Camping with Your Kids: Tips to Make It Fun for All

Headed to a campground with your clan this season? Pulling kids away from the TV or computer to explore the great outdoors can only be a good thing. (Think physical activity, fresh air and family togetherness.) But once you’re out in the wilderness, just how do you keep your kids entertained?

KOA Kampgrounds estimates that more than half of the visitors to North American campgrounds last year brought along children under age 18. That amounts to more than 50 million overnight stays at campgrounds with kids.

While many campgrounds offer activities and programs for children, KOA offers the following strategies to help families get the most out of a camping vacation:

• Plan family time too. Identify focal points for family time during the day and at night around the campfire. Focal points could include fishing as a group, taking a nature walk, bicycling, trail riding, making crafts or experimenting with new recipes at the campfire.

Don’t forget the simple pleasures. When sharing outdoor activities with the family, simple experiences, such as toasting marshmallows over a campfire, are often the most memorable.

Put kids in charge of commemorating the family’s experience. Ask your children to record the trip in a medium of their own choosing. Start a journal or scrapbook. Bring a still or video camera that children can use.


10 Favorite Family Camping Activities


Experts from KOA Kampgrounds advise parents to “focus on the senses” when planning Parenthood Camp Guide: A guide to summer, wilderness & speciality programs for boys and girls in the U.S. camping activities for kids to give them a break from their everyday routines and the more passive activities they’re involved in, such as watching TV.

"Children crave new experiences and always want to see, hear, smell, taste and touch,” according to KOA experts. Try these time-tested activities when camping with your kids:

1. Play flashlight games. Bring your favorite board or card game and play a flashlight version outdoors, in a cabin or tent. Bring prizes.

2. Host a shadow puppet contest. Transform everyday objects and camping supplies, such as cooking utensils or branches, into animated stories illuminated by flashlight on cabin or tent walls.

3. Make nature bracelets. Attach a circle of masking tape around children’s wrists, sticky side out. Add colorful leaves, seeds and shells found on nature walks.

4. Get some exercise. Rent or bring a bicycle; consider a trail ride or nature walk. Take a hayride or play miniature golf as a group. Join other families for a game in the pool.

5. Surpass S’mores. Get creative at the campfire. Ask children to dream up a new combination of favorite foods, like hobo pies made from slices of bread and apple pie filling.

6. Sing a song. Compose a new song about the family’s camping adventures and set it to a familiar tune, like “Oh Susannah.”

7. Learn the directions. For younger children, teach the directions of sunrise, sunset, north and south. Get more complex for older kids, who would enjoy navigating with a compass.

8. Stargaze. Wind down after a fun-filled day by finding a quiet spot away from lights for looking at the stars. Find and name your own constellations.

9. Bring the family pet. Take the family dog for a nature walk instead of the customary turn around the block!

10. Start a family photo contest. After the trip is over, look at photos as a group. Take a vote and award a grand prize for the winning image.

More from Parenthood:

  • Camps & Camping: Planning & Resource Guide for Summer Camp, Day Camp, Family Camps and Camping

  • The Keys to Quick & Easy Getaways

  • Crafty Camping

    Experts from KOA Kampgrounds advise parents to “focus on the senses” when planning Parenthood Camp Guide: A guide to summer, wilderness & speciality programs for boys and girls in the U.S. Advertisment