birds, and other creatures. Kids could also play Shadow Charades. Have them guess animals or camping-themed phrases you, or other players, throw against the light.
This is a great, laidback daytime camping activity. Let them lay down and just enjoy the beauty of the sky. If they haven’t already, encourage them to use their imaginations and point out what they see floating above. They’ll find bears, frogs, fish and more, while getting a chance to relax after a hike or swim.
Are you in an area that has fireflies? Break out the mason jars! Have your little campers search for fireflies and trap them. Make a game of it, with prizes for the kids who catch the most. You can also use the jars as natural lighting at night. We want the fireflies to survive, so be sure the lids on the jars have an airhole, and that a damp paper towel is placed inside.
This is another great downtime activity. This is a sight that many kids don’t get to see often—stars in the sky! Want to make it educational? Point out any constellations you see. You can even teach them how stars are formed, and why it is easier to see them out in the wilderness.
A timeless outdoor game kids can play is Capture the Flag. This is best played in large groups, but the general premise is for two teams to fight to protect their territory and prevent the opposing team from stealing the flag. The game can get a little rough, so adjust the rules according to the age of the players.
As the day winds down, a game of I Spy is in order. It’s a classic, easy game, and requires nothing but the players’ eyes. Whoever can guess what you spy with your little eye wins.
This is an activity safe enough for toddlers and older children alike, since using a balloon is safer than a traditional ping-pong ball, but it’s still an effect game to play on a camping trip. Make spare balloons in case the game balloon pops.
This game can easily be turned into a camping activity. One person comes up with an object. Then the rest of the group must ask twenty “yes or no” questions to discover what it is. Keep the game focused on camping and nature, specifically what you all have seen and learned on this trip.
Kids love forts, so why not have them make one near the campsite? This could be a teaching opportunity, as they learn what makes a strong outdoor shelter and what does not, sans a traditional tent. Let them customize the fort to their liking. That’s the best part, after all.
Contrary to what you may think, kids like searching for firewood. Send them out as you build your campsite for as much dry wood as they can carry. You can have them look for good stones as well to circle the campfire.
Glow in the dark toys revitalize common outdoor games. Ring tossing is already a cool outdoor game to play on your camping trip. Do it at night with glow-in-the-dark rings and watch the lights spin across the grass.
This is a nocturnal take on playing frisbee. In a good location at night, this game can be an exhilarating experience for your kids. The glow-in-the-dark frisbees almost look like little space-ships, soaring through the night air.
Morse Code is simple to teach your kids. It can be applied to a few of the activities already mentioned. Use Morse code in scavenger hunts, clues written in the code for them to decipher an item’s location. This is great for older kids who are into mystery games and puzzles.
Create wacky stories around the campfire, or inside your tent, with Mad Libs. This fill-in-the-blank game can be converted to focus on camping and nature, but the potential to get way off topic with every blank noun, verb and adjective is part of the fun.
Parents, this is your chance to combine as many of these activities as you want into one big obstacle course. Set up interconnected activities with separate stations. Include a combination of mental and physical games. Have a grand prize for kids who win the most games. The obstacle course could even be set up at night! Just have those glow in the dark toys, cards, sticks, etc ready to go!