Monday, May 23, 2011

10 Fun Camping Games for Kids

These simple games are well liked by all kinds of kids, no matter what their different interests or abilities, and you can play them all without any special materials or equipment.

1. Scavenger Hunt

A scavenger hunt is a great way to get kids interested in a nature walk. You can walk along the trail while the kids hunt for things on a list and check them off as they find them. Real nature lovers leave everything just as they find it and take a picture for a keepsake.

Here are a few ideas for your list:

• a rock shaped like a heart
• a feather
• a bird’s nest
• a maple seed whirligig
• a red leaf, a green leaf and a yellow leaf
• moss
• a pinecone
• a slug
• a snail
• a frog
• a fish
• something a raccoon would like to eat
• a flying insect
• a crawling insect
• animal tracks
• scat or manure
• a snake or a worm
• a squirrel
• a flower
• a mushroom
• a tiny pebble no bigger than the fingernail on your pinkie
• something purple
• a deer
• a piece of garbage (to take with you and throw out)

2. The Alphabet Game

This game is a particular favorite with our family. The kids search the campground or trail for things that start with each letter of the alphabet, in order. It’s a fun way to explore and get the kids moving on an overcast or cooler day.  

3. Marking Trails

Kids can put bent sticks in the forks of trees or place brightly colored leaves or rocks at strategic places along the trail. They can also make arrows with stones along the trail pointing the way (at a curve in the trail, for example). Kids figure out all kinds of ways to leave markers, and it’s fun to come back the next day to see if the markers are still there.   

4. Competitions

This is an old parenting trick; using a competition to get the kids to put their socks on or clean up their toys. At the campsite, it’s fun to see who can collect the most kindling for the fire, or who can drag in the longest stick. On the trail kids can compete to see who can find the biggest rock, or who can jump and touch a tree branch, etc.

5. Fairy Houses

Little kids like to make houses to lure in homeless fairies. On a nature walk, collect interesting leaves, rocks, sticks, shells, feathers and other pretty things, and then build a tiny fairy house in the woods or brush near your campsite. A fairy house has to be built someplace secluded because fairies are shy, and it has to be attractive because fairies are very picky, aesthetically.

6. Obstacle Course

Kids love obstacle courses.  Set one up using everything in the campsite plus whatever you brought from home that might be fun.   

A typical course might look like this:

• Crawl over the picnic table
• Hop three times on each foot
• Walk around the fire pit one whole time around
• Walk to the tent only on tree roots
• Sing happy birthday
• Hang off of a tree branch
• Do 10 jumping jacks
• Bring a log to the fire pit
• Tell a knock-knock joke
• Etc.

7. Hide and Seek

Hide and Seek is a different game at the campground than at home. The kids explore all the nooks and crannies of the campsite, find weird places to hide and get to know their surroundings.

Here’s how to play, in case you don't know:

• The person who is “It” covers her eyes and counts to 10 (or whatever number you decide on). 

• After she is finished counting she yells, “Ready or not, here I come!” and runs around and finds everybody in their hiding places.

• The last one to be found is “It” the next time (or the winner, depending on how you look at it).

8. Duck, Duck, Goose!

Another classic game that makes kids laugh and scream.

Here’s how to play, in case you don't know:

• The kids all sit in a circle. The kid who is “It” walks around the outside of the circle patting each kid on the head and saying “duck” for each one.

• When the kid who is “It” gets to the kid he wants to chase him, he yells, “goose!” and runs around the circle, with the “goose” chasing him.  If the “goose” catches him, the “goose” gets to sit back down. But if he doesn’t catch the first kid, the second kid is now “It” and starts around the circle again, patting heads and saying “duck, duck, duck…”

9. Bug House

Make an insect terrarium with a big piece of Tupperware or a large, glass jar.  I prefer the Tupperware, because it’s easier to see everything, but bugs escape less from the jar.

Here’s how we do it:

• Use a large container, like a big piece of Tupperware or a large, glass jar.
• Put some dirt in the bottom.
• Dig up some worms and put them in the dirt.  
• Go on a bug hunt. Step off the trail and turn over the layer of dead leaves to the soft, half-rotted layer underneath. Sift around and you will find tons of bugs.  
• Make the Bug House homey. Add some sticks, leaves, grass and couple of stones for crawling under.
• Give the bugs some food, like a little piece of fruit, and a dish of water.
• Keep the Bug House in the shade and keep the dirt moist.
• Take care of the bugs and set them free at the end of your camping trip.

10. Build a Fort

Build a special, kids-only hideout at the campsite. Here's how:

Pick a spot.
• Find an existing support you can build your fort against.  This might be a tree, a bush, a fence or a big rock.

Gather materials from the woods and campground.
• long sticks and logs
• lots of dead branches of all sizes
• old lumber

Gather materials brought from home.
• a tarp or two
• sleeping bags or blankets
• rope or string (or jumprope)

Build the fort.
• You can use a tarp as the floor, but if you don’t, sweep out and clear a nice floor for your fort.   
• Take your biggest pieces of wood and figure out how to make a frame for your fort, along with a supporting structure, like a tree or fence, or even without it.
• Tie the pieces together with rope or string.
• Fit and tie lots of thinner branches in for the walls. 
• Make sure to plan in some windows and a door.
• Make a roof out of branches, or use a tarp as the roof.
• Hold secret meetings in the fort.  This is also a good place to keep a Bug House.

Variation:  Or just build a quick tent - run a rope between two trees and sling a tarp over it. Weigh down the edges of the tarp with rocks. Done.

Have fun!

You may also like: 
 Homemade Fire Starters Put to the Test!


  1. i want to build a fairy house right away. Where are all of the homeless fairies near our pond sleeping?!?!

    I guess damning up a stream isn't really proper anymore, huh?

  2. There are many homeless fairies down by my pond. I must hurry home from work and build a fairy home, rain or no rain.

    Damming up streams probably isn't encouraged?

  3. i think a small dam is acceptable. hey, when we were in maine there's this island that has about a hundred fairy houses in the center, wooded part. kids (and adults i guess, too) go there and build them. magical.

  4. I just played all those games in the backyard with my cat. I won the alphabet one, she won all the rest.

  5. What an awesome list.

    - Kerry

  6. Thanks, Kerry. These simple games are really the most fun and the kids know more of them than I do, I just need to pay attention and write them down.

  7. Thanks for the info! It's really helping us what to do with the kids when camping.:) useful list!

  8. Thanks for the list! I use it for my cub scouts :)

  9. Corn Hole and Hillbilly Golf are also fun!!

  10. We used to make those fairy houses at girl guide camp. At the end of camp the "fairies" would leave us candy to show their appreciation for building them a house.

  11. I just printed this list for our camping trip over Labor Day weekend- sounds like a lot of fun!!