Planning some fun camping activities for tweens in advance of your trip can make life a whole lot easier. Sleeping outdoors in a tent or camper van may seem a little daunting but with some careful planning, you can make happy memories on your family camping trip.
Kids love to be outside and camping is a part of growing up. It’s almost a rite of passage and is sure to be something that they remember in years to come. If you are unsure, a fun idea is to pitch a tent in your backyard or garden, grab the sleeping bags, and have a practice night or two. It’s also a great way to try out all of your camping equipment in a familiar environment.
Make the journey to camp fun. perhaps try a game such as ‘road trip bingo’ or play a narrated story such as Harry Potter. If you sign up for Audible, you can get a 30-day free trial and cancel at the end of the 30 days so that you can listen to Harry Potter on your trip totally free of charge!
How Do I keep my Kids busy whilst setting up camp?
Pack a tub full of toys that they can play with whilst you are setting up the tent and equipment.
- Squirt guns/water guns (but set the rules in advance!)
- Balls – football, tennis, etc
- Beanbags for games
- Bubbles – you can get bubble kits that make HUGE, impressive bubbles
- Chalk – get them playing hopscotch!
- Coloring books and pens
- Magnifying glasses
- Bug Catcher kit – we like this one as it doesn’t look ‘babyish’
It’s worth taking an extra tent to use as a play area if you are able and put this up first. This way, your kids can play card games, write or read and you don’t have to clear up at the end of the day so that you can sleep! It also creates shade and shelter if you need to get the kids out of the sun or rain (hopefully not!) for a while.
What can kids do on a camping trip to help?
Its great to have an idea of things that the kids can do to help around camp. Your tween is gaining more independence as they get older so make them part of the team! Give them small jobs to do to involve them with the day-to-day camp routine and hopefully the jobs will all get done quicker!
1) Hunt for firewood
If you set boundaries as to how far they go or one adult goes with them, older kids can hunt for firewood. With strict adult supervision, they can even do a bit of chopping and stacking the wood ready for a campfire later.
With the aid of a long-handled for, kids can cook hot dogs over a fire or toast a large marshmallow on the end of a pointy stick. Campfire damper bread is popular in Australia so why not give it a try. You can find full instructions here.
3) Fetching Water
Get them to fetch some of the water. Be sure to use small containers as water is heavy! Filling up eveyone’s water bottles is a good start.
daytime Fun Activities for your camping tweens to try
There are lots of fun games and activity ideas to try in camp for your tween. No matter what they normally enjoy, there is sure to be an idea here that will suit them. 12 daylight hours (or more!) is a lot of time to fill so it’s a great idea for parents to have a list of planned camping activities for tweens that they can refer to when their kids say they are bored!
Try to pick fun things aimed at the whole family to ensure everyone has a great time not matter what their age and no-one gets left out.
1) Beanbag Games
‘Down Down’ is easier played with a beanbag although you can play with a ball if you wish.
Two people stand a distance apart and take in turns throwing a beanbag at each other. If they hit the other person with the beanbag they stay as they are. If the beanbag misses the person they are aiming at then the thrower has to get down on one knee.
The second miss means they get down on two knees. Next miss, they also get down on one elbow and then two elbows and if they miss from this tricky position they are out.
This can also be played with more people if you arrange the people in a circle and then aim the beanbag at the next person in the circle.
If you have more than 6 people, use two bean bags, each starting at a different person in the circle who are opposite each other.
If it’s a warm day, you could try this game using water ballons instead of bean bags!
2) Camping Treasure hunt
For kids who love board games, a good idea is to try a treasure hunt on your next camping trip. Print out clues at home before your trip and then hide the clues around the camp. Print and hide one set of clues for each kid. Make sure you have pens and a clipboard or table to write on to solve the clues.
We love this camping treasure hunt because the clues are more complex and take more time to solve. Clues including mazes, counting and cryptogram puzzles work better with older kids than simple riddles and they take more time to complete.
3) Bring the bikes
A small shovel can be used to make earth mounds to create an obstacle course and challenges. Get the kids to help create a ‘course’ and then time each one to see who can complete the course in the fastest time! Make it fair for kids of all ages by adding 10 seconds for each year of age onto the time that each kid takes.
