Camping With Kids: Activities and Fun Edition
If you are looking for my free camping checklist and worksheets – check here!
We’ve scratched the surface of what it takes to go camping with your kids, but as it turns out, it’s impossible to hit all the high points and go into enough detail without writing a book. So, I’m going to write a book. You will be the first to know when it goes live, at the current rate, expect it sometime in early 2019. You think I’m kidding again, nope.
This is the Fun Part!
For this segment, we are going to touch on a short list of our favorite list of camping activities. All of these activities are kid approved – in fact, my test group gave them two thumbs up.
Fair Weather Fun
When the sun is shining and the weather is cooperating, there are a million possibilities! So let’s explore a few options.
This is a top ranking favorite. My kids love to get out on the trails and see what there is to see. Nearly every park has some fabulous trails to explore. They spend time looking at the flora and fauna, checking out rocks, listening to birds, and asking tons of great questions.
Usually, we will bring a backpack filled with trail mix and big Nalgene bottles of water for the trail. It’s not a bad idea to throw a small first aid kit in too, you never know who is going to fall over and skin a knee.
If you are going to be gone long enough that you’ll need a meal-on-the-go, it’s really handy to throw in some sliced summer sausage and cheese along with a box of crackers. There are enough protein and carbs to keep you all going for a while.
Depending on the type of trail, if you are hiking with an infant or small child, you will definitely want to have an Ergobaby, or similar carry device (I’ve heard great things about the Kelty packs, but never used them). If you know the trail is wide open and grassy or even paved, a big-wheeled stroller is a safe bet.
Don’t forget to bring along some bug repellant. For the kids under three, my pediatrician recommends no DEET products, as it absorbs into the skin. There are lots of DEET alternatives out there, so be sure to read the labels and know what you are putting on that sensitive skin.
Along the same lines, be sure to have some sunscreen along, and apply before you hit the trail.
You’re already out hiking, why not turn it into a nature scavenger hunt? I’ve included a printable list of easy scavenger items to look for when you are out on your hike.
In lots of parks, picking flowers, removing rocks, etc, is not only discouraged but against the park rules. Help your children understand that all these items may be food or homes for other creatures. Leaving things the way you find them also allows the next explorer to enjoy their adventure.
Do encourage picking up litter if you come across any! (Of course, nothing hazardous or dangerous should be picked up by kids). Encourage leaving the park even better than you found it! If we don’t take care of it, who will?
Park Sponsored Activities
Lots of the state parks have weekend activities for kids all throughout the summer months. These programs are primarily run by the park staff and the ones we have attended have been fantastic! These can range from animal track identification to making birdhouses, or even star-gazing and constellation recognition.
Usually, these kid-friendly activities will be posted near the park office, or on a bulletin board by the restrooms.
This is one of my personal favorite things to do when we are camping. Usually, at some point when the kids are distracted, you come up with a bunch of clues that lead to each other and go wherever you want to take them. Maybe just at your own campsite, maybe further afield, totally up to you!
The prize at the end of the treasure hunt could be a bag of candy, small dollar tree toys, or whatever creative thing you can think up.
My boys are reading now, so it will be a lot of fun to just set them free on it this summer and see what happens.
Swimming and Fishing
If the weather is cooperating, and your park has a lake/or river, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention spending some time at the water!
When it’s humid and sticky, there is no better place to be (short of air conditioning, amiright?) than down at the beach or enjoying a breeze off of the water.
While you are outside, it is also really important to make sure you’ve got your kiddos covered in the sun protection department. We have started using the rash guard shirts for our very fair skinned children, and it’s also super important to use sunscreen.
Sunscreen can be challenging. Big time. If you are having trouble choosing a good sunscreen for your little ones (there are only a million choices), you should definitely check out this post on the safest baby sunscreens by Thinkbaby.org!
Swimming, sand castles, kayaking, canoeing, and hauling in tiny panfish are some of the memories we’ve made in the past few years. My boys have even taken rides on standup paddleboards and loved it! I was kind of a wimp about the standup paddleboards.
Whenever possible, we love to bring our bikes! The boys have a blast tooling around and checking things out. It’s so fun to watch them explore! Make sure they know the rules of the road and have their helmets with for safe adventuring.
Poor Weather and Evening Activities
The weather is not going to cooperate 100% of the time. Wet camping is pretty miserable, but it’s an unfortunate fact of camping life that can’t be controlled.
To combat the boredom of being rained in, there are always a few options.
Games, Games, Games
Bring along a selection of your favorite family games. It would be best if they are able to be set up on a questionable tent floor. Card games, board games, dice games, I Spy are all options!
We always make sure that everyone has a book or two to read. Maybe it’s while they are swinging in the hammock outside the tent. Maybe it’s when it’s raining cats and dogs and everyone needs to be doing something quietly inside the tent.
Coloring books count too. No shame in crayons and coloring books for the little ones. If it keeps them busy and you can easily pack it in, it’s good!
Campfires are the best. It’s such a fantastic time to sit around and enjoy the company of the people you came camping with. Ideally. If you have really young children, it might be the perfect time to send them to tent early and spend some downtime with your sweetie. Not a bad deal!
As a family, we love to spend quality time around the fire. That could be as simple as spending time telling stories and roasting marshmallows or as complex as playing charades, Mafia, or “Pudgy Bunny”. If you need more information on any of those, I would be happy to help. All I will say about Pudgy Bunny is that it involves an excessive amount of marshmallows.
Last Resort Options
If it’s an especially bad weekend of camping, and the rain is just not letting up, we’ve actually ended up going into town to escape the wet camp conditions.
This is not ideal, and not particularly fun, but with really little ones, it’s always best to have a plan B or C.
Find A Shelter
Many parks have big, covered shelters that campers can use. If you find an empty one, feel free to take it over and let the kids run around! I know how important that free play and energy release is.
I realize this list is not even remotely comprehensive, there are a plethora of activities and games that could be touched on here. Hopefully, this gets your creative juices flowing for things you can do with your young and school-aged children.
Be sure to check out parts 1-3 if you missed them, and look for our fifth and final camping with kids: Meal Planning and Recipes, coming to a blog near you very soon!
Check out the camping checklist and meal planning worksheets here!