While camping with your kids can make some of the best memories, it can also try your patience. Kids can certainly be a handful, and while camping can be extremely fun, there can also be times of boredom fort the kids.
The easy fix for this is to get them active and entertained. When you burn off some of their energy and give them your time you have a recipe for well-behaved kids who end up loving camping. We’ve compiled the best games to play while camping with kids to help make your next camping trip fun and enjoyable for everyone.
Camp Chore Games
When you first get to your campsite there are a lot of jobs that need to be done. If you can make a game out of these chores you can get the kids involved and hopefully get the work done quicker, plus, you may even get them to have fun while doing it!
And even if things take a little longer it can give the kids a sense of responsibility and ownership by having jobs that are theirs.
Split the family into even teams and set a timer for 5 minutes. Have a race to see which team unloads the most gear in the time limit. You can have a rule that things have to be placed together so that complementary items are together such as all cooking gear needs to be on the picnic table and sleep gear needs to be with the tent.
The winner of the game gets to choose who gets what job in setting up camp. They need to be fair in giving out the jobs as you want them to take roughly the same amount of time. Have one group set up the tent and sleeping gear while the other team is in charge of the cooking set up including the bug shelter.
We all have things that are more enjoyable so this gives you the chance to pick what you like to do or what you are good at. After a long drive, this game sets the tone for the trip and gets the body moving.
Once the winner of the first game has divided up the jobs then it is time for part two. With a timer set, the teams will race to get their chores done the fastest. You may have the prize be that the losing team has to do the dishes. If you have a complicated tent rather than an instant tent, then it makes sense to have the punishment for losing be tent setup.
If your kids are old enough it can be fun to add in a little (healthy) trash talk. Kids can sometimes love the banter and get competitive.
If you are camping in an area that allows you to collect wood from the forest then the Fire Wood Challenge is a great way to make this chore a lot more fun.
In teams you can head out and the team that comes back with the most firewood in 20 minutes wins. You take it a step further with your wood needing to be sorted into the three main sizes of pencil size or smaller to get the fire started, up to thumb sized kindling and larger fuel wood.
Since fire starting is one of the highlights of a camping trip, the team that collected the most wood is the one that gets to start the fire. On our trips this honor is much coveted and give an opportunity to teach the kids how to safely and effectively start a fire.
When the weather is good and the daylight is shining it is time to be outside and active. The whole point of camping is to enjoy the outdoors so these games incorporate nature skills.
This is the art of navigating with a map and compass. By getting a map of the area you can create a navigation course that the kids have to make their way around. With points marked on the map they have to find their way to those points and find the clues you have placed there. You can set it up so they have to find all the clues to figure out a puzzle with a fun prize if they figure it out.
The courses can be as big as you like with as many points to find as their interest level will sustain.
Kids tend to complain when they are tired and bored so on hikes you can make a game of it with a game of spotting wildlife. Buy an identification book for the local plant and animal species. Using the images in the book reward points for every plant or animal they are able to spot. Bring a little notebook so they can log what they see. Hiking binoculars can make this activity more engaging as well.
This gets them much more attuned to the environment they are in and engaged in the activity. You may find they get excited and often want to keep going long after they are tired and ready for a rest.
Using either a GPS or your smart phone you can go on a world-wide scavenger hunt. Geocaches are little treasures that people have hidden that you have to find by navigating to that point with GPS. The actual cache is often a waterproof container or other object that is hidden from view. Even when you are at the point indicated you will have to search as the containers are hidden under logs or in a crack in a rock. Once you find a Geo Cache you log it and build up points like a video game.
Before going on your camping trip go to Geocaching.com to download the caches in the area you are going into. These can then be loaded into a hand-held GPS or just use your phone.
Tag & Hide and Seek
Sometimes simple is better. These classic kids games can be a lot of fun to play as a family.
Tag is great exercise and a lot of fun while Hide and Seek requires quick thinking on the part of the seeker and hider. Many people have spent a lot of time playing both of these and they make us adults feel like we are kids again. Plus it is fun to show the kids that while we may be older, we are still pretty fast.
Outdoor Sport Games
Some of the best games involve a super simple setup, easy to use kits, and are amazing for tons of different age groups. While there are dozens, here are some of the most common games that many will love:
A classic ball toss game that involves very little setup, and a small bocce ball kit that can be played with two teams.
A bag toss game that is simple, and can be played with 2 or 4 players.
A frisbee game with a point system that is played with two teams of two.
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A ball and net based game that requires minimal setup, a light kit, but does require some skill. This is recommended for families with slightly older kids that like a challenging and super competitive 4 person game.
Sometimes the weather or bugs mean that outdoor games are less than fun. In that case, it’s nice to have a tent with a screen room to stay out of the elements but still get to have some fun. When you are camping with kids you need to plan for much more space than you would when you are just with adults.
When you are stuck in your tent due to a rainy day the following games can be the difference between a fun, bonding experience and wanting to toss your offspring in the lake. We love our kids but when they are cooped up they can get bored and drive you crazy.
We love board games as they get everyone involved and eat up a whole evening or rainy afternoon. They are fun and relaxing at the same time which often leads to a good night sleep.
You can run either a full sized set or the compact Monopoly card game. Depending on the amount of room you have, you might bring either. For many families, Monopoly is a game that is good for hours of fun with our own special perks thrown in.
You may have a rule that when anyone has to go to jail they have to do pushups and when you get a big payout for any of your properties you have to get up and dance (you can replace this with any type of challenge). These little bits of movement are fun but also get a bit of exercise in when stuck in the tent.
You can find a travel kit of board games that packs small and has a number of games including Snakes and Ladders, Checkers, Cribbage, Backgammon, and Chess. The variety is great to help the kids from getting bored. You can play the games with them or if you have more than one child, use it as a babysitter when you need a break.
For the budding detectives in the family the game of Clue can be a lot of fun. This classic game is great for anyone 8 and older. It requires attention to detail and reasoning skills so keeps everyone engaged. The average game takes about 45 minutes, making it perfect for finishing off the day after dinner and before a campfire.
We use the card game version of Clue Go as it takes up less space. Bring some pencils and paper for people to keep track of the clues. Post it Notes are great for this as they are easy to write on even without something solid to write on.
Card games are travel staples as they take up very little room and can accommodate varying numbers of players very easily.
Kids love Uno. This card game doesn’t take up much room and it can easily fill a whole evening. We find we get tired of it long before the kids do.
Go Fish and Crazy 8s
With a regular pack of cards you can spend a ton of time playing either of these two games. They are simple to learn and since they are games of chance the kids stand a fair chance of winning which keeps them engaged.
Camping with your kids can be both rewarding and frustrating. With a few additional camping game ideas, you can reduce the number of frustrating situations, and keep a camping trip full of incredible and memorable experiences. Having a collection of the best games you can play with kids while camping gets them involved and burns a lot of energy. They will have more fun and tired kids are easier to manage.
Make your camping trips with your family something that they remember rather than a traumatic event that no one wants to repeat.
Max DesMarais is the founder of hikingandfishing.com. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor adventure, travel, and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. Max grew up hiking all around New Hampshire and New England. He became obsessed with the New Hampshire mountains, and the NH 48, where he guided hikes and trail runs in the White Mountains. Since moving out west, Max has continued his frequent adventures in the mountains, always testing gear, learning skills, gaining experience, and building his endurance for outdoor sports. You can read more about his experience here: hikingandfishing/about