It’s camping time! You’ve snagged a camping spot, planned the menu, and shoved your gear into your vehicle. You can’t wait to head out the door with your child to explore the great outdoors, but suddenly memories of your last camping trip come crashing back. The good moments bring a smile to your face and the other moments… make you feel a little nervous.
Most parents experience the joys and struggles of camping with children. If you’re new to camping, know that it’s normal and more than worth it. Camping is a wonderful opportunity to slow down, unplug, and reconnect with your child. It’s also a great opportunity to be active and explore nature together.
Keeping your child happy, active, and engaged on your next camping trip doesn’t require herculean efforts but a little planning goes a long way. It helps to have a few fun activities that you can pull out when your child needs some redirection or inspiration. Below are 25 fun camping activities that will help you and your child make wonderful memories on your next camping adventure.
1. Bike, trike, or scooter around the campsite
Rolling around the campground on a bike, trike, or scooter is a popular camping activity for kids. There always seems to be a peloton of kids circling the campground and playing made-up bike games that can stretch on for hours at a time. Campgrounds are also a good place to teach kids how to ride a bike because the roads are flat with not much traffic.
2. Play ball games
Balls of various sizes are easy to pack and great for impromptu games of toss, keep away, or ball tag. Bring a soccer ball and teach your child how to kick it. Or bring several balls or balloons of the same size and practice juggling.
3. Splash in the water
Water play is a must-do summer camping activity. Luckily, many campgrounds are close to a water source like a lake, creek, or slow-moving river. Bring along swimwear, life jackets, snorkels, and water toys for fun and safe water play and try out some of these creative beach activities.
4. Get creative with bubbles and sidewalk chalk
Bubbles and sidewalk chalk are easy-to-pack items that provide a plethora of creative play opportunities. Chalk can be used to create art and imaginative games. Bubbles are fun to blow and chase. These items are especially handy if your child needs a quick diversion while you’re busy setting up camp or cooking meals.
5. Go on a real life treasure hunt
Geocaching is the world’s biggest treasure hunt—people hide “caches,” containers with log books and goodies, for other people to find. To find the caches, you need a GPS-enabled device (if you have a smartphone you’re set!). Just download the free Geocaching app and discover a geocache near you. There are over 350,000 caches worldwide and many campsites have a store of caches waiting to be discovered. Geocaching is a great way to get your family outside, moving, and having fun!
6. Find a favourite stick for creative play or make a journey stick
A stick is not just a stick. A stick can be a wand, a sword, a pencil, a musical instrument, a horse, or anything your child imagines! Have your child set out to find a favourite stick at the campground and encourage them to engage in some creative play. Older kids can set out to find a sturdy walking stick and turn it into their very own camping journey stick. Journey sticks were used by Indigenous people in Australia to keep track of adventures. They would find a walking stick and attach collected items along their way to remind them of their journey. You can learn more about journey sticks here.
7. Toss a Frisbee
A Frisbee is an easy-to-pack item that’s fun to play with. It’s a great activity for practicing movement skills and improving coordination. If you have a pack of older kids that want to toss a Frisbee you can turn it into a game of ultimate Frisbee!
8. Try fishing
Fishing is a great skill for kids to learn. Casting and reeling teaches children coordination and movement skills. Plus, being outdoors fosters appreciation for nature and spending time together builds family bonds. Many campgrounds are near lakes that are stocked with fish. In many Canadian provinces, children under the age of 16 or 17 can fish without a license. Be sure to check federal and local regulations before setting out on your fishing adventure.
9. Gather wood and build a fire
Campfires and camping go together like marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate! Instead of doing all the work of setting up a campfire on your own, get your child involved. From gathering and chopping wood to lighting the fire, learning to start a fire is a survival skill that’s worth teaching. Older children can be shown how to safely saw and chop wood while younger children can be taught how to gather sticks and place kindling in the right shape to start the fire. And then, of course, you can enjoy those s’mores!
10. Go on a nature walk or hike
Exploring the trails near your campground is a must-do activity. Many campgrounds have trails that are easy to access and explore. If you’re new to hiking or have a young child, you may want to opt for an easy nature walk. Older children might be more keen to go on a more challenging hiking adventure. Don’t forget to dress for the weather, wear sturdy shoes, and pack water, snacks, and first-aid supplies before heading out.
11. Have fun with glow sticks
After the sun sets and the campground is dark, bring out glow sticks. You can place glow sticks in clear plastic water bottles for night bowling, bend the glow stick into rings for ring toss, lay the glow sticks on the ground for hopscotch, or clip them into a big circle for hula hoop fun. There are so many creative ways to use glow sticks. To make your glow sticks last longer, place them in the freezer between uses or invest in some reusable LED glow sticks.
