Planning camping activities for kids during a family camping trip is essential to an enjoyable camping experience not only for the kids but also for the parents.
If you bring your kids on a camping trip with no activities planned, you could end up with bored children who will not look forward to camping in the future.
When you plan your family trip you should have camping activities for kids to participate in from the planning stage to the trip home. These camping activities are not only fun experiences, but they are also a great way for kids to learn.
This post is part of our camping and outdoor adventures series
Camping Activities for Kids: Packing And Preparing
The first camping activity that kids should be involved with on a camping trip is packing and preparing for the trip. If you have camping gear or food to buy for your trip try to include your children.
Allowing children to assist in developing menus and shopping for something special from the sporting goods store will make them feel important and will also help ensure that they eat what is prepared during the trip.
With your guidance, allow the kids to select and pack their own clothing and supplies they will need for the trip. By involving kids in the preparation, you build excitement and enthusiasm for the trip while teaching them what is needed for a camping trip.
To help you prepare for your camping trip you may also like to read:
- Camping gear essentials for kids
- The best no-cook camping meals
- One pot make-ahead camping meals
- Our complete camping checklist (especially for sand and desert campers!)
Camping Activities for Kids: Helping Set Up Camp
The next camping activity for kids starts when you arrive at camp. When you arrive, don’t let the kids get away without helping set up camp. This is another area that will help kids learn the different skills and preparations that are needed for safe and fun camping.
Involve the kids in setting up tents, rolling out sleeping bags, gathering firewood, and all the other areas of setting up a camp. Imagine their pride when they get to the point where they can set up camp by themselves.
Once you and your kids have arrived and set up camp, what will you do to entertain them? One of the most forgotten camping activities for kids is to make sure that you allow plenty of unstructured time for kids just to play and explore.
Oftentimes adults take children camping with them for the first time, and they expect that the kids will want to spend their day doing what the adults like to do. Kids tend to have a smaller attention span than adults do, and seldom do they want to spend the entire day doing any one thing. Simply let them BE!
Camping Activities for Kids: Hiking
Hiking is a great way to explore nature and wear your kids out enough that they will sleep well during your camping trip. Plan a hiking trip that is long enough to allow for some good exploring but not so long that you end up carrying your children back to camp.
Remember, your kids probably can’t walk as far or as fast as you can. If your kids are first-time hikers, you would be better off having several small hikes planned as opposed to one long one.
You can do several activities with your children while you are on a hike. Try bringing a plant identification book along on your hike or a bird spotting book. Using these books, you and your children can learn to identify the area’s plants, flowers, trees, and wildlife. If you have a cellphone with you, you can use this plant identification tool to help you identify some more unique species.
Hint – bring binoculars! Most wildlife is best observed from a distance!
You can have competitions with your kids to see who can find the first type of tree or plant that you find in the book. You can have them compete to see who can find the most different styles of leaves or plants.
This same game could be played with animals or insects, depending on where you are camping. This time could also be spent on a good lesson in recognizing poison ivy or oak.
Another activity you can do while hiking is teaching kids navigation. Using either a map and compass or a portable GPS unit, you can teach your kids how to find their way to a particular site like a lake or mountaintop or how to find their way back to camp.
Depending on the age of your kids, you can make a navigation course where they are tasked with leading you to different locations in the area or see if they can navigate you back to camp, taking a different route. Be sure if you do these activities, you can safely navigate back to camp yourself if they get you lost.
You can take this further with Geocaching – basically a treasure hunt for the digital generation!
For more on hiking with kids, you may also be interested in:
- Everything you need to hike with a baby
- How to make it FUN hiking with a toddler
- The best toddler hiking shoes
- How to prepare your dog for hiking
- High-energy hiking snacks you’ll want to pack
- Complete family hiking packing list
Camping Activities for Kids: Fishing
Fishing can be a great camping activity for kids if you like to fish. Nothing is more exciting for a child than getting a bite and bringing their first fish in. Fishing is also a great way for kids and parents to learn patience. If this is the first fishing experience for your kids, you should bring them somewhere that you have had good luck in the past.
Most kids will be hooked on fishing forever if you can bring them somewhere where they actually catch a fish. On the other hand, it’s hard to keep them excited about fishing when all they remember is sitting on the bank all day catching nothing and being told by their parents to leave the bait out there without reeling it in.
If fishing isn’t your thing, many campsites more readily lend themselves to activities like rockpooling, which even your youngest of tots can enjoy. With just a simple net and bucket your kids can learn so much about our waterways and observe some of nature’s smallest inhabitants.
Camping Activities for Kids: Games
Now we’re not suggesting half the playroom needs stowing in your van. After all, boredom is good for kids and stimulates creativity. Allowing kids to get bored will help them to come up with their own imaginative games and improvise with what nature provides them.
But, it always pays to have more tricks up your sleeve! Camping is often the only time kids have space around them for more active throwing and hitting games. A few extra tools can help with craft activities, and consider rainy days while camping – they do happen even in summer!
Be prepared for these times by having a small supply of toys and games on hand. Depending on the ages and interests of your children, you should bring card games and board games in case you’re stuck indoors, and active games and toys such as balls, kites, and frisbees.
Camping Activities for Kids: Journaling
Has your child grown a love for journaling? Even if a traditional journal hasn’t taken their interest to date, a nature journal on their camping trip may be just the thing to spark their curiosity and imagination.
You can start with a completely blank journal, or there are plenty of beautiful books you can gift a child for their camping trip with prompts to help them create their own nature discoveries.
Camping Activities for Kids: Nature Crafts
Keeping hands and minds busy on your next family camping trip, why not plan out some nature crafts?
This can be using materials you find in nature to inspire artworks or even become part of your child’s masterpiece. From basic leaf rubbings for smaller kids through to pressed flower art, fair houses, bug barns, and walking sticks, the only limit is their imagination when it comes to making crafts from nature.
We have a great selection of camping crafts kids can try over here, all with links through to step-by-step instructions.
Camping Activities for Kids: The Campfire
It wouldn’t be proper to discuss camping activities for kids without mentioning an all-time favorite: smores and stories around the campfire!
Nothing says camping more than sitting around the campfire eating smores, and telling stories. Instead of the parents doing all the storytelling, try mixing it up a little.
You probably won’t have much luck just asking your kids to tell you a story, but they seem to love the shared story approach. You’ll be amazed at the stories you can come up with when you take turns telling parts of it. You start the story off, then pass the story to the person next to you. Continue this and see how the story grows and goes in different directions.
Camping trips can be a fun experience for the entire family, whatever the season. Spending a few nights outdoors with the family is a great way to bring any family closer together.
Planning ahead with several camping activities for kids to do while they are on the trip will ensure that your kids will not only learn a lot but will have a great time camping.
If you used to camp without your kids, you might have been able to sit sipping cuppas and reading a book all day. With kids in your camp, be prepared to mix it up, a lot more! Be prepared for what you will do in weather extremes; when rain and wind upset your plans or coping with the heat of summer camping.
Plan your activities to last no more than an hour at a time for younger children, then move to the next activity, and remember to build in plenty of unstructured time too.
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