How To Make Camping Fun For Kids


As parents, we often feel and think that we know what is best for children. While this may be true for shaping their morals and values, it's not always true when it comes to having fun in the outdoors camping.  You really cannot make camping fun for kids.  What you can do is get out of the way and let kids have some fun without imposing your ideas of fun.

Camping with kids is a whole other world and can actually be a lot of fun if you let your kids be creative. I let my kids decide what activities are fun to do on camping trips.  When it comes to choosing a "Kid Friendly Campground", I ask them what is important for them in a campground.  Here are just a few of the hundreds of things that they value as important to them.  If you are looking for things for kids to do while camping, just sit down with your kids and ask them what they would like to do.

Fun Camping Games For Kids

Simple games like Scrabble & Bananagrams are great for camping trips!  It's a great game to interact with your kids.

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A deck of cards is extremely useful too.  My kids enjoy playing hearts.  These are nice games to play while relaxing in the evening.  You do not need special games made just for camping.  On a recent trip to Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah, my kids asked me to make up a game for them.  We had some extra clothes line that we used to loosely tie up one kid and let them try to escape.  We called the game "Houdini".  They loved the game. I let them do all the tying up.  The only rule was that the knots were not supposed to be painful.  I set the timer for each kid so they each new how long it took to escape.

Kid Friendly Camp Grounds Should Include A Few Of The Following

  • Other kids to play with.
  • Playgrounds.
  • Small streams and lakes.
  • Large open grassy fields to run around.

Kids have vivid imaginations.  Let them develop their imaginations rather than giving them a hand held video game to keep them entertained.  Most parents grew up without access to all kinds of electronics and survived just fine by learning to play and interact with other children.

Kids Like To Play With Other Kids While Camping

My wife and I really enjoyed watching our 2 young boys walk over to a playground that was located in the campground and start playing with other kids who were complete strangers. Within minutes it seemed that they were best friends and were having the time of their lives. I can recall on one particular trip where I had brought all kinds of fishing equipment and was excited to spend a fair amount of time fishing. Next to the fishing docks was a beautiful sandy beach and a playground. There were lots of other kids playing at both. My 2 boys fished for about a half a day and quickly gravitated to the beach in the playground. They were done with fishing.

Camping Activities For Kids

Kids don't really need video games and DVDs to keep themselves entertained on a camping trip. Let them loose, so to speak, and watch them come up with all kinds of fun things to do. This really depends on how old they are. Toddlers  need supervision at all times.  On the other hand, we let our toddlers run around our campsite with strict boundaries and rules. When they were toddlers, we brought along small shovels for the boys to dig with and plenty of toy cars and trains to play with.  You are not going to have to buy a book titled "101 Camping Activities For Kids".  They can write the book better than any adult or parent.  To my knowledge, there has never been a professional book written on how to teach your kids to play with dolls and toy trucks.  My 2 boys play with both and were self taught.

Free Junior Ranger Programs For Kids Are A Lot Of Fun

Our 2 boys are nearly 10 & 12 years old and they still have not tired of attending and completing Junior Ranger programs.  Most State & National Parks have Junior Ranger Programs that are free.  The kids get a booklet to complete and Junior Ranger badge when the everything is completed.

Take Advantage Of State & National Park Visitors Centers

I would much rather be out in the woods hiking than spending my time indoors watching movies and looked at stuffed animals.  My wife even got a little upset with me for not wanting to stay at the visitors center and let the kids watch movies about the park.  I said to her "Why should they watch a movie about the park when they can go outside and see the park?"  My kids begged me to let us stay inside the visitors center.  From that point on, I made it a point to spend hours inside visitors centers and let my kids watch movies and see all the exhibits.

When we were camping out at Zion National Park in Utah, they have a complete center and museum just for kids.  The center is staffed by both volunteers and paid park rangers.

One of my boys favorite parks to visit is Bryce Canyon National Park In Utah.  It's not that they enjoyed the beauty of this park so much.  Rather, they were so thrilled about the ranger programs.  We have visited the park at least 4 times in August.   On some of these visits, we were able participate in night telescope program.  If you have never experienced the stars in Utah, it will blow your mind.  The sky is so dark.  The stars almost jump out at you.  It's an amazing place for both adults and children to view the planets and stars with telescopes.  The kids were so thrilled to see real planets with professional high powered telescopes.

Don't Bore Your Children With All Day Hikes

Most kids love to get out and hike.  But their idea of hiking is much different from an adult.  As a man, I want to climb the highest peak.  My kids will go on a hike if there is something fun to do like find a patch of snow to go sliding on or a pile of rocks to look for fossils.  They are not into hiking for exercising.  Our big hikes included hiking to playground, beach, and visitors centers.  Do you go on family camping trips for yourself or your kids?  With that said, I am looking forward to the day when my boys are physically stronger than me and start to say "Daddy, can you please hurry up!"  At this time, they are not much into hiking.

Bring Inflatable Water Toys If You Are Near Water

I have failed to bring inflatable water toys on just about every trip.  Last year, I broke down and bought some cheap inflatable tubes and the kids loved them.  More than likely, you will end up puncturing a few of them.  But who cares if the kids are enjoying themselves for hours in the water.  I like floating in a tube myself.  Anytime we were near water, my kids had fun.  Come to think about, even without inflatable toys, they enjoyed themselves playing in the water and on the beach building sand castles and forts.

Amazon sells all kinds of inflatable beach toys for cheap that can be shipped to your door and ready to use all summer.


Plastic Bug Catchers Will Keep Your Kids Thrilled For Days On Camping Trips

Every year my wife buys cheap plastic bug catchers at the local dollar stores.   If you want to be really innovative, have the kids make their own.  I found some instructions on how to make a kids bug catcher online.  My 11 year old explained how easily that he can make it himself.  The bug catchers are always a thrill.  My kids catch bugs, lizards, butterflies, and ants.  My wife has a general rule that the kids are not allowed to bring their bugs into the tent at night.  She politely explains that the bugs need to be let out at night so they can go home.  I can almost guarantee that your kids are going to have so much fun with a bug catcher.  We are going on our 8th year of camping as a family and we are already talking about making our bug catchers!

It's no so much the campgrounds that your children are going to remember.  They are going to remember the experience that you let them create.  Hone in on their interests rather than what you think they will like.  Offer them a few choices and then sit back and watch them entertain themselves.

Another fun ideas that I stole from the Junior Ranger program is camping scavenger hunt for kids.  Make a list of common things that kids can find in the park such a leaf from a tree, a rock near the stream, a feather from a bird, etc.  You can give each child a piece of paper and a pencil and have them draw each item if there are park rules about collecting things of nature.


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