Everyone needs to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life now and then to relax and enjoy the wonders Mother Nature has to offer. However, camping with kids can be a little tricky. They always seem to have so much energy, and they get bored so quickly! How do you keep them occupied? Don’t panic, we are here to help! Here are 50 ways to make camping with kids fun, easy, and relaxing.
1. Make a game out of setting up!
If your children are old enough to help, silence their complaints by making setting up camp a game. Maybe make it a race, and whoever pitches their tent the fastest gets a small prize.
The same can be done for who can collect the most firewood or who cleans the dishes fastest after a meal! Adding a competitive element makes chores far more fun.
2. Create your own scavenger hunt.
It is the easiest game you could ever come up with! All you have to do is write down a list of things that the kids should be able to find in your environment and give a prize to the winner at the end.
If you have many children coming along, put them into teams!
3. Give them some “target practice”
By packing a Nerf gun and challenging the kids to hit a bullseye made out of whatever you have on hand! Just make sure the suction cups can stick to the surface. If that fails, you can all play along by having a Nerf war with the whole family.
Even adults love it! You can buy some here.
4. Younger kids love to blow bubbles!
Create your own bubble station with some plastic cups, bubble wands, and bubble soap in a dispenser like this. This is sure to keep the little ones occupied for hours!
You could always join in; see how big you can blow your own. You are never too old to let out your inner child.
5. Encourage the kids to keep a journal of their trip.
Let them pick out their own, and have them write down what the see, what they have done, and what their favorite parts of the trip are! A tip: kids seem to love gel pens.
Get plenty of those, and they will be happy! If you save them afterward, you can give them back when they are older. I’m sure they will appreciate the preservation of all those old, happy memories.
6. Bring outdoor toys
Badminton sets, bean bag toss games, cornhole, and giant Jenga are great ideas. You could even just bring along a ball and play catch with them.
Whatever you decide on, you will be spending quality time with them that they will never forget.
7. Play flashlight tag!
It’s straightforward enough; all you need is a flashlight for each person and the ability to navigate well in the dark! The object of the game is, of course, to shine your light on your target. Then watch out — they’re “it!”
8. Make time for arts and crafts!
Have them paint some reusable water bottles to take with them. That way you know whose is whose. While at your campsite, you can make pressings of leaves and flowers to take home!
Frame them when you get home, and let them hang up their creations in their bedrooms.
9. Catch fireflies!
All you need for this one is a clear jar with holes poked in the lid so the creatures can breathe. At dusk, go out and catch some. Observe them for a while, and then let them go!
This can be done with other little creepy crawlies as well. Just remember to be kind to them and release them after your child has time to learn a few fun facts about each.
10. Make friendship bracelets.
You can find affordable kits in just about any craft store and even WalMart. There are endless possibilities as to how you can customize them; that is the best part!
There are a lot of tutorials on places like Pinterest and YouTube. Check this one out from WikiHow.
11. Make your own lanterns
You can do this with tin cans and LED votive candles! It’s fun, and it soothes the fears of children who are afraid of the dark without the dangers of using real candles.
All you need is a tin can, some nails, a hammer, and paint! Figure out how to make them here.
12. Make up silly stories by the campfire.
Go around in a circle and say one sentence each. No one knows how the story might end! Anyone who can talk can play this game.
All you need is a little imagination. Let the children start the story, though. I find that things always get much more interesting when a story starts with something like, “Once upon a time, a princess made of hot dogs lived in a castle made of pickles!”
If you have kids, you know exactly what I mean.
13. Hide and Seek
If the children are old enough that they can be unsupervised for a time, play hide and seek. Set boundaries for how far they are allowed to roam from base camp, and go nuts!
Watch out, though. Some of the little stinkers cheat!
14. Play Tic-Tac-Toe!
You do not even need paper for this one. All you need are sticks, rocks, and pinecones if you can find them. Anything works as long as you can set up a board and differentiate between the X and O pieces.
15. Make a Bingo board for the trip.
You can include squares that say things like, “Saw a red bird” or “(name) fell down while hiking.” Anything you can think of, you can write down!
You can also just include pictures and whenever someone sees what is on their square, they can mark it down. First one to get BINGO wins! Make it more interesting by wagering freedom from chores for a certain period if they win.
16. Bring instruments
If any of you are musically inclined, bring along your instruments and sing around the campfire! Make up your own songs, or sing whatever you know. It is an excellent bonding tool, and you may find your kids singing the songs to themselves well into adulthood.
Here is a list of songs that you could learn for your nature adventure.
17. Teach your children useful survival tools and cool scientific experiments
Show them how to make things like a do-it-yourself compass! You will need a drink lid, water, a needle, a bar magnet, and a cork. Cut off a little round disc of the cork, run your needle over the magnet in one direction a few times, pour water into the lid, and sit the cork in the water.
Put your needle on top of it, and bam! In no time, you have a fully-functioning compass. If you need a more in-depth tutorial, look here.
18. Play charades
This is an oldie, but it’s popular for a reason, right? Everyone knows this game, and it makes for endless laughs! It isn’t recommended for younger kids, obviously, because no one will ever guess. You can even play in teams if there are enough people involved!