If you are camping in state parks or national parks, check with the park ranger whether you are allowed to create the earth mounds. If not, you could use other ideas such as having a slow race or using items of clothing to slalom around.
4) Learn about Geology
Go rock hunting and see what you can find! See if you can spot crystals in the rocks or small embedded shells. You might even find a fossil. Try to identify the type of rocks that you find.
If you can find some nice smooth pebbles, you can paint the rocks using acrylic pens. If you want them to be waterproof, then you will need to seal them after they have been painted and dried. The easiest way to do this is with a spray on sealer. This will also give the rocks a nice gloss finish. Your kids just made a camping keepsake!
5) Set up a slackline
Wrap an old towel around the trees first to protect them before you add your slackline. Put the line around two trees and tension it with the ratchet. Be prepared to adjust your slackline after it has had a little use as the tension tends to ease off and the line will need to be tightened up a little.
6) Capture the flag
Capture the flag is a fun game if you have a large group of people. Define two home bases that are some distance apart and divide your group into two teams. Assign each team a home base. Each team has a flag (or colorful item of clothing to be the flag) that they place in their home base.
The objective is for each team to steal the flag from the other team and bring it to their own home base. Players can ‘tag’ members of the opposing team if they can capture them and then hold them prisoner in their home base. Another version would be to have tagged players sit out of the game for 2 minutes. They could also be freed if a other team members touch them to free them.
7) make a map
Go on a walk then draw a map of where you went, remembering to draw on any landmarks. Use a compass, if you have one, to mark North, South, East and West. Give your camp site a name and mark it on the map. Use binoculars to see what is around you and add those details too!
8) Nature Bingo
Camping is the perfect time to enjoy a nature scavenger hunt or nature bingo game, particularly if you have a large group of kids. Even younger kids can take part in this simple game although it is advisable to set boundaries so that they don’t stray too far.
Print off a bingo card for each player. Give them 20 minutes to tick off each item on their bingo card that they can find. The person with the most items found after 20 minutes is the winner!
You can get our free printable nature bingo cards here!
campfire & nighttime activities for tweens
1) 20 questions
This classic game is one of the best ways to get everyone talking. Everyone sits around the campfire and the youngest person is chosen to start. They think of an object. Working your way around the group circle, the next player asks a question to try to deduce what the object is. The questions can only be answered ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.
When the object is guessed, then the next person around the circle starts by thinking of a new object.
2) Glow in the dark
Use glow in the dark face and body paint to draw on arms, legs and faces and enjoy the effect as the skies darken around you. Pick one that dries quickly and easily washes off with water.
3) Tell Stories
Tell a fortunate/unfortunate story. This game requires each person to put a different spin on what the person before them said to build a story as the narrative goes on. For example, the first person might say ‘Fortunately, I won a new bicycle in a contest’. The next one says ‘Unfortunately, when it was delivered, the front wheel was bent’. Enjoy the silly story as it takes on a life of its own around the campfire.
Older kids will enjoy ghost stories so long as they are not too frightening so bring a couple along with you. Get someone to read one out in a theatrical way and pause to look around you, into the darkness, for added atmosphere.
4) Flashlight Tag
Away from the campfire and within defined boundaries, everyone, apart from the finder, must hide.
The finder has a powerful flashlight. They close their eyes and count to 30 while everyone hides. They must then use the flashlight to find people and tag them with the beam of light.
When everyone is found, the last person to be found becomes the next finder.
5) Banana Bonanza
Using one banana per person, do not peel the bananas. Instead, slit them lengthways without piercing the skin at the bottom of the banana.
Fill the slit with cubes of chocolate. 4-5 cubes per banana are great depending on the size of the banana. Get the kids to do this!
Wrap each banana in tin foil and place it in the warm embers of the fire for 20 minutes.
Open up the foil and scoop out the cooked banana and melted chocolate with a spoon.
Lots of campfire memories can be made by just being spontaneous. Singing family songs together or storytelling is a great way to make family memories
Before you leave camp, make a list of all the fun camping games you have enjoyed. This is a good way to decide what to do on your next camping trip and you can add to your list of things as you get more ideas.
Looking for other Summer ideas – check out our full activity list here
Struggling to get your kids to sleep with the light evenings – read this
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