Camping out with the kids
Family camping ideas, tips and tricks and information to help make your camping trips easier to manage and more fun for all the family
Camping with the family can be lots of fun, especially here in Queensland with so many and varied places to go.
Where do you most like to go camping?
By the beach, in the bush, on a farm, by a lake or in the hills?
Camping can be easy and comfortable, even with kids. This checklist if for when camping in a group – whether with family or friends – when your vehicle is nearby. Click to download CHECKLIST.
Blogs & Articles
There has been many studies carried out over recent years showing that the current generation of youngsters are spending more time in front of devices and less time playing outside. We think this is a travesty. So, how do you inspire your child to get outside and explore the natural world around them? Camping!
Camping with kids is a great way to get away from things, go someplace new, and teach your children skills that will be valuable later in their lives. Plus, you may find yourself having a great time time too!
My Open Country
Camping with Children
Camping with children is an outstanding way to share a love for the outdoors without breaking the budget. While family backpacking or camping does take a great deal of planning and loads of patience, it is a rewarding activity for both you and your children.
If you have gone camping before, you will quickly realize that to go camping with children requires added responsibility and alertness on a parent’s part. Common sense and good judgment are the rule. Not surprisingly, the crucial point to a successful camping trip with parents and children is often rooted in their first experiences outdoors together.
A question commonly posed is, “When is my child old enough to begin hiking and camping?” The answer depends on your child. No two personalities are the same; no two children the same. What may work for one family may not work for another.
The following guidelines can help you decide when and where to introduce your child to the great outdoors, but please remember that the only firm guide is each child’s particular personality and physical condition. Whatever the activity, you must let her pace herself.
- Infant: Paediatricians recommend that parents wait until the child is 5 months old before venturing into the wilderness. This is when a child can easily sit up and support his own weight and has fallen into a fairly regular sleep pattern. Use a sturdy child carrier that is safe and secure for the child and comfortable for you.
- Toddler: Between the ages of 2 and 4, children are still getting used to the idea of being on two points of balance and not four. Short hikes up to 3km are ideal as long as the terrain is flat and secure to walk on. Take regular walks in a neighbourhood park to get a feel for your child’s attention span. Expect a focused attention span of around 10 minutes for younger children and up to 30 minutes for older children.
- Ages 5-9: Longer hikes at an easy pace over easy terrain are now possible. Children are beginning to develop more physical and mental durability. This is an ideal age to begin allowing your child to become involved in most aspects of the trip, from planning and packing to helping lead. The older your child is in this age group, the more likely moderate goal setting will be effective. Just make sure that the goals are shared and not an unrealistic attempt on the parent’s part to “motivate” the child up an impossible hill or over a 15km endurance test.
- Ages 10-13: Children are becoming increasingly conditioned physically. Emotionally, they are more likely to be able to handle moderately challenging situations, but they are also more likely to question the worth of anything extremely difficult. Hikes up to 15km are possible as long as the terrain is not too hilly or mountainous. Children in this age group thrive on being the leader — diplomatic and judicious support from parents is key. Menu planning, route finding, cooking, and camp setup are reasonable tasks to assign to kids at this age, but be careful that they do not take on too much and begin to feel like all they are doing is working.
- Ages 14-18: Distances up to 19km become reasonable in this age group. Terrain choices and goal setting can become more challenging, but the axiom remains the same: Any choice must be a group choice, or the parent risks making the children feel dragged along.
Children are encountering growth spurts during this period and are definitely vulnerable to stress and overuse injuries. Use caution and listen to your children — they may need to back off a hike
Be prepared to get down and dirty with your children. Experience the outdoors with them — don’t just watch them. Parents shouldn’t scold their children for getting up close and personal with a mud puddle, dirt, a bug, or more. Become childlike in your pursuit of the outdoors and your children will appreciate even more the time you spend together in the wilds.
Making outdoors a habit can be easy if you know how. Here is a list of simple ideas to try, adapt and add to, and many of them you can do right in your own backyard. These groups and activities are suitable for kids of all ages, so join your children and get outdoors!
- Try a night walk. Bring a torch for fun and safety, but be sure to turn them off for listening to the nature sounds and stargazing.
- Go on a nature walk. Smell flowers or hug a tree. Look for animal footprints. Watch insects. But remember, soaking up the smells, sounds and sights is sufficient, and leave only footprints behind.
