Summer Camping Activities & How to Get the Most From Your Outdoor Adventure
You don’t have to pack a ton of things in order to keep the family entertained while camping.
In fact, there are some pretty amazing summer camping activities that can be enjoyed by using your creativity and very few extras.
Here is our list of fun and unique summer camping activities that you perhaps haven’t thought of before.
Our hope is that upon reading this article, you’ll be able to get the most from your outdoor adventure and will be well on your way to making awesome family memories.
The links on this page are Amazon affiliate links. If you click on links and purchase them, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Summer Camping Activities
This article was written in collaboration with Derek Edwards. Derek is located in Southern California and is an up-and-coming blogger, nature enthusiast, and lover of adventure. If you enjoy this post you can follow his journey over on his blog, Outdoor with Derek.
Bonding with the kids over a roaring campfire while roasting hotdogs and marshmallows – all with
stars twinkling above you – can be a wonderful memory for you and your family.
It’s easy to get stressed out coordinating everything and everyone if you don’t go camping well-prepared, however.
Be sure to check out our family camping checklist and then read on for some fun summer camping activities that the whole crew can enjoy.
1. Get them involved in camp cooking.
Are you cringing at the thought of an open fire, getting dinner together, and having crazy kids running hungry everywhere?
Eliminate some stress and get them involved!
Help them make the meal plan.
Before you leave, have your kids get involved in meal prep and planning.
Ask them what would be fun for them to eat. It will probably be hotdogs, chips, and cookies, but a camp grill gives
you all kinds of opportunities for fun camp cooking.
Introduce them to the Boy and Girl Scout’s Campfire Cookbook for Kids to learn about outdoor recipes, cooking methods, and tips geared towards kids.
To add to the experience, have them review their chosen recipes and circle the necessary food and ingredients from this kid-friendly grocery list planner!
Think beyond the basic burger and help them tap into their culinary creativity.
Make fun camping snacks.
Yes, making fun camping snacks is a legit summer camping activity!
Why, because similar to family road trip foods, making treats and yummy snacks are keys to a fun and memorable camping experience too!
Being that s’mores are always a hit, experiment with various creative s’more recipes as the ingredients are easy to bring, and roasting anything over a fire makes kids go crazy.
Some of our other favorite camping snacks to make together include:
- Portable snack mixes that can be made ahead of time
- Overnight oatmeal
- Peanut butter granola pinwheels
- Chips and homemade chip dip
- No-bake cookies and bars
Your kids will be begging to come back every summer if you include making fun camping snacks part of your pre-planned summer camping activities.
Plan to a hike that includes packing a picnic.
Research the campground and local area ahead of time to find a fun hiking spot.
As part of your summer camping activities, pre-purchase a classic picnic basket and matching gingham picnic blanket to take along with you to picnic while hiking.
Not only are picnics a memorable family activity, but they give you a chance to dine away from the campsite while making memories and taking fun family photos!
Don’t forget to bring along wet wipes and a bag for trash.
2. Find water and make a splash!
Cool off from the summer heat by swimming in a nearby lake, river, or pool.
Most campsites are naturally located by a body of water that offers built-in entertainment.
Those that aren’t will typically have a pool, splash pad, or water park.
Relax on a pool float.
It sounds simple, but one of the best ways to enjoy the water when you’re camping is to hop on a pool float, or tube and just enjoy being outdoors.
Purchase inexpensive pool floats for everyone in your family and inflate them all using a portable hand-held air pump.
Tie your inflatables together and hang out in the bay of a local lake or float down a nearby river.
If it is a pool that is available, get creative and have splash battles or family paddling races while using your inflatables to get from start to finish.
Another great summer camping activity that involves water is to teach kids how to skip stones.
Fascinate them by first showing them how to find the best flat stones and then making a fun game out of skipping them.
Better yet, hold a skipping stone contest – the winner gets an extra s’more after dinner!
Have a water balloon fight.
Water balloons are definitely one of the ultimate summer camping activities.
They can be used for water balloon fights, water balloon toss games, and water balloon tag.
