Fun camping activities for kids

Are you taking your kids camping? Whether it’s your first time camping or an annual tradition, you’ll want to be prepared with some fun activities. Even if you’re staying at a campsite with a play area or pool, or planning on taking lots of day trips, it’s a good idea to have a few games or family activities ready for the evenings.

Here are some ideas to try.

Camping Activities for Little Kids

If you’ve got toddlers or preschoolers, these camping activities are great ones to try. Slightly older kids (think elementary school age) may well love them too.

1. Simple Scavenger Hunts

Invent a scavenger hunt for your kids. Keep it simple if they’re young: leaves, twigs, pebbles, and so on all make great items. If you have older kids too, you might create two different versions of the scavenger hunt, or add some extra challenges.

2. Glow in the Dark Ring Toss

Turn glow sticks into bracelets, poke a stick into the ground, and try to toss the rings onto the stick. Simple – and fun! You can make it more challenging for older kids.

3. Sand Toys

If your campsite has a sandbox or you’re near the beach, don’t forget the sand toys. Toddlers might struggle to build sandcastles … but they’ll love digging with a spade. If you’ve got toy trucks, make sure you bring those too for maximum fun.

Sand toys in a sandbox, including a pink digger truck

Image courtesy of Pixabay

4. Throwing Rocks or Sticks

Okay, you probably normally spend plenty of time convincing your toddler not to throw rocks or sticks. But when you’re camping, you can find a big empty space where they can unleash their wild side. For slightly older kids, try setting up targets to aim at. If there’s water nearby, try a rock-skipping competition.

5. Playing With Flashlights

Toddlers are often fascinated by flashlights – and if you’re concerned about their safety around a campfire, then flashlights are a great alternative. Make sure you have enough for everyone (plus a spare one or two) and consider flashlights that change color … or that make shapes.

Camping Activities for Bigger Kids

As your kids get a little older, you can branch out into more exciting and challenging camping activities.

6. Sleeping Bag Races

Even more fun than a potato sack race, a sleeping bag race lets your kids make the most of their sleeping bags. You could have a jumping race or even a crawling race from the start to the finish line. (Just make sure you do this on a dry day or on the last morning of your camping trip: you don’t want damp, muddy sleeping bags in the tent.)

7. Learn to Tie Knots

Tying a heart-shaped knot in a length of rope

Image courtesy of Pexels

This is a great activity for rainy spells when you might be stuck inside your tent. Bring plenty of string on your camping trip and teach your kids to tie different types of knots. Start with the overhand knot aka thumb knot (the one everyone knows) and move on to reef knots, figures of eight, and slip knots. There may even be some cognitive benefit to learning to tie nautical knots.1

8. Play Capture the Flag

If you’ve got several kids (or young-at-heart adults), Capture the Flag is a great classic camping game to play. If your kids are on the younger side, you might want to tag rather than tackle to reduce the number of bumps and bruises.

9. Charades (in a Big Tent)

Charades is a great activity for mixed age groups. It doesn’t require any preparation and you can play it inside your tent if it rains. This is easiest if you’ve got a good-sized 8-person tent, which will also give you the space for board games and card games on wet days.

10. Singing Around a Campfire

Break out your repertoire of silly campfire songs and teach them to your kids … or get them to teach some of their favorites to you! Nothing beats a singsong around the campfire. If you’ve forgotten the ones you sang as a child, check for a list of classics or newer songs before you go.

Camping Activities for Teens

Taking your teens camping? It can be tough to come up with activities that everyone will enjoy … but if you want to get them off their phones, here are some ideas to try.

11. Murder in the Dark

Fun for older kids, teens, and adults, the game ‘Murder in the Dark‘ requires a detective, a murderer, and a bunch of potential victims. You’ll likely also want a flashlight so the detective can check out the position of the dead body or bodies. Come up with your own family rules if you like, too.

12. Play Sports Together

Bring a ball and play some sports with your teens. You might want to get inventive finding or creating a “basket” to throw the ball into (maybe branches of a tree) or making a goal for soccer. Get as silly – or as competitive – as you like.

13. Lie in a Hammock

Hammocks can be tricky for small kids to get in and out of … but teens will love relaxing in them. You can string them up between two trees (and learning to fix them securely can be part of the fun). Who knows? They may even want to sleep all night in the comfort of the hammock.2

14. Go Hiking

Your teens may not be very enthusiastic walkers, so pick a hike that offers great views or an interesting destination. Hiking is a great way to spend time together, chat, or even take some great selfies.

15. Give Your Teen Some Control

Maybe your teen would love the responsibility of preparing a meal or setting up the campfire. Or perhaps they’ve got some great ideas for family activities. Why not turn over a day of the camping trip to them? Put them in charge – you might be surprised how well they rise to the challenge!

A little preparation goes a long way with camping. Be ready with some fun activities for all the family – and you’ll have a wonderful time together.

Article Sources

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  1. Stephan Schwan, Roland Riempp. The cognitive benefits of interactive videos: learning to tie nautical knots. Learning and Instruction. 2004; 14(3): 293-305. doi:10.1016/j.learninstruc.2004.06.005.
  2. Aurore A. Perrault, Abbas Khani, Charles Quairiaux, Konstantinos Kompotis, Paul Franken, Michel Muhlethaler, Sophie Schwartz, Laurence Bayer. Whole-Night Continuous Rocking Entrains Spontaneous Neural Oscillations with Benefits for Sleep and Memory. Current Biology. 2019; 29(3):402-411.e3. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2018.12.028