The losing team gets to wash dishes.
19. Play the alphabet game!
How it works: each person looks for anything around the campsite that starts with a letter of the alphabet. Go in order from A to Z and take turns. I think you get bonus points if you can actually find anything that starts with Q, X, Y, or Z.
Just remember that names do not count! Then the game would be almost too easy.
20. Build “fairy houses.”
These tiny structures could be built out of sticks, leaves, flowers, and rocks. Try not to use feathers, though. Birds sometimes carry bad bacteria and breathing in the dust from their feathers can give you an infection.
Build them in a more secluded area, because fairies are said to stay hidden from the sight of humans. Inspire a little bit of wonder into your children’s hearts!
21. Make plenty of treats over the fire!
A camp favorite has always been s’mores. Chocolate, marshmallows, and graham crackers go together surprisingly well. You can just roast marshmallows over the fire as well; they are just as good!
Another tasty snack is made of apples, peanut butter, and marshmallows! Hollow out the middle of the apple, spread in some peanut butter, and stick the marshmallows in after.
22. Try some outdoor bowling!
You can make the pins out of empty soda bottles and use a dodgeball or any other sturdy inflatable ball to knock them down. You can keep score on a piece of paper if you want to make the game competitive.
23. Bring your bikes and ride around
This is great for exploring trails, some exercise and fresh air! This will be a new and exciting adventure for children who get stuck riding around in the yard most of the time.
If the site has biking trails, that is a huge bonus! Just make sure that none of the trails are too dangerous or steep depending on the child’s age.
24. Do shadow puppets
Shadow puppet shows are a fun way to teach your kids the magic of visual illusions! You need a wall or the roof of your tent and a lantern to make it work.
This will keep them occupied and will help calm down a fussy child before bedtime. Need help learning how to make these shadow puppets?
Look here for some tutorials. The best part is that if they like it, you can bring this new skill home and do your puppet shows more regularly!
25. Go stargazing.
This is also a fun way to teach your children about space! Point out constellations, or let them make up their own to let their imagination run free.
If you really want to show them something cool, bring a telescope and see if you can spot any planets! You will need to be in a spot pretty untainted by light pollution from cities, though.
26. Travel to a place your child has never been before!
Unfamiliar surroundings can be scary, but not with a trustworthy adult by their side! You do not have to travel across the country by any means; just pick a place that offers new scenery and more options for exploration and go!
Even if you have picked a campsite near home, make it a point to go to a new park or hiking on a new trail. Any change is exciting!
27. Bring some chalk!
You can buy great quality sidewalk chalk at the dollar store. If your campsite has any paved areas that are safe to play on, teach your kid/kids how to play hopscotch! Draw something together; make it positive and brighten up another camper’s day!
28. Pick a spot with fun activities
Pick a site near a body of water, or maybe choose a spot near a community pool! Most children I know love to swim, especially in the summer. Dive in with them, and teach them fun pool games like “Marco Polo.”
If they do not know how to swim, make this a lesson! Challenge them to learn new skills; knowing how to swim can even save a child’s life. Make sure not to leave them unattended unless they are old enough to take care of themselves and you know that they are competent swimmers.
29. Give your older children some measure of freedom.
Teenagers tend to be more independent than little kids; it is okay to want to bond, but being overbearing can turn their attitudes sour pretty quickly.
For the sake of peace, let them wander away if they can handle themselves. Being independent is an important part of growing up.
27. Ask them what they want to do!
Sometimes, the most fun thing for children is being able to pick an activity for the family to do together. If their request is within reason, why not let them choose their own adventure?
If they are still very young, give them a choice out of a certain number of activities. For example, give them the choices of hiking, making crafts, swimming, or going on a scavenger hunt.
This gives them something to focus on so they don’t blurt out something like, “Let’s climb a tree and pet a squirrel!” That would be a good way to end up getting bitten.
28. Watch for animals!
Safely observing the local wildlife is like being in a zoo without cages. See if you can spot deer, raccoons, opossums, squirrels, or whatever else roams freely in your area.
Do not, under any circumstance, try to pet or get close to these animals, though. Animals will do what their instincts tell them to, and chances are that they will attack when cornered or frightened.
Be respectful and observe from a distance; you wouldn’t want someone breaking into your house and cornering you, would you?
29. Play “I Spy.”
For those of you who are unfamiliar with this game, here is how it works. You silently pick something from your surroundings to focus on and make the object of this guessing game.
After you have picked, you say to the other person, “I spy with my little eye… something (a hint about what the object is.)”
See how many tries it takes them to guess! Playing with younger children is especially beneficial. You are teaching them in an entertaining way to be observant of their environment and to use logical skills to solve a puzzle.
30. Make friends with other campers and their children!
Of course, you should never be particularly pushy. If your tent neighbors do not feel like being social, brush it off and make friends with someone else. This could be the start of a lifelong kinship with another family!
Think of how exciting that would be! Eventually, your children could become the penpal of theirs. Warn them about the dangers of approaching strangers, but show them that sometimes with the help of an adult, making new friends can be okay. This leads to a more outgoing personality later in life.
