45 Camping activities for kids (stuff our kids actually do when camping)

You’ve spent hours planning, packing, preparing, and driving… and you’ve finally arrived at the campsite for the weekend.  But, before you can even sit down and enjoy that juicy YA novel you’ve brought along, you’re little one says “I’m bored”.

What?  Seriously… the whole reason you’ve brought the family here is so they can make some nature memories and have some outdoor fun while you soak up the sun and indulge in a little fire-side mom-time, right?.

Well, read on for some camping activities for kids that are sure to entertain!  You’ll find ideas that kids can do independently with little prep.  You’ll also find family camping games, camping crafts, and family games perfect for travel and fun around the picnic table.

kids playing at the campsite picnic table and in a stick lean-to

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Our top 5 family camping activities:

  1. Exploring the campground with bikes or walking
  2. Simple family games like cards
  3. Campfires (building it, cooking over it, sitting by it)
  4. Reading in the hammock
  5. Playing with a zipline, frisbee, or soccer ball

Let’s chat about camping and planning activities

Firstly, let’s agree that some families are all about planning and scheduling their fun while other families are more flexible and adaptable with their free time.

Which type of family are you?

Are you the mom who likes to have crafts all prepared and set out for when the craft bug bites?  Are you the family that gathers nightly for board games or plays word games on long drives?

Or are you the family that is happy to find entertainment in the moment, and have kids that are content to occupy themselves with what they find at hand?

And then, some of you might be a little bit of both.

For me, when it comes to camping, I really don’t want to spend more time than necessary packing.  Don’t get me wrong, I might already spend too much time trying to make sure our trip is as easy as possible with lots of at-home food prep and packing organizing.   But, I am also aware that all the ‘extra’ items I pack will also have to be re-packed, brought back home, and put away again.

So, with that in mind, our family does not bring a lot of extras.

However, our kids rarely complain of being bored while camping.

Why?  Because just being outside is so much fun! 

But, there are always exceptions like if the weather is really cold or rainy or they’re feeling overwhelmed and tired, or we’re on a really long camping trip and the novelty of the campsite is starting to wear off, or you have older kids that might not enjoy digging in the dirt and climbing trees as much as they want to sulk and complain about not having wi-fi.

Those are the times when it’s handy to have a few campground activities for kids in mind!

So, read on and pick a few of these to plan and be prepared for.

kids doing quiet activities at the campsite picnic table
making a sundial at the campground

Crafty Camping Activities for kids

If you’re okay with bringing some craft supplies and with having to manage a little crafting clean up while camping, you might want to consider having some nature craft ideas in mind.

Nature can be very inspirational for kids.

Sometimes just providing some colored paper, crayons, and glue is enough to get them involved in a project.

Crafting at the Campsite

Here are some suggestions you could give them to get their creativity flowing:

  • Have a birthday party for their stuffie
  • Make a treasure hunt
  • Create a nature collage
  • Have a paper air plane flying contest
  • Make camping hats decorated with leaves and twigs
  • Make a book to record all their nature finds at the campsite
  • Create a camping comic book
  • Challenge your kids to make a map of the campground

Rock Painting

If you added paint to the craft supplies you might want to suggest they paint rocks they find around the campsite.  Using water-based non-toxic paints means the rocks will be washed clean again by the rain or you could gather rocks to paint and bring home (if picking rocks is allowed where you’re camping).

a young child holding a paper plate with painted rocks
Rock painting with Sixth Bloom

Sixth Bloom shares all the details of how they enjoyed rock painting with their preschoolers in this article.

Nature Paintings

Here’s another nature paint project by Fireflies and Mudpies.  Read more on their site to see how they chose to do some outdoor crafting and the interesting game they played with their completed camouflage artwork afterwards.

nature collage paintings done outdoors
camouflage painting with Fireflies and Mudpies

Once, on a longer camping trip with my children, I brought along finger paints.  The kids spent a good hour or more painting and enjoying themselves.  They used their fingers and without my suggestion even started painting with grasses, leaves, and pine cones they found around the campsite.

kids paintings hanging in the backyard line to dry
Finger painting at the campground

Fun with Clay and Nature Treasures

If you and your kids can locate some clay or mud you could use that to mold into shapes and add some nature treasures to make designs and images.  It’s fun to make faces on tree trunks with clay and rocks and such.

