Kids thrive when they are outside and there is no better way to get out than going on a camping trip. From local campsites, national parks to private sites; camping is an excellent way embrace the world’s natural beauty and make memorable moments with friends and family.
Camping is a low stress, family friendly holiday that allows you to be outside in nature and make memories with loved ones. However, with young children it’s always best to have plenty of activities to pull out when you have some downtime.
From teaching your child to be a more diligent camper to being a team player, some of these camping activities are skills they can keep throughout their life. Are you looking for the kids to have a laugh around the campfire and have some fun in the natural environment? We have crafts and creative activities for that too.
15 camping activities for kids:
1. Track Down Animals on a Hike
Once you pick your ideal camping location, think about grabbing a guidebook or looking into the local species of your destination. Pick a few animals and make a list for children to track down while out hiking. This could be as easy as squirrels and rabbits or be a bit more challenging, like specific birds or maybe even a bear.
Have them write down the location of the animals, what time they saw the animals and anything specific on discovery. This is a great activity for children to be aware of their surroundings and always be on the lookout. Please go with children when hiking and searching for animals for safety purposes.
Also read: How Can I Make Hiking More Fun For Kids?
2. Enjoy Rock Painting
Pack your paint colors and brushes as it’s time to get creative. After a busy day of hiking, exploring, and discovering, pick up a few rocks or pebbles and keep them for a rock painting activity.
Once back at the campsite, lay down some newspaper and let the kids get creative with bold colors and fun designs. If you use water based, nontoxic paints you can wash the rocks off and return them to nature or save them and bring them home as a campsite memorabilia.
3. Hunt for Firewood
There’s no campfire without the firewood. Send the kids off on an exploration to grab twigs and small dry branches. This is a great activity as children will feel a part of the process and will be excited when they bring back lots of kindling to start the fire. Try and get the bigger kids to pick the larger dryer wood and maybe help adults split it.
4. Learn to Build a Fire
You’ve got the firewood and kindling, now it’s time for an important job. Teaching children to build a fire is not only a fun interactive activity, but also an important skill to have throughout life. Show them the method and process of building a fire, then at the end of your trip ask them to make one themselves.
It’s important to supervise young children throughout the process, but give them a chance to showcase their new talents.
5. Host a Nighttime Puppet Show
Nights can sometimes feel long if the sun goes down early. Or maybe you need rainy day activities while camping. Pack extra socks, get out those flashlights and hold a nighttime Puppet Show. Get inside the tent and have children create entertaining little stories while others sit around outside laughing and enjoying the show. Let the children express themselves through a thrilling storytelling activity.
6. Scavenger Hunt
Before it gets dark, think about having a family scavenger hunt. Make a list of things to find, like plants, leaves, and everyday items such as forks or small treats around the campsite and begin to hide them with a key and questions. With the key in hand, watch as children’s search the campsite for hidden gems.
Children will love this fun activity and will discover the adventures behind camping. This also gives you a few moments to get things in order around camp. At the end see who found the most items and give out little prizes. You can also check your favorite geocaching app for nearby caches and send the older kids out on their own adventure.
7. Cook Something New
Long gone are the days of just eating hamburgers and hot dogs while camping. It’s time to cook with the kids and come up with something yummy. All you need is a good pot and a few cooking utensils, and you’ll be making tasty meals in no time.
Try making Personal Pizzas: Take naan bread and cover it with pizza sauce, cheese, and other delicious toppings. Cook the naan bread in the pan so it gets a crispy bottom, then wrap it in tinfoil to let the cheese melt a bit. This can all be done on a BBQ grill or on top of a fire. Lastly, Enjoy!
Sit under the stars and find constellations all evening with this fun activity with children. Find galaxy’s, stars, and planets, with the help of a telescope or download an app to discover outer space. I would suggest doing this right before bedtime, as it is a lovely act to fall asleep and dream about after! Who knows, maybe there will be a future astronomer in the family.
9. Camp Games
Games are always a great idea to bring along on your camping trip. Cornhole, capture the flag and Bocce Ball are all entertaining and exciting games to play throughout the day. Unpack the games upon arrival and watch as children have endless fun, game after game.
If you can’t bring games, teach children to play traditional games like “Hide and Seek” or “Simon Says”, they’re always crowd pleasers among kids!
10. Bring or Rent Canoes or Bikes
Depending on where you’re camping, look into activities for kids that are suited for the area. Bring or rent kayaks or canoes if you’re by a river or lake. Bring swimming gear so children can spend time during the day outside and in nature. Children will play for hours in the water and will be constantly amused.
If your campsite is not close to water, bring or rent bikes. With lots of energy and excitement to be had, biking is a leisurely activity enjoyed by all ages.
11. Let Creativity Prosper with a Camera
Get a small disposable camera and let children take pictures during their camping holiday. Have them take pictures of animals, plants or just general camping life, then take it home and have it developed at your nearest CVS or Walgreens. Not only is this a creative outlook for kids to have during some downtown, but it lets children have something to look forward to in the future.
12. Have a Talent Show
On your last night of the trip, hold a campsite Talent Show. Children can practice their talent throughout the day, then present it after dinner. Set up chairs and watch as kids show new skills or present things that sparked joy during the camping trip.
To make it even more special, pick up medals from either 5 below or online and hand them out at the end of the show. Children will feel proud and thrilled with the little award ceremony at the end of a fantastic trip.
13. Sing Campfire Songs
Get your vocal cords ready because singing campfire songs is a camping activities tradition! From classic songs like “the Wheels on the bus” and “She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain”, let kids have a sing a long after dinner. Maybe try something new and have kids create their own songs or let them work on a song together like they’re in a band.
To elevate the campfire songs, let children use pots, pans, and sticks to create a beat behind the lyrics. The options are endless, and the fun can last hours!
14. Go Foraging
Print out pictures of plants, trees and food in the area and let children research and discover an important camping skill. From native species, like trees, flora and fauna make a foraging checklist and let the kids uncover the natural wildlife. This is an important skill for children to learn as they will soon recognize the importance of foraging hacks.
Make sure you tell children to only identify species and not eat anything when foraging.
15. Create Maps
Whether you stay in a public or private campsite it’s always amusing to make a personalized map. From local trails, campsite amenities to your camping location, have children decorate and customize maps for a cool afternoon activity. Bring stickers to highlight important map locations and use different colors to identify paths or routes.
Bring the maps along for everyday excursions and encourage children to add more points throughout the trip.
I highly suggest experimenting with meals as an engaging activity with kids. Have them wash the fruit and veggies, set the table, and enjoy family meals in the great outdoors. Afterwards, it’s time for children to partake in a nighttime puppet show. Not only will children be laughing and giggling all night at the magical performances, but parents will be too!
Take time to plan what activities work best for your camping trip and itinerary, because having plenty of options while camping is essential for your holiday to flow smoothly. With children having an abundance of energy, planning activities for down time is not only key, but crucial.
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David is an accomplished mountain endurance athlete who has completed over 25 ultra marathon races (follow on Strava). He is most proud of his finish at The Drift 100 – a high elevation, 100 mile winter foot race that zigzags along the Continental Divide in Wyoming. In the future he hopes to compete in the ITI 350 and ultimately the full 1,000 mile Iditarod Trail Invitational that follows the same path as the historic dog sled race.