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I vividly remember going camping as a young child. We would pack up the truck and leave after my Dad got home from work. When we arrived at the camp site, it would always be dark… and my brother and I would shriek with delight with every rock the truck drove over as we bounced and jostled down the dirt road. It was thrilling. We would always make smores and my Dad would tell the scariest stories around the campfire. The next day was spent scaling big boulders, hiking further than we ever had before, and just having a big adventure. Camping is one of my fondest memories as a kid, and now I want to pass that excitement on to my daughter because anything involving nature is a great activity for kids. Read on for some ideas on how to turn your next camping trip into a learning (and fun) adventure.
20+ Camping Activities for Kids!
- Everything is a new adventure!: Anytime you get out of your routine your kids will be excited for the new adventure. For you, it is a great opportunity to teach them and let them develop a love for nature on their own. So, embrace the change of living ‘outdoors,’ whether you are camping under the stars, in a tent, a cabin, or even an RV. There will be excitement in setting up the sleeping bag, going potty outside (if that is what is called for), driving on backwoods trails, hearing the sounds of birds, crickets, and all other creatures who call the great outdoors their home.
- Explore at their own pace/nature scavenger hunts: Throw the rules out the window! There is no reason to be in a hurry. Let your kids gather acorns, leaves, sticks, rocks, pine cones. If you want to make a game out of it, have a nature scavenger hunt, or play nature bingo.
- Help prepare meals: Do you cook with your kids at home? Well, let them help prepare meals in the wild too! Some of the most simple camping meals are fun for kids to make– roasting hot dogs, prepping a fruit salad, setting the table.
- Playground, natural or otherwise: Many camping areas actually have playground sets. Seriously, a playground is a playground… fun! However, don’t limit yourself to only a dedicated playground. Make nature your playground!
- Scale boulders
- Walk on a fallen log as a balance beam
- Hop from rock to rock
- The beach!: As with playgrounds, many camping areas are attached to some sort of water or beach. Bring the shovels and buckets, take off your socks and shoes, and dig!
- Fun in the water: Splash in the river, wade in the water, go swimming, rent a canoe or paddleboat. Being on or near the water is so much fun and so relaxing!
- Talking and Listening: Do yourself a favor and leave the electronics at home. Then, when you are not competing with electronic games or movies, you can talk… really talk with your kids. And, perhaps you can hear some of their crazy stories as well!
- Nature walks and first hiking: We started ‘hiking’ with Sweet Pea almost as soon as she could walk. Even young toddlers can walk a little. Pick a camping spot that has easy, short nature hikes. Many places will have these sorts of walks that are easy enough your kiddo can finish them on their own. Even if there are not easier trails, you can choose to limit the length of your hike.
- Visit the nature center: Does the camping area or park you are visiting have a nature center? Why not visit it? There may be animals to see (and touch?), nature-themed crafts to do, and other activities.
- Pick (or otherwise observe) flowers: Check with the local area and ensure that there are not regulations against picking flowers. If not, why not pick a bunch of wildflowers with your kids? If there are, why not talk about the various types of flowers, and then take pictures instead.
- Throw rocks: Ok, kids love to throw rocks. It is hard to find an appropriate place for rock throwing in suburbia. However, as long as your kid isn’t throwing rocks at anyone, why not let them have at it? Throw rocks in the river, the lake, off a cliff. Find rocks of varying sizes and shapes and see what a difference it makes in how they ‘splat.’
- Find Nature’s treasures: As your kids explore nature and start collecting, let them pick out a few treasures that they can take home with them. Also, gather a few extra treasures for future crafts and activities.
- Campfires!: No camping trip would be complete without starting a campfire. Kids would love to help gather wood for the fire, as well as just watching the fire burn.
- Smores!: And if you are going to have a campfire… you have to make smores. Call this ‘camping indoctrination.’ Once your kid roasts their first gooey marshmallows they will be hooked, and want to go camping again and again.
- Sing: ‘Don’t worry if it’s not good enough, for anyone else to hear. Just sing, sing a song!’
- Sing silly songs: My favorites involve raindrops and gumdrops, the buffalo, bunny rabbits, and fishies.
- Sing not-so silly songs: This might be more appropriate for older kids, but there is something very beautiful about singing thoughtful/devotional songs around a campfire or under the stars.
- Tell stories: While you are talking and listening to your kids, tell them stories from your past.. maybe from your childhood. Or, maybe you will just want to tell funny stories and knock-knock jokes… or maybe you will be brave and tell your kids a spooky story. Oooh, shivers are already running down my spine!
- Paint nature: Remember those sticks and stones you collected? Paint them! Painting in nature is great because you don’t have to worry about creating that mess! All you need is a paint brush, something to put the paint in, and something to paint. The older the kids gets, the more innovative your nature arts and crafts can become.
- Play dough: Why not throw some play dough and a few play dough tools in a baggie and bring it along for fun? Kids can make impressions in the play dough with sticks, rocks, and leaves. Also, if it rains, play dough is an excellent way to pass time!
- Games: There are so many types of games you can play on a family camp out.
- We brought Candyland and introduced Sweet Pea to that board game classic during a thunderstorm.
- You can teach your kids a new card game (Go Fish!, Battle, Uno, etc..)
- Play a game outside. Follow the leader, I Spy, Freeze Tag, and more!
- Stargazing: Many people can’t really see the stars at home because of light pollution. One of the great things about camping is that usually campsites are away from civilization. Once the sun goes down and the campfire has been doused, find a clearing, lay back and enjoy nature’s planetarium. It is pretty spectacular!
What would you add to this list? What are some of your favorite camping activities to do with kids? I would love to hear your ideas for our next camping adventure!
Thanks for reading,
Craving some more adventure? I am honored and excited to be teaming with a number of other bloggers for a Learning Through Adventure series. Check out the series and discover tons of great activity ideas you can do with your kids!