Camping is filled with family fun – hiking, playing at the beach, sitting around the campfire roasting hotdogs and marshmallows. But you’ll need some activities and games to keep your toddler happy and engaged. We’ve put together some great toddler-friendly activities you can do with your child, as well as some she can do on her own when you just want to sit back and enjoy the sun.
Taking the time to plan and prepare some activities for your toddler is going to make your trip that much more special and memorable for your child.
1. Bring on the Bubbles
Either make your own or pick them up at the dollar store. Camping is ideal for blowing bubbles. Consider buying a bubble machine that will blow the bubbles for you. Your toddler can chase them around the campsite. And since you’re outside, you don’t have to worry about soapy popped bubbles all over your house.
2. Craft Crate
Arts and crafts aren’t just for at home…bring them to the campsite for some outside inspiration. And you’ll be glad you did when a rainy day comes along, and you’re stuck in the tent with a bored toddler! Fill a container with all sorts of craft materials, just like you have at home. Include crayons, coloring books, water paints, construction paper, and maybe even some camping themed stickers. Even playdough belongs in the craft crate! Just set aside space on the picnic table or in the tent and let your toddler spend some quiet time letting her imagination run wild.
3. Nature Art
Rain or shine, making art with nature means taking part of your camping trip home with you. Put some sheets of contact paper into the craft crate. Take a walk with your toddler, collecting small leaves, petals, wildflowers, and even some moss. Back at camp she can creatively lay out her collection on the sticky side of the contact paper. When she’s happy with the result, put a second piece of paper on top, with the sticky side down. Cut into a cool shape – and you have art to hang at home. If you don’t want to finish this project at camp, take the nature collection home with you to complete there.
4. Scavenger Hunt
Create a scavenger hunt using pictures so your toddler can join in. Print off the pictures and glue them onto a cardboard sheet, one for everyone, then get hunting. You might have to help your toddler cross off each item she finds them but she’ll have fun searching on her own. Here are some items you can put on your scavenger list, and it’s easy to come up with more of your own:
- Pine cone
- Small leaf
- Large leaf
- Smooth stone
- Jagged stone
- Bird feather
- A flying bird
- A bird sitting on a branch
5. Rock Hunting and Painting
Do some arts and crafts using rocks. Your toddler sure won’t run out of rocks to find when you’re out camping. Encourage her to find some cool shaped ones. When she’s gathered a few interesting rocks get out the acrylic paint and let her get creative. Show off the artsy results by displaying painted rocks around the campfire.
6. Rock Sculptures
Making rock sculptures is all the rage! You see them on the side of road and on the shore beside the lake. Help your toddler bring her own version to the campsite. Grab a bucket and search for a variety of different sized river stones or beach rocks. Then find a clear space and start balancing rocks, largest at the bottom. You may have to demonstrate how this works, but your toddler will quickly get the hang of it. A tip when building sculptures: to avoid fallen rocks on bare toes, make sure your toddler is wearing shoes, even if you’re sculpting on the beach.
7. Nature Walks
You don’t need to go far but taking your toddler on a walk through nature is the ideal way to get her to fall in love with camping. Pack some snacks and head out on the trail. Life back at home can often be busy and hectic. Make this a time where no one is in a rush. Talk about the things you see – the birds, the flowers, and of course any animals you might come across! Let her be the guide as you take a slow stroll through the woods.
8. Nature Center
Many parks have a nature center with an area specific for kids that shows what kinds of animals live in the area. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to visit. It’s not only fun, but educational as well.
9. Leaf Art
Let your toddler add even more beauty to nature’s leaves. Help her collect a variety of leaves in all shapes and sizes. Then let her draw designs on her leaves using felt markers. A bit of glue and some glitter add even more pizzazz. Bring along some tape and attach her works of art to the inside of the tent for everyone to enjoy.
With all those leaves you collected, leaf rubbings are another easy activity. Place a sheet of white paper over a leaf and use a crayon to rub over. Your toddler will be amazed at the realistic looking leaves she’s recreated. For some added fun, you can also let your toddler make rubbings of tree bark.
10. Stick Castles
With a little bit of white glue and scissors, your toddler can make her own stick castles. Take her for a walk and collect small sticks and twigs. Bring them back to camp and set her up with the glue and her sticks at the picnic table. This is a good time for you to just sit back and watch…or maybe read your book!
