How do you entertain kids camping?
Camping is an amazing way to spend good, quality time with the family. But the last thing you want to do is turn up to the campsite, ready to have a vacation packed with fun, and then say… “what now?”
Promising the kids a fun-packed camping week only works if you’ve planned ahead with some great activities, otherwise before you know it they’ll be driving you crazy with complaints about how bored they are.
It’s really easy to come up with some fun activities that the whole family will enjoy though, making it a breeze to create some wonderful camping memories.
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What kids can do during camping?
There’s so many things that kids can do while camping to make their vacation feel special. The best ideas will incorporate the natural world, but they don’t all have to. Kids shouldn’t be forced to do things they don’t enjoy, and taking along a few games or toys can help them to unwind, and give you a little bit of peace as well.
However you don’t want to pack too much, so consider taking a few craft supplies, maybe one small board game that doesn’t have a lot of small (losable) pieces, and a few books that they can read, or that you can read to them if they’re not quite at reading age yet.
What are fun things to do while camping?
The most fun things to do while camping are just to spend time together making happy memories! But as well as the ideas above, you can easily tailor different ideas to different age groups.
If you’ve got younger kids you could:
- Splash around in a stream, seeing who can make the biggest splashes (providing you aren’t disturbing any local wildlife)
- Hunt for sticks for the fire
- Take along a bucket to collect a hoard of nature treasures
Meanwhile older kids might prefer:
- Climbing trees
- Playing organized games like capture the flag
- Going for short-distance walks without the parents hanging around
What can a 5-year-old do camping?
5-year-olds are super inquisitive and generally full of energy, which means you’re going to be kept on your toes as you try to stop them getting bored. They don’t really do well with quiet down time during the day, so you’ll need to have lots of plans for things they can do.
Take along a few activities for them to start with, including coloring books (ideally nature themed) and maybe some bubbles. If you’re camping somewhere warm, then a couple of smaller squirt guns can bring a lot of fun with a contained water fight.
Aim to bring some versatile toys too, such as a soccer ball or a frisbee, that you can play with in a few different ways. Often you won’t even need to come up with the ideas yourself, just hand them over to your kid and let their imagination run wild!
One great camping toy that is perfect for 5-year-olds is a magnifying glass, since you can introduce them to some of the smaller wonders of the natural world. Just make sure they know how to use them safely if you’re camping somewhere with intense sunlight.
Here’s 11 great ideas for camping activities that won’t take a huge amount of effort on your part.
Teddy Bears’ Picnic
“If you go down to the woods today…” then you can create a lot of magic with a teddy bears’ picnic. All it takes is some basic imagination play with just a couple of your children’s favorite stuffed toys and some simple snacks.
Lay out a picnic blanket at your campsite (or a little further away if you want to turn it into a trip) and tell your kids to bring their bear with them.
They’ll love getting involved with the teddy bears and their delicious outdoor picnic. You might need to be a little more ‘on’ with taking part in the picnic, feeding sandwiches to bears or offering up some imaginary tea, but if you’re comfortable play-acting with your kids then this is a delightfully authentic experience you can create for them.
And all you’re doing is adding a couple of stuffed bears to your regular lunch.
Combining crafts with the great outdoors can really make time fly and give the kids a few hours of messy, happy fun. With this one you just need to check the local laws around rocks, because there are some campsites which consider rocks to belong to the site.
If that’s the case, you can still paint the rocks, but make sure you use a washable paint that’ll come off in the rain.
Otherwise, if there are no laws or rules, you could either paint rocks with a pretty design to leave in the woods for future campers to find, or if you’re not sure about painting at the campsite then use the time to find smooth rocks that you can take home to paint at a later date.
Add a spray-on adhesive to make the paint last, which can help turn rocks into a charming keepsake.
Color treasure hunt
Treasure hunts are one of the best ways that you can actually help make camping fun, rather than bringing something fun to do while camping. This is exploration and getting to know the outdoors at its absolute best.
Themed treasure hunts help to add a little focus to the plan, and one of the simplest is to go for a color hunt. Tell the kids that they need to find something for every color of the rainbow, or add in a few extra colors of your choice if you want to extend the activity.
Whoever finds the most unique colors within a set time wins. Fun, competitive and educational, and perfect for younger kids too who will get really excited identifying colors as they walk around with you.
