As every parent knows, keeping a bunch of kids entertained is no easy task.
This is especially true in this era of smartphones, where it seems nothing can hold their attention for more than a brief moment.
That’s where good, old-fashioned camping games come in.
Camping is already great by itself, but when you combine it with some carefully chosen camping games, you won’t just get tons of fun.
You’ll also get an outing the whole family will enjoy, and will have great memories for years to come.
Strategy & Thinking Games
Not in the mood for physical exercise? Then, you can play this classic and still spend hours giving your brain cells a proper workout.
The rules of the game are simple: One person thinks of something. The other people ask them up to 20 yes/no questions until they guess the thing.
If one person figures out the object, they’re next in line to think of an object. If nobody guesses correctly, then the original person continues their role in the next round.
“I spy with my little eye…”
Just with those 6 little words, you can have hours of creative fun. This is a great game to play at the end of the day when you just want to sit still and relax.
The rules are simple: Someone picks an object or thing around them, picks a single word to describe it, then says – “I spy, with my little eye, something [blank].”
Something green, small, tall… It can go in a number of ways. The person who correctly guesses the item gets to be the next spy.
Given its name, you’d think this game should be played before the trip. However, that is not the case.
The rules are pretty straightforward: Each kid begins the sentence with “I’m going on a camping trip, and I’m going to bring…” Then, they say what they’re going to bring.
Now comes the tricky part. The next kid in the line has to bring the item that starts with the last letter of the previous one.
Depending on the said item, it could get pretty challenging – and fun – pretty fast.
In a mood for a laugh?
Then, gather your family and friends and play the timeless game of telephone.
Here’s how it works:
Everybody sits in a circle. One person thinks of a sentence and then whispers it to the next person.
Then, that person does the same and so on until it reaches the last person in the circle. That last person then says the sentence they heard out loud.
It’s usually quite different from the original sentence, often quite humorously so.
You can create and print out your own camping bingo cards, or buy some online.
From there, the game plays like regular bingo. Have the kids mark out the items and practice their problem-solving skills.
When camping, you usually want to start off by exploring the campsite and getting familiar with your surroundings.
Well, what better way to spice up an otherwise mundane task than with a cool little scavenger hunt?
You can find many scavenger hunt lists online or you can create your own.
Then, before going on a hike, give a copy of the list to your kid and have them mark off items as they find them.
Be sure to mention that they shouldn’t take items with them – leaving nature as you found it is extremely important.
Active & Physical Games
Hide & Seek
An oldie but goldie. Everybody has played this game, either with their kids or as kids themselves.
And luckily, campsites offer a lot more space to hide than your house.
On a tree, in the bushes, behind the tent – the possibilities are limitless.
Of course, because the campsites are usually quite large, you have to set up some ground rules.
It’s best if you clearly define a boundary the kids can hide in to avoid any potential accidents.
You can also design an area where the “it” is counting as a safe space, so the kids are bound to come back to it sooner or later.
Sleeping Bag Race
The last few games were relaxing and not physically demanding. This one, however, is anything but.
The premise is simple: Have the kids jump into their sleeping bags (potato bags, pillowcases, or sturdy trash bags work, too).
Then, line them up at the starting line and tell them where the finish line is. After that, you only have to give the signal, and it’s off to the races – literally.
The kids should just hop along their racetrack until one crosses the finish line.
I’d definitely make this one of the major parts of the camping Olympics event I mentioned earlier.
Just make sure your kids shake out their bags after the race, in case they get dirty.
This game is ideal for those hot summer days where you just want to pour some water on your head to cool off.
Line up kids in a straight line and give each kid one empty drinking cup. Then, fill up the cup of the kid in the front of the line.
Now the fun begins. Without looking back, they have to pour the water into the cup of the kid behind him.
The other kid tries to catch as much as they can, then repeat the process.
Depending on their skill, you might have to refill the cup pretty often, but they won’t be complaining!
Capture The Flag
This game is a classic – and for a good reason. To properly play this game, you’ll need two teams and a large area you’ll divide between them.
Obviously, you’ll need flags too, but if you’re short on those you can use whatever object is nearby.
Then have each team hide the flag somewhere in their territory.
The only thing left is to find the enemy’s flag and bring it to your territory before they do the same thing to you.
If you get captured in the enemy territory, you go to jail until a teammate of yours can sneak in and free you from captivity.
