Best Camping Ideas for Kids and Free Printables

June 29, 2021

Sarita Harbour

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Are you eager to head out for a weekend family camping trip? Or maybe you’re planning an extended road trip and camping along the way. Whatever the case, these best camping ideas for kids can help you and yours make a family camping trip a memorable experience. 

Oh, and don’t forget to grab one of my most popular new summer freebies – this Camping for Kids Printable Set. Learn more at the bottom of this post.

Best Camping Ideas for Kids + Free Printable text overlay on image of family tent camping

Plan Ahead

Getting ready to go camping was one of my favorite childhood memories. My dad would pull out his notebook with the annual “Camping Lists.” My sister and I each received our own photocopied lists of what to pack in our knapsacks.

One of the best camping ideas for kids is to build anticipation during the week(s) before you head out. And part of that is planning. This helps build an important life skill and emphasizes strategic thinking and preparedness. Look online for free camping resources to get started.

Encourage Kids to Prepare for Various Situations

When my big kids were young, we always hoped for beautiful warm weather for swimming with enough breeze to keep the mosquitoes away when we planned our family camping trips. We also prayed for no rain – back then we just had a canvas six-man tent that always leaked along the seam and the zipper.

So we hoped for the best and planned for the worst! This is particularly important if you’re prepping for your first family camping trip. Help your kids prepare for different “what-if” camping scenarios by asking the following questions:

  1. What will we do if it rains? (Books, cards, games)
  2. What should you pack to wear if it rains? Gets hot? Gets cold?
  3. What if we don’t like cooking on a campfire? What’s a fast and easy meal?
  4. What don’t we want to run out of? (Toilet paper, matches, batteries for flashlights were our standard answers.)
  5. What should we include in our wilderness survival kits for day hikes and camping?

Until my kids reach the age of about 11, I’ll help them to pack their own bags. After that, they’re on their own. If they forget an item, it’s up to them to either make-do, find a replacement, or convince another family member to share!

Connect Camping to Your Homeschool Studies

As a homeschooling parent, I’m pretty sure you’re going to do exactly what I do when you’re searching for the best camping ideas for kids. Find a way to make camping educational. Luckily, this is really easy.

Choose a read-aloud book about kids surviving in the wilderness. Some of our favorites include the Hatchet series by Gary Paulsen and My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George.

Look for historical sites near your campground – especially pioneer-style villages. My kids always had a renewed appreciation for pioneer life after camping without running water or electricity for a few days.

Natural science educational opportunities abound when you’re camping. Sketching, looking at bugs under a magnifying glass, or identifying birds, small animals, or animal tracks are all fun learning experiences. Or print out a couple of nature study packs to use in case of rainy days.

Ask your children what activities they’d like to try before booking your camping trip so you can choose a campground that offers it. Over the years we’ve participated in camping activities for kids such as

  • Historical reenactments of fur traders (at an Ontario Provincial Park for Canada Day)
  • Guided nature walks to see various birds
  • Canoe skills workshops
  • Animal tracking workshops
  • Foraging workshops
  • Family hikes
  • Building campfires with simple homemade fire starters (ages about 8+)
  • Campfire cooking 

Best Camping Ideas for Kids Under the Age of Five

My parents started backcountry tent camping with me when I was under. However, when I became a mom, I wasn’t that brave. My rule was “if you want to go camping with mama, you must be potty-trained.” I like to think that was the incentive for my toddlers to get out of diapers.

Even so, camping with the under-five crowd can be stressful for parents who aren’t prepared. Fire, lake, predators, poisonous flora and fauna and simply wandering off are all very real dangers.

Over the years I discovered five lifesavers:

  1. always have at least two adults for every three under-5 kids camping,
  2. bring a portable playpen to corral little ones
  3. keep a life jacket on them at all times if your campsite is within walking distance to water
  4. attach a bear bell to your kids’ belt loop or jacket (scares bears and it’s easier to locate them if they wander off)
  5. start teaching them safety rules as early as possible.

These rules helped make our family camping trips safe and memorable!

Looking for a simple tool to help get your kids ready for camping? I’m including some of my best camping ideas for kids in my Camping For Kids Printable set. Inside you’ll find the following:

  • Safety & supply checklist for kids 
  • Animal Tracks information sheet and printing practice
  • Camping Vocabulary word scramble
  • Camping Charades for Kids
  • Camp Scavenger Hunt
  • Simple Maze
  • Fill-in-the-Blank camp newsletter

Head on over to An Off Grid Life to get yours right now!

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