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

What can you do with kids when camping and they get bored?  5 ideas

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.

You can read more about importance of kids being outdoors here.

We put together some activities you may want to do with your children next time you are camping.   You might already be doing a few of these, but might discover 1 or 2 that you are not.

Before we begin......

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.    If you do have extra child campers  nearby then they can most certainly join in.
  • with minimal extra things to bring along (eg. canoes, fishing rods, bikes, craft items)
  • night time games for kids have a separate post - read it here

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.

2.   Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger hunts can be easy or a little more complicated - it's totally up to you!

If you are not prepared, you can just list a few items you know will be nearby, and get the children to run around and collect all the items.

We also recommend a bit of planning - and bringing a Scavenger Hunt List.

Small children like the chance to run around and find things on a list, as long as what is on the list is achievable.        The ability to find all the items on a list is going to be dependent upon their age and attention span.   Sometimes an adult might be needed to help the younger ones.

You can read our Scavenger Hunt information (and get scavenger hunt PDF downloads) on this link.

Older children don't get left out either.    You will see that we have catered to the love of screens, by combining a scavenger hunt with technology (photos and selfie scavenger hunt lists).

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.   The most comprehensive site to find out more is

You do need to join up, but it is free.      Do this before you leave home.

For a comprehensive overview of how it all works, view the 75-second video below

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 it's not that thrilling to win this competition!

If you have a lot of firewood sitting around and not immediately requiring it, the children can use it to build a sculpture - see how tall they can get it, and need to use every piece of firewood.   This encourages the child to be creative and learn about what works when building and what doesn't. Adding extras like leaves and rocks to their sculpture can help make it more attractive.   And its a lot of fun to knock down as well

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.

Note:  Remind children that it is NOT OK to break off branches for trees or damage any part of the environment for this game.  

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.

Need more ideas?

This site has 30+ camping games for you to check out.

This story first appeared in 2013 and has been updated for accuracy and additional information.

Lead image by:  J.Fowler