- Get outside. First, set up any outdoor space you have access to so that it’s inviting, and spend time outside with your child. A sandbox, wading pool, swing, climbing structure or garden will keep your child entertained for hours. But if permanent structures aren’t possible, think impermanent: A tablecloth teepee or a bucket of water with funnels and cups, or a shovel to dig a hole you can later refill.
- Plant a native tree. Together, take responsibility for your tree or shrub. Care for it, and you and your child will reap the satisfaction in the months and years to come.
- Grow a herb garden. This could be a window box, or be included in a vegetable patch if you have the outdoor space. Choose plants that your child will eat and enjoy, and especially those that develop before your eyes. For example, herbs are generally quick to mature, and bush tomatoes change colour as they grow.
- Take your camera out into the backyard, a nature strip or a nearby park, and photograph areas of nature where you think animals might live. Take pictures of trees, leaves and grasses and see if you can name the plants/animals when you get home. By printing them off and sticking them into a book, your child can create their own story.
- Go on an adventure bike ride. Remember all your cycling safety, and simply enjoy riding in the fresh air.
- Go on a picnic. Pencil in your diary or on the family calendar one day to venture out into nature. Encourage your children to help pack the food, and discuss where it has come from. You could picnic at your local park, beach, river or even just in the back garden.
- Set up a colouring in and painting table. Ask your child to draw or paint a number of environmental images, including trees, rivers, and animals. You can also use leaves that have fallen off trees as stamps, by painting them and pressing onto paper. If you can, doing this outside is perfect. See your child’s interpretation of nature.
- Lend a hand in the garden. If you do have a garden space, ask you child to assist with raking leaves and pulling weeds. Check out if you have a community garden in your local area by searching on Communitygarden.org.au.
- Take an indoor toy outdoors. Introduce your child’s favourite toy, game or book to nature.
- Create an obstacle course. This could be indoors or outdoors, and you could use trees to run around, a pile of leaves to jump over, a stick ladder on the lawn.
- Create a collection of nature objects. Try and collect one item each day. It could be as simple as a leaf or a stone. Use each object to tell a story – perhaps about where it came from and what or who it has come across before reaching your hand. Although make sure you don’t take anything from a National Park, or any animal’s homes.
- Visit a local look out, hill or mountain. See the world from a different view. Talk about how birds and animals see the world differently to us. Discuss what the world might look like for a magpie, and how it might seem for an ant. If it’s safe, roll down the hill – careful not to get too dizzy!
- Watch the sunrise or the sunset. Find a natural environment to watch the sunset. If you aren’t by the sea or a river, you could watch the sun rise or fall behind a tree in the local park.
- Make a grass trumpet. Pull a blade of grass (making sure it’s clean) and put it between your lips. Press your lips and blow out, trying to push the air out of your mouth. It will make a squeaky, trumpet-like sound kids will love and be fascinated by.
- Go camping. Set a date to go camping with your family. There are great options for hiring camping gear if you don’t have the resources (time/money/storage space) to own it.
- Look for shapes in the clouds. Sit down and create a story. As the clouds change, the story will evolve.
- Create a nature mystery bag. Find a box and put in a collection of nature objects, with different textures and shapes. Ask you child to guess what it is, and discuss where it’s come from. Next time they’re outside, ask them to collect some natural items (safely – or with the assistance of another adult), for them to create a mystery box for you.
- Start a nature journal. Ask your child to write down all their favourite things in nature. If there’s something they’ve learnt about, but haven’t seen, add it to the list and try and find a time and place to catch a glimpse or make a visit. Use this to reflect as well. How did they feel when they saw it? Where were they, and who were they with? What was the weather like? Keep adding to the list, and watch it grow and change.
Tree Day Planet Ark
One of our favorite summer activities for families is camping. For those that aren’t sure about camping with kids, here are some tips for making it doable with kids.
Here is the truth, I don’t really like camping all that much, and that’s exactly why I have prepared this guide to camping with kids! Because I learned that by making it simpler and more comfortable, I start to mind less bugs and public bathrooms and appreciate more forest hikes, and canoeing on the lake.
And I just love how kids are running around happily and how our family is reconnecting together over the campfire! Also, I truly believe that camping is great for kids development …
“Whatever form it takes, camping is earthy, soul-enriching and character building, and there can be few such satisfying moments as having your tent pitched and the smoke rising from your campfire as the golden sun sets on the horizon – even if it’s just for a fleeting moment before the rain spoils everything”
Hacks, Tips & Tricks
Nothing beats winding down your day at camp than cosying up around a campfire. Staring into the flames and watching the colours dance before your eyes can really get the imagination going. It’s an ideal atmosphere to spark creativity, and it sets the scene perfectly for an evening of campfire stories and songs.