Overall, it’s a great game that teaches competitiveness in a friendly way – and will provide quite a cardio workout, too!
Red Light Green Light
Sometimes, you need camping games that just a few kids can play, and in limited space, too. In those circumstances, Red Light Green Light is heaven-sent.
The rules go like this: One child is designed as a traffic light. They stand towards the kids at first, then turn away and say, “Green light!”.
The others kids behind him move quickly towards that person to try to tag them. At any point, the leader can say, “Red light!” and turn around to try to catch the movers.
If anybody is caught moving when they turn around, they are moved back to the starting position.
The game ends when someone taps the traffic light on the shoulder – then they are it for the next round.
“Tag – you’re it!”
Even after so many years, those words bring back memories.
This game is best played in a large space with a bunch of kids participating – making it an ideal camping game.
How to play: One kid is “it”. They have to chase other kids around and “tag” them by quickly touching them.
The person who gets touched is then “it”, and then, they have to “tag” someone else.
There are often rules about “no tag-backs”, meaning you can’t just touch the person who just touched you.
Proving that this game is for all ages, there was recently a movie (based on a true story) about a group of adult friends who play tag each year (Tag).
Ring Toss (& Its Variations)
Now the original game is fun by itself: drive a couple of sticks in the ground and have kids toss rings at them to try and get the stick through the hole.
However, this game shines when you consider all the possible variations of a simple ring toss.
For example, you can make both the rings and the sticks glow in the dark and play the game at night, adding to the challenge.
Or how about a human ring toss? Instead of throwing small rings over an even smaller stick, throw some inflatable pool rings over a person!
Obviously, this is better for the pool, but the possibilities are endless.
Campfire & Night Games
Do your kids like being stealthy?
Then, they’ll love this gem of a game.
Here, a kid sits on the ground blindfolded with a lot of sticks around him. Other children then try to sneak up and take the sticks without being heard.
Of course, if the blindfolded kid hears the noise, he only needs to point out in that direction, and the culprit is out of the game.
If you’re playing in large groups, you can divide kids into teams and team members can alternate their attempts to steal the sticks.
Everybody loves charades, right?
This is an awesome game that doesn’t require any special gear or large space. Just a paper, pen, and two teams eager to compete.
Place a bowl or a hat on the ground. Take your pieces of paper and write down a movie, person, or place. Fill the hat with the cards.
Then, have one person pull out the card and act out the word written there, while the teams try and guess the word.
Trust me, this can lead to some hilarious moments!
There’s one important rule – the actor can’t say the word on the card!
If you’re stumped for ideas, The Joys Of Boys has a printable sheet with lots of suggestions you can use – I highly recommend you check it out.
Okay, so this isn’t really a specific game, but hear me out. Instead of just playing one or two games and calling it a day, why not set up an Olympic event?
If you’re camping with a large group of people, you can divide them into teams and organize activities such as sleeping bag races, scavenger hunts, and others we’ve listed.
Depending on how complicated you want to get, you can create scorecards and detailed point systems… or you can keep it nice and simple. Totally up to you.
Of course, don’t forget a prize!
Knot Tying Challenge
Now, this is a fun little game you can play in several ways.
You could teach kids several kinds of knots and then have a competition to see who can tie the most knots in 60 seconds.
You can also give them several harder knots and have them try to untie them in an allocated time.
Either way, the kids will have a lot of fun and will develop their problem-solving skills.
For a few people who don’t know the rules of this age-old game, here they are:
A person is designated “Simon”. They then say, “Simon says…” and then some action.
For example, “Simon says – jump on one leg!” Everybody in the group would then have to jump around on one leg until the next command.
However, if he gives a command without saying “Simon says…” at the beginning, everybody who followed that order is out of the game.
The last person standing gets to be Simon in the next round – a worthy reward indeed.
Classic Board & Tabletop Games
This is probably my personal favorite. It’s a twist on a famous tic-tac-toe game that is both fun to play and doesn’t waste paper.
The premise is simple: get a bunch of natural materials and recreate the game using sticks, pinecones, pebbles, and whatever else you can get a hold of.
Use the sticks to create the grid, and then decide what will be the O, and what will be the X.
This will save up a lot of paper in the long run, plus it’s super fun to play tic-tac-toe on a giant grid.
Artistic & Nature Interactive Games
Leaf Rubbing Art
For this fun activity, you’ll need paper and crayons or oil pastels. First, start a quick session of gathering leaves of different shapes and sizes.
