15+ camping games to entertain kids outdoors
When the temperate weather begins to set in, the urge to dust off the cobwebs from the family tent and spend some time outdoors arises. The jokes around the fire, the chance to live on the bare minimum (because you forgot to pack everything you need) and just time to disconnect from home life, it’s all so relaxing and wonderful . Camping offers the perfect opportunity to bond with family and friends. Of course, not everyone loves camping so much that they ask for camping supplies as gifts. Children, in particular, often struggle to enjoy themselves in nature, away from electronics, friends and air conditioning. To convince them how fun this favorite pastime is (and keep them from asking for the millionth time why there’s no Wi-Fi), you may need to host some camping games.
You may also have a negative partner in your household who claims you could create a relatively compelling camping experience in your backyard. And, of course… technically, you could. But, come on, it’s a lot more fun to get away from it all – and even when camping is dire, it tends to create the kind of memories that last a lifetime. The tent collapsing on you in the middle of the night during the monsoon may not seem funny now. Years later, however, this could be the hilarious story your now adult child is telling. their child on the way back to this sacred camping spot.
Before you can get to that point, you have to get them there and entertain them enough to hook them. These camping games should help even the least outdoorsy person you know have a little fun.
1. Cup Balance
The name is simple. You start by sitting on the floor and putting a cup on your head or forehead. The first person to stand in a standing position with the cup still on their head wins. Simple enough, right? And it’s not exactly “camping related”. Still, it’s an easy and entertaining game for your kids while adults struggle to pitch the tent.
2. Camping Bingo
This one requires a bit more preparation than some games, as you’ll want to print out the bingo cards before you leave the house. Give everyone a card full of things they might find on your camping trip and ask them to cross them off as they see them. This game can play out throughout your camping adventure, where everyone slips a map into their back pocket (just occasionally remind them to be on the lookout when hiking or boating ). Or you can make it a special activity by giving each person a card and sending them to find things in a particular game time. Whichever way you choose to play, it’s a simple and enjoyable game for all ages.
3. Flashlight Tag
Do you have flashlights? Do you have a relatively safe campsite? Send your kids for a run (within limits, of course) and use your flashlight to tag “that”.
4. I spy
I Spy while camping is just as useful as I Spy while driving. If you’re on a long hike and your kids are starting to reminisce about shows they might watch at home, throw in this classic game. Just try to avoid blurting out “I noticed something loud and obnoxious.” It doesn’t matter how much you want to overshadow your fourteen-year-old who, of course, is loud and obnoxious.
5. Velcro darts
You will have to buy it in advance or take the one you already have sitting in the garage. But just like the cup balancing game, it’s something your kids can do that requires minimal setup. Hang one of these inexpensive Velcro dartboards from the side of your tent or a low tree branch, and they’ll keep busy for at least a good 10 minutes.
6. Glow Ring Toss
You’re a parent, so you probably already know this, but everything’s more fun if it shines or lights up. This game only requires a few items that you probably already have in your tote bin: a plastic party cup, an extra-large glowstick, and a bunch of glowstick necklaces.
To get the game started, poke a hole in the bottom of your party cup. Break your extra-large glow stick so it glows, then place it in the hole at the bottom of your plastic cup. You may need to use tape to secure the cup to your play surface. It should look a bit like a broom, where the party cup is the base and the extra-large glow stick is the handle. Then give the kids the glow-in-the-dark necklaces and see who gets the most out of your newly created target!
7. Tug of War
Do you have a rope? Do you have energy to spend? Tug of war is the answer. Go boys vs. girls, parents vs. kids, or even younger siblings vs. an older sibling. Whichever variant you choose, your children will undoubtedly find themselves in for a heap of giggles.
8. Painted Rock Tic-Tac-Toe
This tic-tac-toe option is fantastic because it is in two parts. On your first day of camping, you can have your kids collect and paint rocks. The next day (or even later that first day), they can use those same stones to play a classic game of tic-tac-toe. It’s the perfect tenting activity during pop-up storms and a way to relax while having fun during your campsite’s designated quiet hours.
9. Rainbow Camping Scavenger Hunt
It’s so easy. If your children know the concept ROY G. BIV (the colors of the rainbow), they can do it independently. Just send them exploring to your pre-determined safe zone and have them try to collect something to represent each color of the rainbow. You can even make it more difficult by designating round 1 for natural objects and round 2 for picking up litter.
10. Teamwork Water Tower
That storage bin you used to pack all your camping bric-a-brac? It’s time to give it a new use. Fill it with water from the lake (or whatever water you have on hand) and have a family member put it on the feet of all the other family members as they lay on back, feet (socks) in the air. As your family works together to hold the water tray with your feet, each person takes turns trying to remove a sock. Will your bin overturn? Can you keep it upright? The game is over once everyone removes both socks… or you drop the water!
Just about everyone has a cornhole set now, and if you don’t, you probably have friends who do. Also, many campgrounds have them in their recreation area. However, it never hurts to invest in your own set of bags. And you can even ask a local artisan to use fabric to represent your family’s shared interests. This game is fun for kids and easy enough for even the most drunk adults (if you decide to leave the kids at home or with the grown-ups).
12. Square Game
Sometimes thunderstorms come out of nowhere and you find yourself stuck in the tent or car or hiding under another shelter with limited space to play. As long as you have a notepad and a pen, there’s always fun to be had. To play the Square Game family style, you’ll start by drawing a grid of dots on a sheet of paper – 12-15 rows of 12-15 dots each. Space the stitches about half an inch apart. In turn, each player draws a line between any point and any adjacent point either vertically or horizontally.
The goal? Form a square by joining four points. Each time a player draws a line that completes a square, they can write their initials inside and start over. After all possible lines have been drawn, the person with the most initial squares wins.
13. Water Bottle Bowling
All you really need for this are half-full bottles of water and a relatively heavy ball (think: a kickball or that rogue bocce ball that belonged to the set you lost a long time ago ). Add glow sticks to water bottles and wrap tape around your ball to play it at night.
14. The naturalist’s tic-tac-toe
Do you have sticks, flowers and pebbles? Sure you do; you camp. Send your children to collect enough of these natural game materials to create a board (the sticks) and the tokens of two opposing players (the flowers and the rocks). This will keep the kids busy for a hot minute so you can set up the fire or hose down and secure the inner tubes for the next day.
15. Silent Disco
While camping is supposed to be a time to disconnect, it’s also a great time to relax, be a little wild, and enjoy a level of darkness you probably won’t find back home. Load up your kids with glow sticks and glow jewelry (and maybe even some glow paint), give them headphones, AirPods, or wireless headphones, and let them dance to their heart’s content. You can let them listen to the same songs (which you control with your phone), or leave them to their electronic devices and each choose their own songs. The latter is actually much more fun to watch.
16. Garden Tornado
Bring some nature-safe spray paint and use your paper plates to create a grassy Twister board. Then watch your kids fall over themselves playing a game you loved just as much when you were younger (and more flexible).