Even without the clay, your kids can make pictures and faces with nature treasures.  Check out these nature portraits by Adventure in a Box for more ideas.

making faces out of nature like leaves, rocks, and twigs
Nature Portraits by Adventure in a Box

I’ll be honest and say that most of my toddler’s campground play involved just the treasures they find at the campsite: hauling rocks and sticks around, making roads in the dirt, throwing pine cones, and climbing trees.

Stick Mazes

Here’s a fun idea if you find yourself in a spot with a lot of fallen wood on the ground:  Mazes using sticks.  Read more about making stick mazes at Mother Natured.

a girl standing in the middle of a stick maze
Stick Mazes by Mother Natured

Shelters and Lean-tos

And, if you happen to be in a spot with a lot of fallen wood you could help your kids create a shelter or little fort.  We’ve come across some pretty fancy lean-tos and log shelters.

a young kid playing in a wooden shelter at the campsite
Building shelters can be a whole family activity while camping

Even if you don’t have a lot of large sticks available, you can offer your kids an old sheet or tarp and some rope for them to try building with.  I usually have an extra tarp when we go camping that the kids can use for this reason.  They get to practice making shelters and it usually takes them hours. Then, when they’re finally done, they have a little private spot for the duration of the stay.

Nature Activities at the Campground

What better place to encourage some nature learning and exploration. Below you’ll find our favourite nature-y things to do while camping.

However, we find that if given a little bit of time and encouragement our kids will start exploring and asking great questions which have led to all sorts of neat discoveries.  Because of this, we now keep some local field guides in our camper all the time.

Using Field Guides

We’ve found that our kids will find rocks, plants, and bugs and then spend time looking in the books to compare and try to identify their discoveries.

On one camping trip my daughter, 4 at the time and completely unable to read, carried our Kaufman Guide to Birds book around in her pink bike basket the entire weekend.   She was so eager to show us all the exotic birds she was spotting and reading about on her little trips around the campsite loop.

If you have a little one interested in birds, you could even fashion a pair of toilet paper binoculars to help encourage that curiosity…. or even let them use the real binoculars for a special treat! (These are my favorite kid binoculars and we love them!)

Our favourite kid binoculars:

Educational Insights GeoSafari Jr. Kidnoculars - Binoculars for Kids Ages 3+, STEM and Outdoor Toys for Toddlers, Gifts for Toddlers
  • Super durable
  • Fit kids’ small faces
  • Good magnification
  • Ours are still in great shape after years of use!

2 kids looking at the camera through kids binoculars

On another trip, our guy gathered up all sorts of rocks by the riverbank, then brought them back to the campsite to see if he could break them open or identify them.  I think he was a little disappointed he didn’t find any gold or gems, but it still kept him occupied for a few hours while I enjoyed an ice tea and quiet reading.

Nature Scavenger Hunts and Nature Journaling

If your kids need a little encouragement to explore, a scavenger hunt is a great tool to get them moving and looking with curious eyes.  There are so many different types of hunts you can do: touch and feel hunts, color hunts, insect or animal hunts, seasonal scavenger hunts, even great big find everything type of hunts.

camping scavenger hunt on a clipboard
My daughter using our camping scavenger hunt printable

Take them outside has quite a few different scavenger hunts to choose from.  By joining the Take Them Outside Newsletter you’ll get access to all the ones we have in our printables resource library.  We even have a few camping scavenger hunts specific to safety and getting oriented at the campsite, as well as one for a fun group activity at the campground.

Here’s a bug scavenger hunt you can print and bring along.  I love that this one by Messy Little Monster because the images make it easy for littler kids.

Vacation and camping trips are perfect times to take some time for nature reflection.  I’m not into regular journaling in my day-to-day life, but on vacation or when I’m out in the woods for a length of time, I start to want to write and draw more.

And, your kids might enjoy some prompting to also get creative while outdoors.  There are so many nature journal templates and printables available these days.  But, the simplest is just to bring along a little blank notebook (or staple together some pages to make your own).

For you or your older kids you might ask them to record their observations and activities for the day, for littler kids you could ask them to draw what they see or what they’ve done at the campground.

Favourite Camping Printables from our Etsy Shop:

Looking for an easy nature-y activity? These printables are sure to provide a bit of quiet diversion for your kids at the campground!

Fun around the Campfire

Just gathering supplies and starting the campfire is a good activity in itself.  If you have older kids and trust their skills you can have them help break down sticks, haul wood, and even light the fire.