Then, place the leaves with the bottom side facing up and cover them with paper.
Gently rub the crayon or oil pastel on the area over the leaf. The leaf contour will start showing up, creating a beautiful image.
This game is pretty self-explanatory. Basically, you’re playing bingo but with images related to nature.
Unless you’re proud of your drawing skills, make the bingo boards and calling cards at home.
You can find a bunch of different printables online, or you can make your own with clipart.
Make a bingo board with a unique image order for every kid. Then, cut out each camping image to serve as calling cards.
Place the calling cards into a zip bag and draw one at a time. The first one to get five images in the row needs to yell “Bingo!”
Tip: Laminate each bingo board to make it reusable. That way, kids can use markers to check their matches and erase them for every new round.
Animal Track Identification
Children love to investigate, so identifying animal tracks you encounter in your vicinity is always a fun one to play.
While this activity doesn’t require any equipment, having these few things can make it even more enjoyable:
- Magnifying glass
- Pen & notebook
- Phone or camera
- Tracking guide
The magnifying glass is an essential tool. It will make any kid feel like Sherlock in the wilderness.
And of course, it’s up to them whether to draw encountered animal tracks or take photos of them.
As for the guide, it’s there for learning, of course!
Nature Memory Match
Who doesn’t know how to play a memory match? This time, it’s with nature images.
For this, you only need a piece of paper and a pencil. But of course, you can always go overboard and paint the images in color and even laminate the cards.
This is a great opportunity to teach your children something new.
You can use the images of animals or plants they haven’t encountered yet.
Just make sure to write the names down to help them memorize.
Sound Safari (Guessing Sounds In Nature)
When you’re out in the wilderness, you can hear a bunch of unusual sounds.
From sparrows singing and woodpeckers drumming on tree trunks to frogs croaking and deer throating,
there are plenty of interesting noises to hear around the campsite.
Some are pretty obvious, while others can be a bit difficult to distinguish, so make it a competition.
The one who guesses the most is the winner! This is easier if there is a leader who knows what each sound is to confirm, so this one may require work on your part.
Color Nature Hunt
This is basically a scavenger hunt, but with a color wheel. Basically, print out a color wheel.
You can add more shades of the same colors to make things more challenging and let your children run around trying to find things in nature that match the colors.
Some of the things they could collect for the game are:
Blindfolded Tent Set-Up
Pitching a tent is an important skill for every camper, and your kids are not too young to start learning it.
And being the fast learners that they are, it won’t take more than a few tries to get the hang of it.
Now, this is where the fun starts. Can they do it… blindfolded?
The idea is to divide them into teams and let them compete against each other.
This is a great game to practice their leadership and communication skills, as well as problem solving and time management.
Let’s make one thing clear from the start – marshmallows are not to be eaten until the game is over!
Okay, but how does the game work?
All you need are toothpicks and marshmallows. Basically, marshmallows are corner connectors, while toothpicks work as tower sides.
While it might sound easy, this game requires basic engineering skills.
In order to make a tall and stable structure, there needs to be a sturdy base. The tallest tower standing is the winner.
The “Lost Item” Rescue Mission
This is yet another game that can keep your children occupied for hours.
The idea is to hide an item the kids are supposed to find and give them specific cues to its whereabouts.
The game should work somewhat like an escape room.
One cue leads to another, but they need to find all of them in order to figure out where the lost item is.
To make it even more interesting, set a timer!
Water Relay Challenge
This is one of those games that gets even better with more players, so why not join your kids in this challenge?
Divide the group into two teams. Each of them has one cup and two buckets – one full of water at the starting line and the empty one a distance away.
Grab a stopwatch. On “go” the first player fills the cup with water and runs towards the empty bucket and pours the content into it.
Then, they run towards the second player which does the same. The relay lasts until one of the buckets gets filled.
Who doesn’t like tug of war? It’s a simple but extremely fun game that also gets better with more players.
For this activity, use a rope that’s about one inch in diameter, as it’s suitable for both kids and adults.
As for the length, that depends on the size of the teams.
Remember, it’s not about pulling the rope with your hands. It’s about pushing the ground with your legs while holding onto the rope.
Compass Navigation Challenge
Understanding how to read a compass is an essential camping skill. Why not hit two birds with one stone and make learning fun?
