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Camping and Hiking Activities and Games for Kids

Updated on February 28, 2018
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Camping and Hiking Activities and Games for Kids Resources

Unless you are new to camping with kids, you know that camping activities will take a little more planning and effort than when camping with adults. Sometimes a lot more!

For most kids, outdoor camping is a great adventure. They want to be involved, and they want to be active. So if you don't want to hear barrages of, "I'm bored!", or be constantly dealing with unnecessary mischief all weekend, you better give some thought to camping and hiking activities and in-camp games that the kids will enjoy!

These camping tips will help make any outing with kids more fun, (and educational), for everyone.

A Couple Basic "Kids" Facts...

Your Norman Rockwell vision of camping with the kids; exposing them to the wonders of nature, quality bonding time, and a week-end of fun-filled camping activities, will be quickly dashed if you don't do a little planning based on these time-proven "Kid's Facts:"

  1. Kids under five years-old WILL NOT enjoy a camping trip longer than a one-day outing - without special effort by you. Their attention spans are too short, their understanding of "roughing-it" does not include the concept of no air-conditioning, (or heat), and nighttime in the woods will not be adventurous - it will be scary! The novelty of an outdoor adventure will soon wear off. Unless you plan your trip with a kid's perspective in mind.
  2. Kids want to be involved. They want to help with everything, (unless it fits their idea of a "chore"), so while swinging an axe might not be appropriate, you should let them "help" as much as possible. Make an effort to teach them the right way to do whatever task is at hand, but don't insist on perfection, even if it means going behind them and re-doing whatever it was they did.
  3. Kids want to be active. Almost all the time. Sure there will be some down-time for resting, or maybe even a nap for younger campers, but otherwise kids want to be doing something all the time. So unless you have a tin-ear, or a snappy response to the repeated refrain; "I'm Bored!," your camping trip planning should include plenty of activities to keep the kids occupied until bedtime.

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Camping Activities and Games for Kids

Outdoor activities and camp games for kids don't have to be complicated, or need expensive gear. Just make sure you pick activities that are age-appropriate for your young campers, and scaled to the amount of adult involvement and supervision you want to contribute

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Fishing - No need for a loaded tackle box and expensive rods, just go with the basics; plastic bobbers, weighted hooks, and inexpensive rod & reel combinations. And some worms, of course.

If your young campers are under 10 years-old, and they will be fishing from land, (or a low bridge or pier) - make it an experience they will remember by having them make their own fishing poles from branch wood found around the campsite*.

*If it is appropriate to your camping location, cut your own fishing poles from young growth, or if not, find some bamboo poles before you leave home. (garden centers are a good source) Then just tie a length of fishing line onto the homemade poles, add a bobber, weighted hook and bait, and let them "flick" their lines into the water. They will remember that fishing trip a lot longer than one using "store-bought" gear you just handed to them.

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Biking - This one is really dependent on your camping location, but if bicycle-appropriate trails are available, kids can have a lot of fun on them.

Canoes/Kayaks - Most State Parks and commercial campsites that have water access also have boating rentals available. Inexpensive rentals. A canoe outing will make a camping memories the kids will talk about for a long time.

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More Activities and Games for Kids

There are also camping activities that can be both entertaining and educational.

From simple card games for camp downtime, to educational scavenger hunts while hiking. Outdoor activities can be as simple or complicated, and as long or short, as you want them to be. With just a little forethought - you can be ready with a bag-full of activities and games that kids of all ages will enjoy.

Camping down-time:

  • Playing cards, Checkers, and Dominoes - you can't go wrong with these old-time favorites for occupying a little campsite down-time, or evening entertainment -- even in these hi-tech times. Kids love these basic games and can occupy themselves for hours with them. Best of all -- no adult supervision or participation is required.
  • Nature's Outdoor Bingo - a simple adaptation of standard Bingo that uses images of nature instead of numbers. You can find free versions of this game at campingwithgus.com
  • Find it! Memory Game - this one does require a little adult effort. You secretly find ten or so natural items from around your campsite, ie. pine cones, nuts, rocks, bird feathers, leaves, etc..., (don't let your camping kids see what you are gathering). Then layout your finds and cover them with a towel or jacket. Gather your young campers around your stash, and then reveal the items to them for about five seconds. Then re-cover the items and give your campers five or ten minutes to go out and find all the items they can remember seeing. (ps. works best with teams)
  • Camp Scientist - All you need are young kids and cheap plastic magnifying glasses. Give each kid a magnifying glass and 10 - 30 minutes to look around camp and find as many nature things as they can -- that can only be seen with the magnifying glass. If you can see it unaided it doesn't count. You will be surprised how intently they will search.

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Hiking and Trail Activities for Kids:

  • Scavenger Hunts - these can be tailored to the age and camping experience of your young campers. A scavenger hunt is simply a list of items to find. Whoever finds the most items from the list wins. Game duration can be a set time-limit or the duration of a hike. An easy list might only be ten items and a 30 minute time limit, while a more advanced hunt could have as many as 50 items and last the duration of the camp outing.
  • I Spy, with My Little Eye - This is usually a game for your younger ones, but a smart camp leader can make it intriguing enough for older campers too. The idea is that someone starts by describing an object they see, then other campers take turns trying to guess what the item is. If no one guesses the item on their first turn, then they are given up to three clues, one at a time.

For example: One camper spots a Blue Bird on a tree limb. He might say: I spy with my little eye something blue hanging over you. If no one guesses correctly, the camper might give another clue, such as: It's as light as a feather... and so on until someone guesses correctly, then they get to start a new game.

  • Nature's Connections - similar to a scavenger hunt, but deals with inter-related items. For instance the beginning item might be a pine cone. Then campers try to find at least five things in nature that are related to a pine cone. A Pine tree, Pine shat, piece of Pine bark, even a squirrel, (a pine cone is one of a squirrel's favorite foods).

Camping Activities for Kids - Camping and Hiking Activities and Games Comments

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    • Ken Budiarto profile image

      Ken Budiarto 

      2 years ago from Jakarta, Indonesia

      Thank You very much for all tips. It helps me find more activities on my family journey. Especially for some games like scavenger hunt...really challenging for kids. I've tried it and my sons is very happy with that. Make my camping moment is become colorful. Thank You. May you have an opportunity you can visit my place in Indonesia. Please check my website www.selarasadventureland.com for reference.

    • Rob Bignell profile image

      Rob Bignell 

      7 years ago from Encinitas, California

      Great tips. While a few kids will keep themselves occupied with exploring and discovery, most after a while need some guided activities to spur them on to more exploration and discovery! Such activities are a great way to bond with your childrne, proving you don't need to take them to expensive places like Disneyland or Sea World to create truly memorable experiences.

    • Camping with Kids profile imageAUTHOR

      GA Andereson (Gus) 

      7 years ago from Maryland, USA

      @Denise - thanks for the read, comment, and vote. Glad to like the website, I like sharing camping stories and tips almost as much as camping itself.

      ps. Your daughter is smart, you would be surprised how many parents think it's enough just to take their kids camping, and never consider an agenda.

      Gus

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      7 years ago from North Carolina

      Voted up and useful. My daughter took my grandkids tent camping last year (ages 2 & 3) and they did very well. She's an elementary school teacher and had lots of activities planned. I think their expedition lasted for two evenings. I like your use of the pictures.

      Your website is great!

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