17 fun camping activities for kids

Whether you’re heading to a local campsite or traveling by car to a new destination, camping is an easy, stress-free vacation idea for the whole family – no theft, no car rental, and no crowds. The benefits of camping go beyond the wallet as well. Studies show that outdoor experiences make children more environmentally conscious, help them manage stress and reduce restlessness and boredom.

Kids’ roasted marshmallows open fire at camp

Andy Lyon

“Kids today are spending more time indoors and plugged into a screen, so camping is a great activity because it brings them outdoors, whether they’re hiking or telling stories. ghost stories by the fireside, ”said Meri-Margaret Deoudes, spokesperson for the Wildlife Federation’s National Be Out There initiative, which encourages children to get outside.

Once you’ve decided on the type of campground you want to visit (national park, state park, public campground, or private campground), it’s time to start planning. What you will do during your camping downtime. Check out these fun camping activities for kids, all guaranteed to create memories that will last a lifetime.

Ideas for camping activities for kids

1. Build a campfire

Get the kids ready for a night out around the pit with these tips from Richard Wiese, author of Born to Explore: How to Become a Backyard Adventurer. First, have your child collect small twigs and bark (tinder), short sticks (kindling), and larger logs (fuel). Place the tinder in the designated fire pit and place the tipi style kindling on top. Use a match to light the tinder, slowly adding additional sticks and logs as the fire grows. Stay safe by drawing an area in the dirt three to five feet around the fire and asking the children to stay within the line.

Family roasting marshmallows on a campfire

Family roasting marshmallows on a campfire

2. Take part in a treasure hunt

Treasure hunts can entertain before it’s dark: make a list of objects to find, like specific leaves, flowers and plants, or hide objects like marshmallows, bottle caps, marbles and other small things around your campsite.

3. Investigate bugs

Your children may look for particularly icky insects under the rocks. “Watching insects is a great way for children to learn to respect nature; insects don’t just have to be trampled on, they are an integral part of our ecosystem, ”says Melissa Chapman, editor-in-chief of TheStatenIslandFamily.com.

4. Take a hike

While hiking, sing or talk so as not to surprise unsuspecting creatures; they will stay out of your way if they know you are coming. And have everyone use the buddy system, even for short walks to the bathroom.

Family walking through the connection forest

Family walking through the connection forest

5. Analyze animal footprints

Help your kids to match photos of animals with their footprints with these Sierra Club animal and bird tracks knowledge cards. It’s a great way to teach them about wildlife!

6. Make natural rubs

If you have wrapped paper and pencils, do some plain rubs. Pick an interesting sheet, lay it on a flat surface, place a piece of white paper on it, turn your pencil lengthwise and rub the sheet. Or squeeze leaves and flowers in a book as keepsakes from your camping adventure.

7. Become Zen with Cloud Watching

During the day, look for images hidden in the clouds. From hippos to floating castles, you never know what your kids might find!

mom and son star gazing in car

mom and son star gazing in car

8. Observe the stars at night

Stargazing is a popular camping activity, but identifying the constellations is not easy. Get an updated version of Find the constellations by HA Rey (the author of Curious George) or visit websites such as, NASA Space Square, and SeaSky.org.

9. Create pebble pets

Hunt pebbles (or seashells) with your child and decorate them with markers to look like wild creatures. Hide them around the campsite for others to find!

10. Host a shadow puppet show

Using a flashlight as a projector, put on a shadow shadow show on the tent walls. Make a rabbit, a wolf or a snake and have your child make up stories about their escapades.

Young boy sitting alone in tent

Young boy sitting alone in tent

11. Play charades

Charades is the perfect camping activity for kids: you don’t need any special supplies and you can play it anywhere!

12. Get out of lawn games

Consider bringing lawn games from home, such as cornholes, lawn darts, or ring throws. You can also take the opportunity to teach children classic outdoor activities like Ghost in the Graveyard, Capture the Flag, SPUD and Kick the Can!

kids running outside playing

kids running outside playing

13. Tell Campfire Stories

A traditional camping experience is not complete without fireside stories. For older children, try scary tales, like those in at Roald Dahl Book of ghost stories. Younger people probably prefer less scary stories, like those of Court! The not-so-scary ghost Where The not-so-scary monster’s manual. You can also encourage children to make up their own stories around the fire!

14. Sing campfire songs

Does your family love music? Then sing campfire songs around the fire! Here are a few ideas (although the possibilities are endless):

  • “She will come ‘Round the Mountain”

  • “We are going bear hunting”

  • “The Campfire Song Song” (by Spongebob Squarepants)

  • “The wheels on the bus”

  • “House on the beach”

  • “Baby shark”

15. Ask funny questions

Without technology or distractions, camping is a great bonding experience for families. Ask your children interesting questions around the fire: if you had to give new names to all the family members, what would they be? Where would you like to travel in the future? What is one memory that makes you happy? Find more ideas here.

16. Test them with Trivia

Brush up on your child’s knowledge with some fun questions, like those on this list. You can make a list of questions specific to camping about animals, nature and plants. But you can also answer the questions according to your child’s interests, whether it’s Harry Potter, science, or the Disney movies.

Girl <a class=camping destinations lying inside a tent” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/MdiL43OedaqAYcEuu1X8Yw–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTcwNTtoPTg0Mw–/https://s.yimg.com/uu/api/res/1.2/2BpfGqbpzHqJxaQDV7XGdg–~B/aD0xMjAwO3c9MTAwMzthcHBpZD15dGFjaHlvbg–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/parents_articles_5/f0a6eacc4cccca3c85eaa8a9a65b8fee”/>

Girl camping destinations lying inside a tent

17. Cook something new

Spice up camp cooking and teach kids cooking skills with these dishes from Catherine McCord, creator of the kids site Weelicious.com.

Sunny start: Bake oatmeal in a pot over the campfire, then add nuts and raisins for a protein-rich breakfast that will keep you going all day.

Pizza night: Spread the tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese on a whole wheat tortilla and add toppings such as vegetables and grated chicken. Cover with another tortilla and wrap in foil. At lunchtime, place the foil-wrapped quesadillas directly on the embers of your campfire or unwrap and heat in a cast iron skillet or directly on a grill. When the cheese is melted, cut the tortillas into quarters and serve.

Fruity pleasure: Thread a whole, unpeeled banana and grill it over the campfire, just like you would a marshmallow. When the banana is soft, split it in the middle and sprinkle it with chocolate chips or sauce and remove it directly from the skin with a spoon. Your crew will beg for s’more bananas!


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Sally J. Minick

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