For this game, divide the players into three groups and have them spread out. Each group should choose their starting point and mark it down.
Then, they should create instructions to reach a specific landmark.
In this case, the said landmark can be an odd-looking tree or a rock sticking out from the ground.
Let each team try out the challenge created by the other two teams to see whether they can get the instructions right.
Quiet Time Games
Stargazing & Constellation Identification
A clear night in the wilderness is the perfect occasion for stargazing. The sky is covered with stars and constellations, and identifying them is always fun.
Some of them are rather easy to identify, like the North Star, so they’re a great place to start.
From there, you can easily decipher more prominent constellations around it, especially if you have a sky map or an app at your disposal.
Camping Mad Libs
If you don’t know what Mad Libs is, that’s a word game made from a template with blanks for certain words.
The idea is to intentionally omit specific elements so that the players can add one of their choices.
To make the game suitable for the occasion, make the story about camping. It can go something like, “_____ and _____ went on a camping trip in _______, where they encountered _____.”
You can specify which type of word goes where, but it’s up to the players to find the funniest ones to fill out the story.
Your kids will probably encounter tons of interesting things on your camping trips, from animals and plants to rocks and nature wonders.
Nature journaling is a great way for kids to collect and organize those observations, as well as develop ways of thinking about nature.
The beauty of it lies in the fact that there are no rules. Drawing, writing, painting… any method can do.
Cloud Watching & Imagination Tales
At a glance, clouds may seem like puffy white balls in the sky. But the more you look at them, the more you can notice their unique shapes and even see similarities with actual objects.
Why not make a game out of that?
Challenge them to make a story involving those clouds, which unravels as they’re moving across the sky.
Alternatively, they could draw the clouds as they see them, which will bring out tons of interesting impressions.
Map Drawing Of The Campsite
Nearly every campground has quiet hours, and if your kids are not sleeping by that time, this activity is a good way to keep them entertained without making too much noise.
Basically, the idea is to have them draw a map of the campsite with all the amenities and other details you’ve brought along.
However, that’s not all the fun. Cut out the map into smaller pieces, then let the kids put it together.
Of course, that won’t be a problem for the map’s author, but deciphering other kids’ maps can be quite difficult and even more fun.
Nature Meditation Sessions (For Older Kids)
Spending time outdoors doesn’t have to mean being active 24/7. Sometimes, just relaxing and being present is more than enough to enjoy the moment.
And even though your young ones may seem to have endless energy, they can also relax and engage their senses.
The best way to start is to teach them to take deep, calm breaths while embracing their surroundings.
They can lie down and focus on what they see, hear, and feel. Of course, the game is over when it’s no longer fun.
And if the meditation only lasted a few minutes, that’s also great. Let them take baby steps, and meditation will come to them naturally eventually.
Games For Rainy Days
Indoor Campfire Storytelling
While the rainy day may keep you from camping, that’s not a good enough reason not to enjoy kids’ favorite activity, which is campfire storytelling.
So dim the lights, set up a lantern or flameless candles in the middle of the living room and have everyone gathered around it.
Let the games begin. Identify the main characters and the setting of the story.
Make sure to keep the environment mystical, because who doesn’t enjoy a spooky campfire story?
Shadow Puppet Shows
This is one of those games that seem fairly simple to play when you’re just an observer.
But trying to mimic a specific animal when you’re only working with shadows can be tough… and funny.
For this game, all you need is a flashlight. Point it towards the tent walls then place your hands between the wall and the light, thus creating a shadow.
Using your hands and fingers, try creating illusions of animals on screen.
Who doesn’t like quizzes?
And given that you’re spending time in the wilderness, why not make the quiz revolve around camping?
This is a great way to keep your kids entertained but also test their knowledge about this outdoor activity.
Depending on their age and experience, questions can range from “What is a rain fly?” to “Which wood is best for firewood?”
Of course, you can make the game competitive by offering a price to the winner. As to what the price is… Well, that’s up to you.
Indoor Tent Building
Building a shelter indoors is a fun pastime many kids enjoy. And since you don’t have to worry about weather elements or the terrain, this is a great opportunity to let your kids design their tent.
Gather around some supplies like the rope, fabrics, and wooden rods and watch the magic happen.
An A-frame tent or a teepee is a classic choice but let your children get creative – who knows what may come out of it.
