Camping activities for kids can spring up naturally from your surroundings and basic camping preparations. We’ve been camping with our kids since Michael was a baby (that was a sleepless weekend with a pack and play in a tent and rising with the birds … but that’s a story for another post!)
Both Nick and I grew up camping with our families, his family more than mine. We both have warm and happy memories of evenings around a campfire, searching for the perfect marshmallow roasting stick and spending time with our parents. Before our kids were born, Nick and I did some camping together and with groups of friends. We camped in Saratoga, NY, and spent our days at the races and our evenings with a guitar around the fire. Or we’d camp along the water in Virgina and enjoy a simple, fire-cooked meal. It was the perfect activity for our fresh out of school salaries.
Years later, when our children were still little, we ventured out on a few single-night camping outings. We would load everything up and leave early on a Saturday morning to a campground nearby. Sometimes we were only 20 minutes from home but once you’re inside a wooded campground with streams, ponds, pools and fire pits, no one could tell where we were!
The kids, older now, love camping and we are building memories of unplugged family time. Our number one camping rule: Electronics are not allowed.
Remember when camping, hiking, climbing and exploring in the woods to check for ticks. Click here for 7 tips to protect your kids, and yourself, from Lyme disease.
Kids find their own fun with what’s around and here is a list of more camping activities for kids.
2. Let kids play in the tents or camper during the day, that’s half the fun and it acclimates young kids to where they’ll spend the night.
3. Take a stick walk and search for sticks for toasting marshmallows. Sure you can buy stakes but it’s more fun to hunt for them then have an adult or teen use a pocket knife to whittle a tip. (Be cautious not to use any sticks anywhere near poison ivy or poison oak).
4. Create a scavenger hunt ahead and give out paper bags for collecting items like pine cones, a white rock, a red leaf, something round, a piece of litter, something blue, a flower. Get creative! You can use pictures for pre-readers.
5. Pack a guitar or musical instrument. In our family, Nick plays the guitar and Ali plays the ukulele. Both of our girls sing beautifully (they didn’t get that gift from me!) and I love our evenings around the fire with music!
6. Flashlights can create fun games, flashlight tag, shadow animals on the tent walls and following the beam into the night sky. Pack extra batteries and let each kid have their own flashlight. Use different colors to identify whose is whose.
7. There are tons of ideas for fun camping foods! Meals become camping activities for kids all on their own. Cooking around a campfire adds an element of novelty. Here are some fun camping recipes for kids: banana boats, campfire cones, or tacos in a bag. For meal planning, click here for a great site with meal ideas for camping.
8. Talk. Yup, just talk. Ask your kids questions and their opinions as you pitch a tent side by side or collect firewood. This is a priceless opportunity for time together without the interruptions of technology. This is one of my favorite camping activities for kids. Last summer, Ali and I left our site and walked to the beach where we laid out a blanket and looked at the starry sky and we talked. Ali shared stories and we had a beautiful moment of connecting lying together in the dark.
9. Take a hike. Take tick precautions then go for a walk in the woods. Ask about trail heads or just explore around the campground. Last year, from our site at our New Hampshire campground we heard the tricking of water and set out through the trees to find it. We “discovered” a rocky, gurgling river in which the kids played and balanced for a leisurely long time.
11. Camping provides parents the chance to teach life lessons in a fun and practical way. You can teach your kids how to build and light a fire, fire safety, how to whittle a stick, pitch a tent, how to figure out north without a compass (or with one), how to identify plants or birds, and point out new plants that grew from an acorn or other seed.
12. There is a lot of creativity and resourcefulness in camping. I always forget something important no matter how good my checklist is. Enlist your kids to come up with solutions and show them how tin foil can fill in for MANY things! Never go camping without a big roll of it!