Fire Starting for Kids

Our kids particularly enjoy experimenting with fire starting material.  If this is an activity you think you’ll get your kids involved in, you might want to mention it at home so the kids can think about what would work for fire starting and pack those materials themselves.

My kids have experimented with dryer lint, cotton balls, newspaper, tissue paper, cardboard, egg cartons, bark, moss, cedar branches, and more.  I have purchased matches with longer handles and also a flint striker for them to use for safer fire starting.

READ MORE: Here’s a very comprehensive article all about fire starting materials , DIYs, and tips that you may want to check out if fire starting is an activity you’d like to teach your kids more about.

kids using small twigs to start a fire at the campsite
Fire starting is a valuable lesson for kids to learn while camping

All this fire play will need direct supervision and instruction on your part, but fire starting is an important life skill for everyone to have.  Plus your kids will be pretty proud to declare they started the fire to cook tonight’s meal or smores!

Speaking of S’mores, this is a fun camping activity if you happen to be camping without a campfire but still want to enjoy some s’mores!  You will need to prepare this ahead of time, or at least bring along the supplies… but it’s easy, really cool, and you’ll get a yummy treat at the end!

Handmade pizza box solar ovens for cooking smores in your backyard

READ MORE: Read all about how we made smores with pizza box solar ovens here.

Campfire games

I didn’t grow up going to summer camp, but I did work as a camp counselor for a few years and singing songs around the campfire was so much fun!  I’ll admit that as a family we don’t sing many songs around the fire, but we have played the odd campfire game.

Here’s a few suggestions of quick circle games kids might enjoy:

  • Telephone:  one person starts by whispering a phrase to their neighbor and that person whispers what they think they’ve heard to their neighbor and so on until it returns to the original person
  • Would you rather:  Take turns asking each other questions like would you rather fly or be invisible, would you rather eat gummy bears or chocolate bars for breakfast, would you rather race your dad or your sister, and so on
  • Alphabet games:  Choose a category like movies, book titles, or geographic locations.  One person starts by naming a movie and the letter that movie ends with becomes the letter the next movie named must start with.  So, for example, The Lego Movie… Ewoks… Star Wars… Solo…
  • Name that Song:  This one is lots of fun with my kids.  I start singing a song and they have to guess if it’s real or if I made it up.  This game has gotten so intense that I’ve had to actually prove myself using youtube videos because they didn’t believe Lolipop and Mr. Sandman were actual songs!


Not a lot of prior planning needs to go into stargazing.  You just need to remember to look up once darkness falls.

But, if you’re wanting to make an event out of it, bring along some blankets, maybe a telescope or binoculars, a star map and head out to a dark open area to spend some quiet time contemplating and watching the night sky.

Camping Games and toys for kids

If you have room to bring along some games or equipment, here are a few campground favorites:

Bean Bag Toss / Cornhole

It’s a funny name for such a simple game.  Two boards, some bean bags, and somehow this game can lead to all-day-long tournaments.

GoSports 3 x 2 ft Classic Cornhole Set – Includes 8 Bean Bags, Travel Case and Game Rules - Rustic
  • COMPLETE CORNHOLE SET: Tailgate Size 3 ft x 2 ft Cornhole Boards with 8 All-Weather Bean Bags, Carrying Case and Rules
  • RUSTIC DESIGN: Vintage inspired cornhole boards designed to look like steel framed barnwood planks
  • BEST VALUE: Tailgate Size Cornhole Set at an Affordable Price
  • PREMIUM BEAN BAGS: Includes 8 Regulation 16oz All-Weather Bags (4 Red + 4 Blue)

You can purchase these kits or if you’re handy you can make your family a set.  Here are some DIY instructions for making your own game.

Capture the Flag

This one is lots of fun for larger groups and older kids.  You’d want to make sure that the players have a large safe area to play in with very defined borders.  Here’s a site with very detailed instructions on how to play capture the flag.

But, if you’re looking for the quick explanation here it is:  A large group would be divided into 2 teams.  Each team would hide a flag on their side.  The challenge is to capture the other team’s flag without being tagged.

Throw Something Around

Did you know the record for the longest Frisbee throw is more than 1000 feet?  I bet you and your kids can’t do that!  Frisbees can be used to play catch, you can have ultimate Frisbee Games, set up a Frisbee golf course, or just use them for digging in the dirt and hauling pine cones around!