So, whether you’re entertaining the kids with funny campfire stories, trying to spook the living bejesus out of your friends with scary campfire stories, or hoping to simply create a calm environment before bed with a thought-provoking campfire story, Cool of the Wild have got you covered!
- A scary campfire story: Tailypo
- A scary and funny campfire story: Once Bitten, Twice Shy
- A serious campfire story: Chii and The Shadow Game
- A spiritual campfire story: Connecting with Nature
- A silly campfire story: Little Larry Lizard
- A silly and funny campfire story: Are You a String?
- A spooky campfire story: The Campsite Photo
- A funny campfire story: The Ghost of Gosforth Park
Games & Activities
When the sun sets, kids don’t just immediately go to sleep. Often they look for something else to entertain them, so rather than plonking them in front of the iPad, why not suggest one of these fun camping games to play after dark?
1. Flashlight Hide ‘n’ Seek
Pick someone to be “it,” and that person carries the flashlight. The person who is “it” counts to at least 30, probably better to do 50, while the rest of the children hide. Once done counting, the “it” person uses the flashlight to try to find people and shines the light on them to let them know they are out. You can play where everyone has to be found, and then the first person who was “tagged” (or had the flashlight shined on them) is it, or you can just do it where whoever gets shined on first is then it. Also, it’s a good idea to set boundaries as to how far each direction the children can wander. Read on for more games…
Source: Broken Head Holiday Park (near Byron Bay)
Going on a camping holiday with your family or friends is a fun, memory-worthy event. But if you’re like most families, whether your kids are little or teenagers, you’re bound to hear the dreaded, ‘I’m bored’ at some point during the trip. That’s why we’ve put together a list of camping games that will chase that boredom away—and the adults might even enjoy themselves too!
We wanted to make sure that these fun camping games aren’t just for athletic or nature-loving kids. So we pulled together ideas that will appeal to any kids, teenagers or adults. This family camping games list is geared for everyone! Read More
Source: Broken Head Holiday Park (near Byron Bay)
Many people go camping to simply enjoy quiet time in nature. A good book and a comfortable camping chair makes for a very happy camping getaway. However, not all of use are wired that way. We need some camping activities at the ready to keep us entertained and to help us get the best out of our time in the wild.
To help make your next camping trip as easy and enjoyable as possible, we’ve put together a list of camping activities for kids, adults, families and groups that should keep you going for weeks! You’ll even find ideas of things to do at night, day out activities, and camping activities for couples to do at camp. Find Activities
Cool of the Wild
Keep a kid busy while family camping with these fun camping activity ideas!
These will work for older babies too so that you can enjoy your camp trip with the family and your toddler will stay entertained while camping! We’ll check out some fun toddler camping crafts, easy snack options, and little chores to help around camp!
Whether you are pitching a tent, or setting up a camper, it is no joke that keeping toddlers and babies entertained while you get everything done is sometimes really difficult!
Source: Crazy Outdoor Mama
10 Board Games for Camping (plus 3 Camping Card Games)
Camping means different things to different people. Many see it as a chance to explore, to get out and about and go adventuring. Whilst others like to kick back, relax and get well acquainted with their camp chair and beer cooler. We like doing a bit of both. But our downtime at camp is filled playing camping board games for several hours at a time (with a beer and a comfy camp chair, no less!).
What better way to end a physically challenging day outdoors than by giving your brain a good workout too? Camping board games offer entertainment for everyone and are also an exceptionally good rainy day camping activity for all the family.
In this article from Cool of the Wild, you’ll find a list of our favourite camping board games with information about each. There’s also some cracking card games for camping listed.
Source: Cool of the Wild
Sitting around the fire is one of the most magical things to do when camping. Add in some cracking campfire games and it’s also an opportunity for endless silliness, fun and laughter. The place to create lasting memories. But if you’re not prepared with campfire games that are suitable to the group then things can easily fizzle out before they’ve even gotten started.
Camping is a great activity for the whole family. Especially since it means kids and teens alike can experience the great outdoors sans electronics. On your downtime at the campsite, celebrate screen-free time with camping games for kids.