You can find water balloons online, at your local dollar store, or any big box store. Our favorites are the rapid-fill Bunch O Balloons that can be easily filled from a campsite spigot or campground bathroom sink.
This is also a good opportunity to teach your kids about the “Leave No Trace” camping principle, meaning that after the fun is over, make sure you pick up all of the balloon pieces from the ground.
3. Don’t forget about the games!
Keeping your kids entertained without the screens they are so accustomed to doesn’t have to be a fight.
Instead, remember to have some fun campfire games for adults and kids to enjoy.
To get you started, we’ve compiled an entire article on our favorite portable yard games, and include instructions on how to play them.
Likewise, check out this super soft and easy to catch frisbee alternative that our kids love taking to the campground.
Other summer camping activities include the following:
Put together a scavenger hunt.
While there are plenty of online scavenger hunt templates out there, it’s easy to come up with your own.
Common items include things like heart-shaped rocks, acorns or other seeds, specific colored wildflowers, and bugs. Include categories of objects such as “something bumpy”, and “something pokey”.
Keep in mind the ages of your kids and adjust the items accordingly for safety and ease.
Without the streetlights that are in your neighborhood, your kids will be able to see the stars like they never have before.
Teach them about constellations and point out easily identifiable ones, like the Big Dipper or Orion’s Belt. (Consult this step-by-step guide to the night sky if you’re like me and need a little help identifying them too.)
Also, teach them about the North Star, one of the most famous stars in the night sky, and how campers can use it to get back home.
Depending on your location and time of year, you might be able to see some far-off planets like Venus or Mars.
Ask them what they think it would be like to explore those planets and if they’d ever want to go to space.
Additional planning tip: Join the hammocking craze!
Combine hammocking and stargazing by bringing along your very own camping hammock that can double as a place to hang out and watch the night sky!
Use flashlights to play games in the dark.
Flashlight tag can be a great end-of-the-night activity that will get the kiddos tired enough to sleep soundly as soon as they hit the sack.
Lay down some rules, like they have to stay within an adult’s site at all times, and then let them go at it.
Shadow puppets are also always a hit while hanging out in the tent. Have everyone take a go and see whose puppet is the most creative.
Start by grabbing a 4-pack of the perfect-sized camping flashlights right here!
Play board games.
Travel Yahtzee, checkers, Trouble, or even a deck of cards – bring some games that are easy to pack and can be played outside on a picnic table.
Board games are a fantastic way to get some family bonding in, even if they have fallen out of favor for tablets over the last few years.
4. Help them face their fears.
Camping can be scary for kids.
Sleeping outside with all kinds of new animal and bug noises, crackling leaves and sticks, all the while dealing with a completely new sleeping environment is sometimes less than ideal for them.
Facing their fears may not necessarily fall under fun summer camping activities, but it is an important learning opportunity.
If your kids are scared, ask them why and go through possible scenarios while offering suggestions and reassurance.
After all, when they feel comfortable in new surroundings, they’ll have more confidence in school, work, and all other areas of their lives!
What are some summer camping activities that you and your family love to do? I’d love to hear about them!Jen
If you liked reading our list of Summer Camping Activities, check out related tips on traveling with kids:
- Family Vacation Packing Tips: How to Pack Like A Pro
- Road Trip Food List: Best Road Trip Meals and Snacks
- 18 Amazing “Are We There Yet?” Road Trip Activity Bags
- Best Road Trip Activities for Toddlers
- 13 Awesome Road Trip Word Games to Play in the Car With Kids
- Top 16 Tips for Flying With Kids & Ways to Keep them Calm
- 8 (Unexpected) Benefits of Traveling With Kids
*Before leaving, be sure to check our Travel Resources Page to find our exclusive travel discounts and to book hotels, rental cars, and guided tours.*
Wow, thanks for the tips for camping with kids. I especially like all the advice of getting the kids involved, especially planning meals! We also assign each of the kids / grandkids (or family when traveling with multigen) a game night, so they can choose the games. This also cuts down on “arguments” about what games to play! 😉
Thanks! I love the idea of letting the kids pick out the games – they behave so much better when they’re playing something that they like!!