Soccer balls, base balls, basket balls… all of these other games are fun to bring along to the campground too.

A lot of campground have horseshoe pits too.  You might need to ask at the main office to borrow the shoes if you don’t see any laying around.

You can very easily make up simple throwing games too.  Use some sticks to mark out a box on the ground, find some rocks and have the kids throw the rocks into various boxes for points.  I’m sure if you suggest your kids come up with some sort of competition they will!

Camping with Toddlers and Preschoolers?

If you happen to be camping with young children and toddlers, you’ll probably want to have some specific toys or activities that they’ll enjoy. While our toddlers were often content to play with balls, buckets, sticks, and shovels, we did usually bring along one or two ‘special camping toys’.

Our Favourite Top 3 Toddler Camping Toys:

If you’d like to skip the reading and just get to the top 3 suggestions, here they are!

Bring along some big toys

Looking back over our past camping trips, I’d say the camping activity our kids have done the most of is biking.  If you have room for bikes and trust your kids can move around the campground safely, then bringing along some bikes might be a really good idea.

Not only do bikes give kids something to do, bikes also make getting around larger campgrounds much easier and quicker.

Other larger items you might want to bring to the campground:

a girl using a slack line at the campground
Both kids and adults will enjoy the challenge of a slackline at the campground

One of our favourite campground activities: the slackline!

Flybold Slackline Kit - Longer 57ft Line with Tree Protectors, Carry Bag | Tight Rope Slacklines for Backyard | Kids and Adults | Easy Setup
  • Easy to set up and take down (as long as you are camping with big trees)
  • Great fun for all ages!

Quiet Activities for Camping

Have you taken a walk down the board game aisle at your local big department store lately?  It’s a little overwhelming if you ask me!

I have very fond memories of my family only ever playing spoons at the cottage.  The idea was pretty simple if I remember correctly… you all traded cards until something happened which triggered you grabbing for a spoon… which usually resulted in chairs flying and people screaming.   So, maybe spoons isn’t a quiet table game, but these are:

Card games

Just bring along a deck or two and you’re all set for crazy eights, rummy, go fish, old maid, and more.  Add a crib board and you can have a family crib tournament …or bring along a jar of pennies and teach your kids how to gamble at blackjack!


Yes, this is technically also a card game, but with fancier cards.  And, you can even get specialty-themed ones like Minecraft, Harry Potter, and Wilderness.

Board Games

If loosing pieces is a concern, think about these magnetic travel type games like checkers, or travel Scrabble.

But, if you’re not so worried about things getting lost or blowing away you might want to consider bringing along your favorite family game.  There’s no need to go out and buy something new unless you really want to surprise the family with a special edition of National Parks Monopoly or Yahtzee.


Camping is the perfect time to let kids explore how to use a camera.  There’s no shortage of beautiful nature to photograph.  You could create a photo scavenger hunt for them or challenge them to learn how to use some of the features on your phone’s camera – if you trust them with it, of course.

Here’s a beautiful printable photo scavenger hunt, specifically for camping!

image of printable camping scavenger hunt

Who knows, you might have a budding photographer in your family and this camping trip is the time for that interest to grow and bloom!


…saving the best idea for last!

Yes, reading is the ultimate camping activity (in my opinion)… sure, my kids might not agree.  But, that being said, they’ve always brought books along and have always complained when I turned the lights out before they were done reading.

Looking for some book suggestions?  Here’s a list full of kids picture books about bugs and this list is books all about camping and hiking.

Or, check out what’s on my bookshelf in the Amazon Take Them Outside Shop…. you’ll find all sorts of great reads about nature, about raising wild kids, and a few fun indulgences too!

A few last words of advice… don’t rescue your kids from their boredom too quickly.  Give them the opportunity to feel that inactivity and see what and where it leads them.  You might be surprised with what happens next.

Oh, and head over to this post if you want even more camping toys and game ideas!

So, for your next trip just plan for a few extra just-in-case campground activities and instead let your kids use nature and their imagination to keep themselves entertained.

various campground activities for kids

2 thoughts on “45 Camping activities for kids (stuff our kids actually do when camping)”

  1. Amazingly written and got so many new ideas for my upcoming tour with my kids this summer. I’m gonna try some board games like scrabble this time with my two kids while camping. I’ll let you know what I got discovered and how I enjoyed using your ideas.

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