Source: Personal Creations
Tell Campfire Stories
For families with children, telling campfire stories around the fire is a cinema cliche for a reason. It’s a great way for the whole family to bond. The scarier or sillier, the better. There are great classic campfire stories all over the internet to get you started. Check out the list below for a few campfire stories:
Sometimes the best, or at least most memorable, stories are the ones you make up on the spot. They don’t have to be good. They don’t even have to make sense. What matters is that you took the time to make them up and deliver them in a way that will be remembered for years to come.
- Campfire Stories – Love the Outdoors
- Campfire Stories with George Catlin
- Spooky Campfire Stories
- US Scouting Service Project – Stories
Play Cards and Tabletop Games
There’s little as relaxing as playing a nice game of cards around a roaring fire. The competition is matched only by the camaraderie, and the fire pit provides the perfect atmosphere for all of it. Of course, you might want to get another light source for the actual cards. But a roaring fire is the perfect companion to the roaring laughter of friends playing cards. So raise, call or go fish around the flame.
- Card Games to Play while Camping
- Card Games for Your Camping Trip
- Camping Games for Kids – Young and Old
- The Rules to All of Your Favorite Card Games
- Fun Games to Play with Your Kids
- 5 Fun Card Games
- War Card Game For Kids
Watch a Movie
It was not that long ago that watching a movie outdoors meant being tethered to your home by a very long extension cord. You were outdoors, but just barely. Today, the game has changed. Not only can you watch movies outdoors with cordless projectors and portable computers, but those movies are in theater-quality high definition. Add to that some quality speakers and you have a full theater experience in the middle of the outdoors. There’s nothing like watching your favorite movies while making a s’more.
Much like the previous section on projectors, the days of needing electricity or a small crate of batteries to play music outdoors are over. Today, you can plug in and charge a decent Bluetooth speaker, small enough to fit anywhere and powerful enough to fill any space. Just be careful not to raise the volume enough to warrant a noise complaint from the neighbors.
If playing music over your speakers doesn’t sound fun enough and, more importantly, if you or someone you know is talented enough to make it happen, you could always play music live. Someone can bring their acoustic guitar, take some requests, and make the night memorable. Add the soothing atmosphere of the fire pit and you have a perfect night.
- Songs, Skits, and Yells
- Traditional and Silly Songs for Campfire Fun
- Classic Camp Songs
- 8 Camp Songs for Kids
- Ten Easy Acoustic Guitar Campfire Sing-Along Songs
- The 50 Greatest Campfire Songs
- Boy Scout Songs Around the Fire
There is something to be said for the relaxing element a fire pit can add to a day or evening. Get the most out of that zen with a little reflective relaxation by journaling. This means different things to different people. For some, it might just be recounting the day for posterity. For others, it takes a meditation on the meaning of life through the lens of last night’s dinner or a quote from a movie. For others, it may be a few doodles or a serious sketch accompanied by a poem.
Whatever it means to you, putting pencil to paper next to the fire might be the best way to spend a lazy morning, afternoon, night, whatever works for you.
- 30 Journaling Prompts for Self-Discovery
- Journaling Prompts to Boost Your Success
- Tips for Keeping a Camping Journal
Source: Home Advisor
Camping as a family is an excellent way to bond and connect with each other. Coming prepared with a few simple games and activities can help keep everyone happy, engaged and active. Check out these 21 easy family camping games to see how fun it can be to pass the time around the campsite, the campfire or in the comfort of your tent!
Source: Childhood 101
If I had to pick out a centerpiece of summer, though, it would have to be the campfire. They have a magical way of bringing people together, inviting them to laugh, sing, and tell secrets. The sparkling golden hues of the fire, the crackles of the wood popping, the bright constellations above, and the warmth of people gathered around a central focus… I love campfires.
Campfire games were always the highlight of the carefree, summer nights of childhood. Whether part of summer camp activities or during a family weekend trip, many of us have blissful memories engaging with our friends well past bedtime curfews. There were no smartphones or other gadgets in sight to distract the attention of campfire game participants. The only thing that may have distracted everyone was the occasional crackle of what “sounded like footsteps” in the distant woods or when it was time to eat the melted deflated puff of a marshmallow that was strategically cooked over the sizzling roasting fire.
Help us get more kids outdoors more often!
Winner: Best Film
Visioning the Outdoors Film & Photo Competition 2017
Share your Family Camping ideas?
Do you have any interesting or useful resources or links to share?
Let us know by Recommending a Resource