Family Camping Activities

S'mores ingredients next to a campfire

Jessica Ruscello / Unsplash

One of the best things a family can do is plan a camping trip. For starters, enjoying the outdoors away from home is a great way to get in touch with nature and experience state parks and campgrounds. Whether it's to the mountains, lake, or campground, enjoying the scenery with your whole family can be very memorable.

Camping Activities with the Family

The trick to a good camping trip experience is to plan ahead. This means selecting the right site, making appropriate reservations, ensuring food is well-stocked, and implementing simple activities.

With planned family activities, a camping trip can be especially fun. There's morning, afternoon, and nighttime camping activities, so something for everyone. Consider board games, group sports, and hiking to get started. Whether you want to simply make s'mores or gaze at the stars, making your adventure with your family special is the ultimate goal. Use these tips to create a list of for fun things for family camping.

Play Games

Playing games together on a camp outing is a popular choice for many families. Choose favorite board games, like Apples to Apples and Balderdash, that pack easily, don't require a lot of set up, and are great for gathering around the picnic table. Card games like UNO are another good choice because they are small and can fit into a backpack or camping bin.

Get Active

If you want your family to get out in the meadow and have a more active experience, playing some camping games will get everyone moving. Kids tend to enjoy flag football, ultimate frisbee, and capture the flag. For younger children, try a simple round of Duck Duck Goose around the campfire. Focus on activities that require little to no gear or equipment.

Go Hiking

A good hike is great for everyone. Whether you're working on a hiking merit badge for Boy Scouts or want to enjoy a great view, this activity is a versatile camping staple. Consider taking the family on a three day, two-night camping and hiking excursion for a longer hike. A hike in the mountains can be invigorating and it tends to tire out kids. A variation on the hiking theme is a nature scavenger hunt. Children love a scavenger hunt, and using nature items and digital cameras as things to find can be fun.

Tip from Keath Low, ADD/ADHD Expert

Make a list of different items to search for on your scavenger hunt. Your child will enjoy helping you create the list. Some ideas may include looking for a spider web (with bonus points if a spider is on it), four different colored leaves, five different kinds of trees, litter (be sure to pick up any litter and talk with your child about the importance of keeping our environment healthy), a rock, a bird in a tree, a bird flying in the air, berries on a tree or on the ground, etc. Your child can use a pencil to cross off items as he or she finds them.

Try Orienteering

A small map and compass trek can be an engaging family activity. If you remember maps and compass skills from scouting days, you can make an easy compass course and see how well the kids can follow directions. The US Orienteering Site offers several easy tips and good ideas for creating an orienteering course.

Enjoy Geocaching

Geocaching is an adventure game that uses a smartphone app. People from around the world create caches (or hiding places) and then place cache coordinates on the internet. Other app users visit the caches and sign a guest book or they take an item and leave an item. Before your trip, look for caches online near the area where you will be camping to see if there is a cache nearby. Then, use your smartphone app and head off to explore.

Tell Stories

Many parents have a great time telling stories on camping trips, particularly after the sun goes down and a fire is blazing in the campfire ring. Ghost stories are popular and a good mystery is always in order. You can also try a chain story where one person starts the story, makes up a plot and a few paragraphs, and then passes the story on to the next person. He or she continues to pass around the story until someone decides to end it and start another.

Cook Together

Making cooking an experience for the whole family helps share the burden while camping. Try cooking on a campout with a Dutch oven and prepare a delicious recipe. When everyone is involved in cooking, the meal is just that much tastier.

Build a Campfire

Working together to build a roaring and safe campfire is exhilarating. Make sure you have dry fuel and keep your fires in designated locations in the campground. It's also important to watch the kids around the fire anytime it is burning.

Perform Skits

A little bit of humor, some corny acting, and clever repartee can build some great memories. The ​Ultimate Camp Resource has dozens of skit ideas that would be perfect for a family camping experience.​ This is fun for a bigger group and can keep the kids busy while they rehearse their skits.