You packed up the car and headed out for a fun camping vacation with the family. Now that the tents are pitched and the campsite is set, the kids turn to you with the same question you hear at home all too often: What is there to do? Just because you changed scenery doesn’t necessarily mean the kiddos will automatically be engaged or entertain themselves even in the great wide open, which is why you need to remember to pack a few camping activities for the kids.
Of course, the wonders of nature offer many wonderful adventures and memories; you just need to help things along with a few fun camping activities geared toward the kids.
Gathering firewood may not sound like an exciting activity, but it is an essential part of camping, especially if the kids want to eat s’mores later. Divide the family into two teams. On your mark, get set, find sticks! The winning team gets to eat the first batch of s’mores.
One of the reasons you want to go camping is to commune with nature. Unlike adults, kids need a bit of motivation to go on a walk or a hike even in the most breathtaking surroundings. Otherwise, the journey just seems like a very long walk without a purpose. So, to turn a nature walk into an upbeat excursion, have a scavenger hunt. Download a nature scavenger hunt online or create one of your own. Typical items for kids to find are squirrels, tree trunks, acorns, snails, frogs, butterflies, berries, birds, and a nest.
Another fun way to add pep into a nature walk is to turn it into a treasure hunt. Before you leave for the camping trip, take a box and have the kids place one of their treasures inside. Make up clues before you leave and designate a specific day on the trip for the treasure hunt. The first and last days of the camping trip are typically too busy. A day sandwiched in between is ideal. While the kids are asleep, set up the clues and hide the treasure. After breakfast, the clues await.
Watching birds and other animals in their natural habitats can be extremely entertaining, especially if your kids are interested in animals. Make watching birds and other animals go about their day more engaging by making your own binoculars. With a binocular-making kit, kids can spend time at the campsite making their binoculars before heading out into the wild to use them.
Night sky watching
Away from the glow of the city lights, the night sky is really breathtaking. It’s even more special when you get to see it through a telescope. Pack a handheld telescope designed for children to look at the stars every night. You can even have a constellation scavenger hunt by giving kids specific constellations like Orion and the Big and Little Dippers to find.
Consider the campground one big backyard. Take advantage of the open spaces and hold a “field day” much like the kids do in school right before the end of the year. Organize a game of cornhole, ring toss, kickball, and tug of war.
Up the classic hide-and-seek game by turning it into flashlight tag. One person is it and is in charge of the flashlight. The other family members hide. The person who is “It” must find the other players by shining a flashlight on them. Be sure to set boundaries before everyone runs and hides, so the kids know where they can and can’t hide.
Part of the adventure of heading out on a camping trip is being able to unplug. The WiFi isn’t going to work way out in the woods, but that doesn’t mean everyone doesn’t want to be entertained. Take turns telling stories each night around the campfire. On the last night, vote on whose story was the best. Ghost stories should be avoided if little kids are in the midst. You do want to get some sleep on the trip, after all.
Another way to tell stories is to have one person start a tale with a beginning line and continue the story around the campfire. If you can’t think of a line, “It was a dark and stormy night” always works in a pinch.
If most of the family members are not comfortable being put on the spot to tell a story, bring a fun children’s novel along. Have all the readers in the family take turns reading chapters out loud each night around the campfire or after each meal. Great chapter books to share as a family include:
- The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary
- Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
- Elvis and the Underdogs by Jenny Lee
- Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
- The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
A family camping trip makes for a different getaway that gets everyone to disconnect and get in touch with nature. Just remember that kids still appreciate the structure of having planned activities even when on vacation. So, when you pack all the supplies for the trip, include a go-to bag of extras loaded with camping activities to keep the kids engaged. In case Mother Nature rains on your parade, toss in a deck of cards, a board game, and prepackaged craft kits as sanity savers.
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