12. Make a fort
Most children love building forts; it’s in their DNA. Depending on your camping location and campground rules, have your child use natural materials like sticks and fallen branches to build a fort. If this isn’t possible, use items you have on hand, like ropes, towels, or a tablecloth.
13. Practice nature yoga
Sometimes camping can bring out big emotions for a child. It’s normal for a young child to feel frustrated or sad when her routine and space are unfamiliar. If you notice your child experiencing big emotions on your camping trip, slow down and try some nature yoga together. Find a spot in the campground and try these 6 mood-boosting yoga poses.
14. Go on a nighttime walk
Grab your flashlight and go for a nighttime walk through the campground with your child. Night walks are magical for children, especially if the stars are shining bright. There are also plenty of interesting animal and insect sounds at night. Invite your child to use all their senses to explore nighttime as you wander the campground.
15. Learn the art of skipping stones
From a very early age, children discover the joy of tossing rocks into the water. Little rocks make small plops and big rocks make mighty splashes! Learning how to skip stones takes your child’s natural interest in tossing stones to the next level. To skip a stone, start by finding a flat round rock and throw it in parallel with the water. Skipping stones takes practice but it’s worth the effort to see a stone skimming across the water as if it had wings.
16. Play flashlight tag
Flashlight tag is a classic game that’s great for camping. After the sun sets, choose an “it” person. The “it” person gets a flashlight, counts to 50 or 100, and then runs around “tagging” the other players by shining a flashlight on them.
17. Discover letterboxing
Letterboxing is similar to geocaching in the sense that it’s a real world treasure hunt. What makes it unique is that “letterboxes” are hidden and contain a log book and a stamp. To go letterboxing you need your own log book, a stamp, and an ink pad. When you discover a letterbox, you make an imprint of your own stamp in the letterbox’s log book and then make a stamp of the letterbox stamp in your own log book. There are about 90,000 letterboxes hidden around the world, some of which can be discovered using the Geocaching app or using the Letterboxing website. What makes letterboxing fun is that your child can make their very own signature stamp out of a piece of a branch like this.
18. Play at the campground play park
Most campgrounds have a play park for children to explore. These play parks are a big draw for little campers, making them a great spot to get out some pent-up energy and make some new friends while camping. While this is a simple activity, it’s a great way to keep your child active and having fun.
19. Test your balance on a slackline
Slacklining is a great way to work on balance, coordination, and stability. To try out this activity, you’ll need a slackline, a long piece of nylon webbing that’s two to five centimetres long and anchored between two points. You can get a slackline kit from most sports and outdoor stores and they’re quite affordable. The great thing about a slackline is that it’s easy to pack and to set up between trees at your campsite.
20. Go forest bathing
A bath in the forest? Not quite. Forest bathing comes from the Japanese term shinrin-yoku, which translates to “taking in the forest atmosphere.” Forest bathing simply means spending time taking in nature. This activity is a wonderful calming activity if your child needs some time to reset. To try forest bathing, start by helping your child find a quiet and comfortable sitting spot in nature. If your child prefers movement, walk slowly through nature together. Invite your child to use all her senses to notice nature. What do you hear? Smell? See? Feel? Take some slow deep breaths together.
21. Make a campsite obstacle course
Using items that you have on hand, make a DIY obstacle course at your campsite. Water bottles, balls, logs, clotheslines, rope, rocks, and more can be used to make a fun obstacle course that gets your child moving and having fun.
22. Play camping charades
To play camping charades, write down a list of prompts like: roasting marshmallows, setting up a tent, swimming in the lake, making a fire, chopping woods, putting on bug spray, etc. Place the prompts in a hat or bucket and take turns picking one and acting it out. This is a fun evening activity to do around a campfire.
23. Glide across the water in a canoe or kayak
Explore the beauty of water by gliding across a lake or river in a canoe or kayak. If you don’t own these items, see if the campground rents them. Always remember to wear water safety gear when spending time on water.
24. Try something new!
Choose one new activity to try on your upcoming camp trip. It could be something from this list or something a little more adventurous like spelunking (caving), rock climbing, or whitewater rafting. I highly recommend hiring a guide when trying extreme adventuring if it’s not in your wheelhouse of expertise.
25. Go on a camping nature scavenger hunt
And last but not least, go on a nature scavenger hunt using this fun printable.
I hope you’ve found some fun activities to keep your child active, happy, and engaged on your next family camping trip. If you have some favourite kid-friendly camping activities that aren’t on this list, please share them in the comments section below. Happy camping!