31. Make flower crowns.
If you find safe flowering plants around, use them to weave together a cute crown! This has been a favorite pastime of children for centuries.
If you are staying at an established campsite, though, make sure it is okay to pick the plants before actually doing so. If your child is allergic to bee stings, though, I would not recommend this activity. After all, flowers do attract them.
32. Play make-believe.
This is absolutely free and requires nothing but your imagination. Try stoking their creativity by pretending to be explorers in the wild jungle, or be animals yourselves!
You can think up anything if you try hard enough. Let your kid take the reins for a while and see what kind of crazy adventures you can go on! You are encouraging them to think bigger and tell their own stories.
Maybe when they grow up, they will be writers or architects! Everything you do can have a vastly positive impact and teach life lessons without being boring.
33. Sing and teach
Sing educational songs to them, and see if they can sing them back. Obviously, this is more suited for toddlers and younger people. These songs can be ways of helping them memorize plants or trees, animals and safety rules.
Make them up as you go! Make them catchy enough, and soon your child knows an oak tree from a spruce.
34. Play ring toss!
You can find tons of sets online, or you can make your own with paper plates and an old cardboard tube from a paper towel roll. If you plan on buying one, start by looking on Amazon’s search results.
If you are making your own, here is the full tutorial, thanks to A Little Learning for Two’s blog!
35. Bring a hammock to lounge in together.
Hanging off of the ground is something different and more exciting! For the little ones, I wager that it would be a fun new way to take a nap.
Just make sure you supervise them. While swinging and enjoying the view is an awesome way to spend a lazy afternoon, taking a spill is never fun, no matter how low to the ground you are.
36. Get them cool camping gear!
Packing something like a canteen and binoculars makes any nature getaway feel like an expedition to a whole new world!
These come in handy for multiple things besides camping as well. Canteens are essentially reusable water bottles (more friendly for the ecosystem), and binoculars can be used for just about anything. For camping, they can be used for birdwatching or stargazing.
37. Pack coloring books and reading material.
When you need a little rest, occupy the kids with art supplies that require no supervision or an engaging book. Use your best judgment for which materials are age-appropriate, and make sure to pack the crayons in a cool place so they do not melt! Nothing is worse than a waxy puddle on your sleeping bag or in your suitcase.
38. Have portable entertainment.
If you have some sort of kid-friendly technology at your house, why not pack it for the car ride and certain days of your camping trip? Learning tablets or portable games are a good time waster for those that get bored too easily.
I understand that you may want a chance to unplug, but a getaway may not mean the same things to you as your child. Set a time limit for time spent on electronics if you want to focus more on bonding time.
39. Bring a deck of cards.
There are so many possibilities for games you can play together, and card decks are portable and compact. There are games out there for all ages! You could bring along specific games as well, such as “Uno” or “Phase 10.”
If you have the room, bring board games as well! I recommend something with few enough pieces that you will not run the risk of losing the central parts to the game.
40. Climb a tree?
Find a nice tree to climb, if doing such is safe. Help the kids up as they go, and let them enjoy the view from under the canopy of leaves! Choose a tree with branches low enough to the ground that they can safely get down when they need to.
Make sure the tree is sturdy enough to support their weight along with yours just in case you want to climb up as well.
Find a spot where few dangerous critters may be crawling around. Don’t worry if they get any minor scrapes and bruises. Just bring a first aid kit with bandages and antiseptic and they are good to go!
41. Bedtime stories
For younger children, read bedtime stories. Having something to think about other than the fact that they are in the scary darkness in the wild will definitely help calm them down enough to go to sleep.
Read something with lots of pictures and show them as you go. Books are far more stimulating for young minds when they have something to visualize.
42. Ghost stories
If your kids are older and can handle being spooked a little, tell ghost stories around the campfire! They don’t have to be based on real accounts, of course, but something based on a “true story” is more realistic and terrifying.
If you really want to give them a little scare, prank them by popping out from behind a tree. Hopefully, it will make for hilarious memories later! Try to avoid doing this if your child is prone to anxiety, though. Too much fear can trigger a panic attack.
43. The license plate game
On the way to your campsite, see how many states are represented on license plates on the road! Count off how many you found, and do the same on the way home. You would be surprised at how far away people come from to go camping with lovely families like yours!
44. Have races
Have a relay race. All you need is the ground and a stopwatch of some sort. You can usually find one on your smartphone if you have one.
This is a great way to get in some physical exercise and tire the kids out so you can enjoy time to read that book you were looking forward to. To up the stakes, let the winner of the race pick the next activity on the itinerary!
45. Bring a camera
Let them make memories to last a lifetime with a disposable camera or a mini instant film camera! When you get home and have the pictures developed or all sorted, store them in a nice photo album.
Later on down the road, they will appreciate the chance you gave them to reminisce on some good times.
Safety first! The only way to make sure that your trip is fun for everyone is to take measures to prevent dehydration, sun poisoning, or sunburns. Bring the proper products to make sure your child isn’t complaining of bug bites or burns!
Spend time with them, above all else. What makes your child’s day fun is being with you. Letting them know that you have fun bonding together is the greatest pleasure they could experience!
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