11. Dancing in the Rain
You’ll have packed rain gear in with your camping gear, so rather than hide in the tent until it dries up, why not let your toddler play in the rain, if and when it starts to fall? If there’s enough rain there are sure to be puddles. Pack along a few water toys, such as plastic boats and fish. And let your toddler get wet!
Another rain activity if there’s water flowing through your campsite is to use rocks and twigs to make damns. Kids will love watching the water pool up as they stop the water flow. Embracing the rain is a good way to let your toddler use up some energy. Even jumping in puddles and walking in the woods with rain boots will let her enjoy the camping trip, no matter what the weather is up to.
12. Free-time Play
Don’t feel you have to plan every minute of every day. Leave some time for unstructured free time, letting your toddler just sit and play with any of the toys she’s brought along. This way she learns to play alone and make her own fun.
13. Mealtime Help
Even toddlers can help with some simple meal prep when you’re camping. This lets her experience the whole camping adventure. Let her help set the picnic table and lay out the snacks. Or let her help roast the hot dogs, just be sure to supervise.
Everyone loves playing games outside. Make sure to include your toddler in the game-play with these simple games.
14. Toss the Bean Bag
Tossing bean bags is a great way for everyone to have fun…and learn numbers at the same time! Make them yourself by sewing little pockets from leftover cloth and filling them with lentils or beans. Paint numbers on paper plates…1, 2, 3…all the way to 5. Then lay out the plates on the ground in a way that your toddler is sure to hit the mark. This is a fun way to spend time with her, adding up the numbers. Be sure to have a prize or two on hand for when the score totals to 10.
15. Nature Playground
Even if there’s a playground where you’re camping, make a game out of walking in the woods. Balance on fallen logs, climb boulders, and hop from one rock to the next. Or see who’s the fastest climbing up the next hill!
16. Squirt Gun Fun
Bring a few squirt guns to camp with you. Line some plastic cups up along the edge of the picnic table. Give everyone a squirt gun and the game is on. Your toddler will be full of giggles, trying to be the first to knock a cup off the table. Just don’t expect to stay dry when playing this game!
Pack a few pieces of sport equipment for some physical play – great for tiring out your toddler so she sleeps at night. Some good options are balls and frisbees. If you’re feeling really ambitious, this might be the right time to bring along a kite and introduce her to kiting.
18. Board and Card Games
There are some good board games for toddlers. Bring along one or two to play in the evening or in the tent on a rainy day. Some good games that toddlers can play include Candyland, Go Fish, and I Spy.
At the end of a busy and exciting day in the outdoors, your toddler is almost ready for bed. Some of the best camping memories happen when the sun goes down and the stars come out. Before you settle your toddler down for the night, make time for some nighttime fun.
19. Glow in the Dark Bowling
Bowling in the dark is a lot of fun – and simple enough for your toddler to take part in. Make your own glow in the dark bowling pins. Use six large, empty water bottles. Place a colored glow stick in each, screw on the lid, and line them up. Use a large ball so your toddler can easily kick or roll it and knock down the glowing pins.
20. Campfire Songs
Once it’s dark and the campfire is roaring, it’s the perfect time for singing songs everyone knows. Roasting marshmallows and singing your toddler’s favorite songs is a great way to end a day.
Another activity to do around the campfire is tell stories. Make some S’mores and then start talking. They can be silly stories or maybe stories about your first camping trip when you were a child. Let your toddler tell her own story, even if it makes no sense at all!
Now that you’re out of the city, the stars will be much more visible. When you’ve put out the campfire lay back with your toddler and gaze up at the stars. If there are no clouds in the sky, the stars can put on a spectacular show. And you never know, you might have an astronomer in the making!
23. Flashlight Storytime
If the last thing you do at home before your toddler goes to bed is read a story you don’t have to forego the story when you’re camping. Read by flashlight to your toddler beside the campfire or in the tent. Before going on your camping trip check out the library to find some books that feature stories about camping.
Variety is the Spice of Camping
The more activities and games you have planned for your toddler the more she’s going to ask you when you’re going camping again. Don’t just limit yourself to our list of fun things to do. Come up with your own ideas. Think about what made camping fun for you when you were a child. No matter what you and your family do, remember it’s all about making memories and have a fun family adventure!