Camping Activities to Keep the Kids Busy

Uno is one of our regular camping activites

Uno is one of our regular camping activites

Some of the parents I’ve spoken to about family camping these past few years have expressed some nervousness about how to keep their kids busy and entertained over the course of a weekend in the woods. While we tend to focus on “camping things,” like hiking, campfires and s’mores, it’s important to realize that just because you’re camping it doesn’t mean you can’t do some of the things with your kids that you already do at home.

Here are a few activities that we’ve done, from time to time. We don’t do all of them on every trip but inevitably, depending on where we are, we’ll go for a bike ride, throw the football around, or just play some cards at the picnic table after dinner.

  • Uno® might just be the best card game ever invented, for parents. It’s simple enough for kids to understand, and yet it’s fun enough that it doesn’t drive the parents crazy.
  • We have a cheap, rubber, horseshoe set that we take with us. Horseshoes is a fun family activity for those summer afternoons when it is too hot to go hiking or exploring.
  • Football/Frisbee®/soccer are all great activities around the campsite, or campground. Football and Frisbee are usually better for the beach, or areas with a lot of open terrain, but a backwoods game of soccer is a lot of fun.
  • Art projects are another great activity for those hot summer afternoons. A bucket of crayons and some paper will keep the kids busy for a while, particularly if you can work-in outdoor-related projects that they don’t normally get to do at home, like leaf impressions.
  • Scavenger hunts are a lot of fun for the kids, since it’s not something that they probably get to do at home. Whether this is just your own little hunt for items local to the area, or a more advanced geocaching adventure, the kids will have a lot of fun and burn off some steam at the same time.

Whatever we are doing with the kids when we are camping, we do it as a family. We also tend to avoid games like hide-and-go-seek, where the kids would be going off on their own. The pacific coast is the land of poison oak, and although we teach them to spot it and avoid it, I’m not very confident that they wouldn’t crawl into some, during the excitment of a game. What are some of the activities your family enjoys on camping trips?

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22 thoughts on “Camping Activities to Keep the Kids Busy

  1. Laura – I’m sure you’re right, but the toys start getting more expensive 🙂

    Craig – that looks like a great game! My kids really like 3-D type games, like Jenga.

  2. I have to add our favorite game to the list “Treehouse”. I purchased this game at one of our annual trips to San Simeon SP. The game is easy to play, takes up very little space and each game only last 10 minutes. After our last camping trip, I took it out of the tent trailer just to make sure I could use it on our out of state hotel trip.

    Craig Travis’s last blog post..National Parks around the country free for three weekends this summer.

  3. Laura – my 4-year-old son is the same way, give him his cars and some dirt and he’s in heaven 🙂

  4. Awesome ideas! 🙂 I have a 7 year old boy and 11 year old girl and we love finding new ways to stay entertained! We especially enjoy “Top Toss” with the ball attached to the strings that you have to wrap around the bars, and bean bag toss games. With the 7 y/o, a pile of his match box cars and a good mound of dirt keeps him happy for hours!!

  5. Kassandra – that sounds like a lot of fun! My girls think they are “teenagers” now (they are 8!), but thankfully they still love to play in the dirt and hike.

  6. I’m camping primarily with preschoolers at the moment and had great success this last weekend with building a fairy house. The kids (3 and 4 year old) scouted the campsite for an appropriate spot, collected twigs, pinecones, leaves. lichen (all procured from the ground not the trees of course!). It turned into a theme for the weekend and was quite the palace in the end!

    Kassandra’s last blog post..Fairies, clams and Spencer Spit

  7. Hide and seek is a great idea, Hank – I like the idea of splitting up into teams.

  8. These ideas are excellent! We actually love playing hide-and-seek but we make sure only to do it at campsites we know well and we set ourselves a relatively small radius to keep the little ones safe. My wife and I split the kids up between us and we play that way so that the kids aren’t alone. The greatest gag was when my wife took our youngest to “hide” in our TENT! They sat in there laughing at us while we scoured the forest for almost an hour!

    Big Hank’s last blog post..Camp with the Camping Guru!

  9. Great idea’s here! will make a note off them for our next outing.

    Perhaps you could extend on this to top 10 tips to keeping kids entertained in the car?

    We all have the odd long journy to our pitch every now and then?

    The Camping Forum’s last blog post..Board statistics

  10. I have noticed that alot of kids today just don’t get into the outdoors scene and we need to do everything to encourage them.Take a kid fishing or camping and you will make a friend for life.

  11. Here’s one activity I found to be rather successful – You’ll need a sleeping mat, marking pen, and child. A straight edge is useful but not required. Have the child draw game board such as checkerboard, Chinese checkerboard, tic-tac grid, race track, or whatever, on their sleeping mat. Then have them find game pieces in the campground. Mine are black rocks, yours can be white quartz. You can also let your child use their imagination and develop their own game. Good camping fun –

  12. I’m a fan of board games. You can play them on the picnic table if it’s nice out or in the tent if it’s raining..


  13. My girlfriend Stephanie and I just played a card game called “Set” for the first time last week. It requires seeing patterns in shapes, colors, and shading to make sets of three cards. It’s great training for the brain. However, it’s probably too difficult for younger kids.

    John Soares’s last blog post..Photo of Hiker Stepping Off a Ledge