Camping with Kids - Fun Ideas for the Campsite


Camping offers many opportunities for children to develop a love for the outdoors.  While children can entertain themselves easily at the campsite, it is wise to have a plan for those down times, rainy days or the day that your child wakes up looking to be bored and grumpy. You don't have to be a super crafty parent to plan camping friendly activities. These planned activities are the ones that can last a lifetime and create a lasting bond with camping.

Some parents suggest taking games and toys that aren't part of the daily routine at home.  Taking a box or bag of camping only books, toys or puzzles is a way to have something for the kids to look forward to while camping.  Our son is very tied to a routine.  Having toys from home is part of his comfort zone when we travel.  We always take a tub of legos and cars for him to enjoy at our campsite.

If you are hitting the road soon, you may want some ideas to keep your kiddos busy.  Camping activities make memorable trips.  How much fun is it to look back on a trip and say, "Remember that time when we learned how to play Old Maid?"  or "I loved that scavenger hunt we did on a hike."  Every trip we take is an opportunity to do something that we don't normally do by unplugging and enjoying nature and each other.

Our family enjoys camping at state parks.  This year, my husband and I have selected several state parks to visit that we have not visited.  He is already looking at hiking trails for an upcoming trip.  We all enjoy taking day hikes while camping.  These can be relatively short trips that only last a short time since we have a four-year-old.  Many times we take a picnic and our time.  There is no rush or hurry.  That is why activities at a campsite can be so much fun.

State parks many times have activities that families can participate in while on the campgrounds.  I always check out what the facilities have to offer or think about the nearby area attractions when planning.  Some campgrounds offer pools, paddle boats, canoes, and fishing.  Depending on these options, your family may have built-in activities.  These options limit the need for lots of planned activities.

Even with these available family fun activities, it is important to have a backup plan.  Rainy weather can alter plans drastically.  We have experienced rainy and cold weather on a recent trip.  We have also camped during a burn ban last year.  These speed bumps can change what you might normally expect out of a camping experience.  When camping norms are interrupted, then what?

The Coupon Project Blog has some great ideas for Dollar Store Camping Boxes for kids.  The dollar store is a great place to pick up lots of items for a kids camping box including crayons, coloring books, card games and more.  Make up a small kit for each child and keep it stocked for camping adventures.

If you are looking for games that will entertain kids at the campsite or on a day hike, a nature scavenger hunt could be a lot of fun for kids to do.  Edventures with Kids has a free printable scavenger hunt list you can use.  Another campsite scavenger hunt list is available from That Bald Chick.  Both of these would be easy to use with kids.  If you have kids of different ages, partner older with younger children so that everyone can join in.

Finally, My Open County has a large selection of ideas and suggestions for Nature Scavenger Hunts for kids complete with free printables.  From selecting a theme to seasonal scavenger hunts, this resource has ideas for every age group.  This is one of the best resources that I have seen for outdoor scavenger hunts.

The whole family could enjoy a game of camping bingo either at the end of a day or when taking a break from the heat.  Gluesticks and Gumdrops have printable bingo cards that you can make set and keep in your camper.  Make the game more exciting by giving out little prizes that you find at the dollar store.

I think the campsite is the perfect place for art.  A couple of fun ideas for this summer would be painting shadows.  The Pintrested Parent has shared the educational and creative outlet for children.  Grown-ups might like joining with some afternoon art.  Make natural paint brushes for painting for something new.  Learn Create Love has ideas to make unique art with paint brushes that you can make.  Use nature around you to create little paint brushes.  Your child's artwork could become a souvenir or even a gift for a grandparent or teacher.

At the end of the day, play some glow stick games.  Glow stick ring toss or a game of hopscotch would both be different ways to end the day.  All ages could get into the glow stick ring toss game.   Get a tube of glow sticks and keep in your camper for nighttime fun.  Glowsticks, Vivii 100 Light up Toys Glow Stick Bracelets Mixed Colors Party Favors Supplies (Tube of 100)

If we know the weather is going to be rainy when we camp, I plan for it.  In March, I took some simple puzzles for us to do in the evening as a family at our table inside while staying dry.

When planning activities for your family while camping, think about what you would really enjoy doing with your children.  Sometimes planning an activity that you think your kids will love but that you will ultimately hate is a bad plan.  It is not fun to actually do the activity, and no one really likes it in the end.  As the parent, you are going to be involved at some level because of supervision, clean up or prep.

Get in there and be involved.  Take advantage of those times when you and your family enjoy each.  With a little one, I know that those days are probably numbered.  There will be days ahead where he would rather be with his friends than his parents.  Enjoy cooking, roasting marshmallows, sitting around the fire and just being a family.  That is the most important part.  The activities that you plan are just the frosting on the cake.  Happy camping!