Guess The Nature Sound (Recorded Sounds)
If the weather keeps your kids from hearing nature sounds in the great outdoors, you can still play the guessing game from the comfort of your home.
Nowadays, you can find everything online – including the recorded sounds of pretty much every living animal on the planet.
This is a great game for learning about animal diversity, especially regarding animals that you’re unlikely to see in the wilderness.
Karaoke is fun – for both kids and adults. Even if you don’t have the most pleasant singing voice, it’s guaranteed you’ll feel like a star for the duration of the song.
A friendly tip: sing duets, especially kid-adult pairs. Rest assured you’re signing up for a night of giggles.
Indoor Treasure Hunt
Even though your kids surely know every square inch of their home, an indoor treasure hunt can still be a fun but challenging activity for them.
The key is to offer hints in the form of riddles, while still keeping them easily understandable.
One answered riddle leads to another, and if they answer them all correctly, they’ll find the hidden treasure.
Don’t worry, you don’t need to be a writer to make that stuff up. Just try explaining the object without the keywords. Oh, and make it rhyme. Here’s an example:
This small kitchen appliance
Gets pushed down and then it starts
It’s used for slices of bread
Or for heating up Pop-Tarts.
The answer is – a toaster.
Safety Tips For Camping Games
Setting Boundaries For Play
A fun game can easily turn into a disaster if there are no boundaries set in place. This is especially true when the kids are playing outdoors, surrounded by the wilderness.
To keep things entertaining and safe, you need to establish boundaries.
Sure, playing tag or treasure hunt requires space, but that doesn’t mean they should delve deep into the forest just to hide from the seekers.
In case there’s a campfire burning, that means there’s no running around the area.
Make sure to use physical markets to remind them of the boundaries, like rocks around the firepit.
First and foremost, the playing area should be limited to your campsite.
This is especially important for younger children, who should stay within the eyesight of the tent.
There should always be at least one adult person in charge of supervising the kids playing.
And if someone needs to go potty, ensure they’re accompanied by another adult or an older kid.
Protection Against The Elements
Your kids probably don’t care much about the possibility of getting sunburns or insect bites while out in the wilderness, but you should.
Neither of the two is very pleasant, yet both can easily be avoided with a few products.
While you technically could use an adult sunscreen for your kids, it’s better to buy a product specially designed for their age, as it’s much more gentle on the skin.
You should also keep in mind that sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two hours in order to work.
When it comes to insect repellents, Deet-based products are safe for kids.
However, you should make sure you don’t spray it directly onto their faces.
Instead, spray some on your hands then rub it on while avoiding their mouth and eyes.
Staying Aware Of Wildlife
It’s crucial that the kids stay away from wildlife. No matter how cute or innocent they may seem, wild animals aren’t used to being around people and can be unpredictable.
This is especially true for bears and snakes, the two animals that don’t fret about attacking a human if threatened.
The best way to avoid wildlife approaching your campsite is to keep it clean from food and scraps.
Your kids should also know to avoid feeding the animals. Not only can human food make them aggressive, but it can also get them sick as they’re not used to eating it.
What Are Some Games That Can Be Played In A Small Campsite?
Games like bingo, Simon Says, and charades don’t require a lot of movement, which makes them ideal for smaller campsites.
How Can I Ensure That The Games We Play Are Environmentally Friendly?
Ensure the games you’re playing with your kids aren’t disturbing the natural habitat of animals and plants in your surroundings.
Every camper, including children, should know Leave No Trace principles, including leaving what they find and being considerate of other visitors.
Are There Any Games That Can Help Kids Learn Survival Skills?
Games like scavenging hunts and rescue missions are great for learning survival skills, as they require kids to be more aware of their surroundings and use them to their advantage.
How Can I Modify Traditional Games To Fit A Camping Theme?
Many traditional games can be modified to fit a camping theme, from memory matches and bingo to trivia and charades.
For instance, you can make a word game more suitable for your trip by implementing camping and outdoor terminology into clues and questions.
What Are Some Camping Games Suitable For Very Young Children?
While a rescue mission might be too difficult for little kids, there are many other games you can enjoy together.
A good ol’ hide and seek, for instance, is suitable for campers of all ages.
So, there you have it – the best camping games for kids that are sure to entertain and even educate kids of all ages.
Participating in these games with your kids will not only entertain them, but it’ll also educate them and teach them important life skills.
They truly are a superb addition to your camping experience and will probably be the highlight of your trip.