Camping activities for kids: 5 things to do with children when outdoors

activiities to do with kids

Is there a worse phrase in the world as “I’m bored?”      If you are a parent, I am pretty confident that you have heard this more than once.

And whilst camping offers a lot to do, sometimes children fail to notice what is around them and might need some guidance.

(If you are new to camping, take the time to read our 10 tips on camping with children.)

There might some of you who think that kids don’t need entertaining if they are in the outdoors, as they should be exploring and being kids.  And you are right.   But, with the rise of children spending time indoors on ‘screen based activities’, there is a demise in outdoors play amongst children, and sometimes, we may need to do some encouraging to help them re-engage with the great outdoors.

(read more about importance of kids being outdoors here)

The activities you do, will depend on the age of your children.      

All suggestions below are for
  • day time
  • good weather
  • I have also chosen activities that can be done if you are camping on your own, without other children nearby to entertain and occupy
  • with minimal extra things to bring along (eg. canoes, fishing rods, bikes, craft items)

1.    Go on a hike

hiking with kids

This is one of the main things we do on our camping trips.    Not always long hikes, due to our youngest child, but getting out and seeing what is around the area we have camped in, is a great activity and you never know what you will see around that next bend.
You do need to ensure you are prepared for the hike though – with adequate water, food and hats/sunscreen/first aid kit.

Don’t wander too far away from camp if you are not fully prepared, and a GPS is a handy gadget to have, especially if you are not great at navigating.

To find out more about hiking with kids, we recommend reading these detailed articles

From Playstation to Trailhead – Introducing your kids to hiking

Kids and Hiking

2.   Scavenger Hunt

This will appeal to the smaller members of your family, and is really not hard to organise.  You can do it conjunction with a walk, or let them run around the campsite and report back when they have completed the hunt!

The idea is to have a list of items that are found in nature, and the children need to find each one.   They need to either just sight it (and record that its been found), or place it in a paper bag.

Click here for a downloadable PDF of a Scavenger Hunt card  or use it as a guide and customise it to suit your family (and location).

And here is another PDF with pictures, so if your child is new to reading, this might be a good option.

3.  Geocaching

photo credit: cachemania via photopin cc

We have written about Geocaching before and you can read what it is all about here.

It is like a variation on the scavenger hunt, but with a little bit more work.

4.    Campfire Building (and competitions)

campfire building
photo credit: cafemama via photopin cc

If you are in an area where campfires are allowed, we often get our children to set up the fire to ready it for lighting.

Getting kindling is their chore, and we make a game of it.   Who can get the biggest pile!   (saves parents looking for it).     This works well with younger children who haven’t yet figured out, its a chore.    Older children wise up faster, that its not that thrilling to win this competition!

We can do other competitions too around the campsite, including running races, hide & seek of an item (where you yell out if the seeker is getting "hotter” or “colder” in regards to how close they are to the item).

The key to them doing these games is frequently a small reward.

5.  Creating their own space

tree fort
photo credit: GerryT via photopin cc

Fort building:   Perfect if you are in a bush setting, with lots of fallen branches.   If you are in a caravan park, this one is not for you.      The children collect branches to make a teepee style tent out of branches, or lean them against fallen trunks so they have a “secret” space.

This fort can become quite territorial with children, so sometimes you might have to intervene when others want to “stay in the fort”.

When my daughter was younger, she would create an area for the fairies and elves to visit at night.  That would take a lot of time, creating something special and pretty for the fairies to visit.

That’s not going to appeal to every child, but the concept is that they make an area which they call “their own” and decorate it with what nature has provided.

Why I don’t recommend Board Games

monopoly board
photo credit: Ella's Dad via photopin cc

This is recommended by lots of sites as an activity for kids when camping, and I have to say, its my least favourite option.
The reason is that, if you have brought Scrabble/Monopoly/Pictionary or whatever game you have on hand, there tends to be a lot of bits and pieces to look after.     If outside, you have to deal with the weather elements which could play havoc to a game!     When parts of the game, go missing, that is when tension arises.

In a tent, too easy for it all to get trodden on.   Card games would be a better option.

Possibly those in a more controlled environment like a caravan, it could be a godsend, especially on rainy days, but overall, we don’t pack those sorts of games when we are tent camping.

Still stuck for ideas?   Then here are more resources to help you:

10 Fun Camping Games for Kids
10 Family Camping Activities  
Fun camping activities

Do you know of any games that keep kids occupied around campsites?  Share them below.

Lead image by:  J.Fowler