Build a den
When you think of classic camping activities, building a den has to be right up there. But it can sometimes be a little bit intimidating if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Remember though, with kids it’s 95% imagination. If you’re no expert at strapping together larger sticks to form some kind of solid structure, then look for hacks – find trees, stumps or bushes that can support some leaning sticks, and throw a blanket over to cover any holes. Ta-dah, a simple den that the kids will love hiding in.
Of course, if you are a little more handy with den-building then go to town, but remember to get the kids involved as much as possible, even if it’s just finding the sticks while you build.
Or you can make it a bit easier and let your kids build a mini den for animals or fairies.
Another of the great camping must-dos, making s’mores is an activity that the whole family can take part in, and then enjoy afterwards!
Even young kids, with proper supervision and support, can toast a marshmallow carefully, although they may need more help to then assemble their s’more once they’ve melted it.
Unlike most of your meals while camping, you can really make s’mores into an event. Get the kids excited by talking about this delicious camping treat, and give them the opportunity to choose their marshmallow and chocolate to go in their crackers.
The more involved they are, the more of a happy memory you’ll create.
A really simple and silly game, Chubby Bunny is ideal if you’ve brought way too many marshmallows for s’mores and you’re left with a lot of spares.
The premise of the game is extremely basic – everyone places a marshmallow into their mouth, holding it there, and then tries to say the phrase “Chubby Bunny”. If they succeed, they add another marshmallow, and so on, until it becomes impossible to say the phrase.
You’re guaranteed giggles here, as the phrase Chubby Bunny is mangled beyond all recognition due to the mouths stuffed with marshmallow. One to be careful of with younger kids that could choke, but a lot of fun even for spectators.
Take a hike
Hiking is another of those great camping experiences. You get to stretch the legs and forget any everyday stresses, and spend some fun time exploring nature with the family.
It’s important to plan appropriate hikes for the ages of the kids. Don’t go for a super-long walk if the younger kids can’t handle it. Remember that just because it’s easy for you doesn’t mean it is for them and you don’t want to put them off camping by forcing them on an epic walk.
What you can do is make hikes even more fun by adding in extra games. “I Spy” becomes a lot less monotonous when you’re amongst the wonders of nature, or you could just play “first to spot” with various animals or plants.
And if you do push things a little far with a longer hike, don’t be afraid to use bribery and promise s’mores or other snacks when you make it back to camp. It’s never ideal to use food as a reward but it’s a vacation after all!
Shadow puppet theatre
If you’re camping in a tent for that authentic roughing-it experience, then all you need is a flashlight to enjoy games with shadows in the evening. Just point the flashlight at the tent wall from inside, and the kids can make their own shadows using their hands or even craft some if you take along some supplies.
They could do it for their own amusement, or even put on a show for the grown-ups sat outside the tent. Give them a couple of hours to prepare in the late afternoon and you’ll keep them occupied for even longer, perfect while you’re prepping dinner and need a quieter moment.
Camping is a great excuse to leave the video games and YouTube videos behind for a few days, but that doesn’t mean forgoing all games. Playing games with a deck of cards is something of a lost art, but there are so many options available.
Younger kids can enjoy simple games like pairs or Go Fish, or you can introduce your kids to Hearts or similar-level games if you think they’re ready for it.
You can make card games even more fun by picking up a glow-in-the-dark too, which means you don’t need a player to be pointing a flashlight at the game for the duration, and games can run a little later in the evening too.
All you need is a piece of paper and a crayon, and your kids can make some lovely nature artworks through rubbings. Just place some bark, leaves or other natural items under the paper and rub a crayon over the top.
Challenge the kids to make the neatest, most accurate leaf rubbing, or just get them to make a collection for a scrapbook as a diary of their vacation. There’s loads of options, but it’s a simple way to get the kids feeling creative without packing loads of pencils and paints.
Sleeping Bag Olympics
If the kids have sleeping bags with them, you can make an event for a morning or afternoon with some sleeping bag Olympics, although it’ll depend on how precious you are about their sleeping bags staying in perfect condition!
There’s the classic sack-race style hopping event, or the kids can do a standing long jump from within their sleeping bag. And if the ground is dry enough to not make a huge mess, a horizontal rolling race will have the kids laughing for hours.
You could even make a bonus s’more for the winner of the event, adding a little competitive edge to the whole thing.
And that’s just some of the great, easy camping activities you can enjoy with your family. Camping is supposed to be relaxing and fun, so don’t worry about spending hours planning every minute to the finest detail. Just make sure you’ve some of these ideas up your sleeves ready for the first signs of boredom complaints. Nip them in the bud early and everyone will have a great time.