The Best Ideas for Outdoor Camping with Kids

Getting children outdoors is more important than ever. A study ran by the National Trust found that children spend half as much time playing outside as their parents did when they were younger.      

  • Getting outside helps children to build confidence as they play, whether it be through imaginative play in the back garden, or interacting with other kids in the park.
  • Nature provides different stimulation compared to the technology kids play with today because it activates their senses. You can hear, see, smell and touch so many different things in nature, things that kids can never experience through a screen.
  • Children get more exercise because they are moving about and running rather than sitting inside on the sofa. Exercise and fresh air can really improve your child’s mind and mood, it encourages them to focus and use their initiative.
  • It reduces stress and tiredness – technology, screens and school work can really tire children out, and cause them to feel stressed. Getting them outside, or on a camping trip will give them a chance to relax, destress, and find their energy again.

Outdoor Camping ideas to keep your kids busy

Dig a hole

A child pushing a yellow dump truck into a puddle.

Simple yet effective! Children love digging and playing with mud, especially the younger ones. Bring some buckets, spades and shovels and watch them dig away. You could even bring some toy trucks for them to load mud, leaves and stones into for a bit of imaginary play.

Water bucket

Bring a bucket to fill up with water and use as a water station. This is a great one for those hot summer days when the kids need cooling off and you don’t have a pool or lake nearby. Fill it with some of their favourite (waterproof) toys and watch them play in it for hours.

Inflatable pool

Bring along a small inflatable pool to cool the kids down too. They will love splashing about, especially when it’s hot.

Chalk

Children drawing insects with colourful chalk

Chalk is such an easy activity to give the children because it draws on pretty much anything. Give them all a piece of chalk and ask them to decorate the camp site by drawing on the rocks and trees etc… (You might want to make it clear what they can and can’t draw on).

Collect kindling

A fun way to keep your little ones busy is get them to collect Kindling (small sticks) for the fire. It saves you finding the kindling and it gives you a chance to sort things around the camp.

Nature walks

Children playing outdoors on a nature walk.

Nature walks are perfect for camping because everyone can join in! Create a list of items for the children to find for example, a large leaf, a stick shaped like an L, a smooth rock, a hole in a tree, a bird, or a squirrel (see what is available in your location and choose the items that way). Bring some magnifying glasses and binoculars along with you so the children can look at bugs up close and birds in the trees.

Bug hunt

Bug hunts are great fun and children can learn a lot from them too. You can either do the bug hunt on its own, or include it in your nature walk. Create a list of bugs for the children to find, then collect your bug hunting tools. Remind the children to be gentle with the bugs and always release them back once they’re finished examining them. If you’re still curious about bug hunts, check out our ten reasons why children should do bug hunts post!

Bike ride

Bringing your bikes along on a camping trip is great fun because they make it easy to get around large camp sites, and you can also have a family bike ride. Bike rides are a great activity to do with the family because you’re getting exercise and you can explore the area around your camp site. Have a look for some trails you can follow, and see what you can discover.

Create leaf art

Drawing colourful art designs on leaves.

Take some glue or tape with you and get the kids to collect some leaves and anything else they can find that can be stuck to paper. Set the kids a task to create a piece of art made completely out of leaves, or you could draw a tree trunk and ask them to make the crown of tree.

Games

Campfire relay – Divide the children into two teams. Set up two sets of supplies needed to build a campfire (paper, wood, rocks) and on the word “go,” have players race to gather supplies and build their own campfires (without the fire!). The first team to complete the building of a campfire wins!

Sleeping bag race – This game is similar to the classic sack race found in any sports day at school. Set out a start and finish line, then get the kids to race to the finish by jumping in their sleeping bags.

The quiet game – This is a great one for the parents and the rules are simple. The children must stay quiet and if they make a noise they are out of the game. The last child left to make a noise wins! You can even add a rule where they’re not allowed to move for a bit of added fun!

Camping in the garden

Going camping isn’t something everyone can get away and do. The garden offers another place for camping and it’s free and close to home, so if it rains or your little ones have had enough, you can just go inside!

Here are some ideas for how to have fun camping in the garden.

Play tent

Setting up your own DIY tent getting ready for outdoor camping.

If you don’t own a tent already, set up a play tent in the garden – you can find ways to do this here. Put sleeping bags or duvets and pillows in there to make it cosy and you’re ready for camping!

Explore the garden

If you can’t go on a nature walk or bug hunt, have one in your garden. Get the kids to explore by making a list of flowers, bugs, and animals to find. Give them magnifiers and binoculars to help and see what they can find.

Stargazing

This is a great activity for getting the kids settled for sleeping. Lay the duvets out on the grass, lay down and look up at the stars. See if they can spot the big dipper and north star.

DIY lanterns

Using glow sticks inside glass jars to produce a colourful effect at night.
Photo Credit: Glowtopia

A fun activity that will really give you the atmosphere of camping is making your own lanterns. They’re really easy to make, all you need to do is snap some glowsticks and put them into jars, easy!

Camping bingo

Create a bingo board by filling the squares with items that can be found in the garden. Tell the kids to explore and find the items on the board and tape them to the correct square, the first one to get a row wins. To make it more challenging, you could also do it so the first child to get a full house wins!

Banana S ’mores

Cooking up banana s'mores for a tasty treat when camping in the outdoors.
Photo Credit: Fabfood4all

Who doesn’t love a delicious treat? This is a twist on the traditional camping treat, s’mores. Put simply, it’s a banana stuffed with marshmallows and chocolate. Here is a recipe for you to give them a try!

Why not checkout some of our own Learning Resources toys and games that you can use to play in the outdoors?