15+ DIY Camping Games For Family Bonding In The Great Outdoors
Even the un-campiest camper and moodiest tween won’t be able to resist.
When temperate weather starts creeping in, so does the urge to dust the cobwebs off the family tent and spend some time in the great outdoors. The jokes around the fire, the chance to live on the bare minimum (because you forgot to pack everything you need), and just the time to disconnect from life at home — it's all so relaxing and wonderful. Camping provides the perfect opportunity to bond with your family and friends. Of course, not everyone loves camping so much that they ask for camping supplies as gifts. Kids, especially, often have a hard time enjoying themselves in nature, away from electronics, friends, and air conditioning. To convince them how much fun this favorite pastime is (and keep them from asking for the millionth time why there's no Wi-Fi), you might need to break out some camping games.
You may also have a naysaying partner in your household who claims you could create a relatively convincing camping experience in your backyard. And, sure... technically, you could. But, c'mon, it's way more fun to get away — and even when camping is disastrous, it tends to create the kind of memories that last a lifetime. The tent collapsing on you in the middle of the night while it monsoons may not seem funny now. Years down the road, though, it might be the hilarious story your now-adult kid tells their kid on the way back to that hallowed camping spot.
Before you can reach that point, you've got to get them there and entertain them enough to hook 'em. These camping games ought to help ease even the least outdoorsy person you know into having a bit of fun.
1. Cup Balance
The name is simple. You start by sitting on the ground and putting a cup on your head or forehead. The first person to get into a standing position with the cup still on their head wins. Simple enough, right? And it's not exactly "camping-related." Still, it's an easy and distracting game for your kids while the grown-ups struggle to set up the tent.
2. Camping Bingo
This one requires a little more prep than some games, as you'll want to print out the bingo cards before you leave home. Give everyone a card full of things they might find on your camping trip and have them cross them off as they see them. This game can take place throughout your camping adventure, where everyone tucks a card in their back pocket (you'll just need to occasionally remind them to be on the lookout as you hike or boat). Or you can make this a special activity by giving each person a card and sending them out to find things within a particular playing time. However you choose to play, it's a simple and enjoyable game for all ages.
3. Flashlight Tag
Got flashlights? Got a relatively safe campsite? Send your kiddos running (within certain boundaries, of course) and use your flashlight to tag "It."
4. I Spy
I Spy while camping is just as useful as I Spy in the car. If you're on a long hike and your kiddos start reminiscing about the shows they could be watching at home, whip out this classic game. Just try to avoid blurting out, "I spy something loud and obnoxious." No matter how badly you want to shade your fourteen-year-old who is, of course, being loud and obnoxious.
5. Velcro Darts
You'll need to buy this ahead of time or grab the one you already have sitting in the garage. But just like the cup balancing game, it's something for your kids to do that requires minimal set-up. Hang one of those cheap-o Velcro dartboards on the side of your tent or a low tree branch, and they'll keep themselves busy for at least a solid 10 minutes.
6. Glowing Ring Toss
You're a parent, so you probably already know this, but everything is more fun if it glows or lights up. This game requires only a few items that you probably already have in your catch-all bin: a plastic party cup, one extra-large glow stick, and a bunch of glow stick necklaces.
To get the game going, poke a hole in the bottom of your party cup. Break your extra-large glow stick so that it glows, and then place it through the hole in the bottom of your plastic party cup. You might need to use glow tape to secure the cup to your playing surface. It should look a bit like a broom, where the party cup is the base and the extra-large glow stick is the handle. Then give the kids the glow-in-the-dark necklaces and see who gets the most around your newly created target!
Got a rope? Got some energy to expend? Tug-of-War is the answer. Go boys against girls, parents against kids, or even younger siblings against one older sibling. Whatever variation you choose, your kids will undoubtedly end up in a giggling heap.
8. Painted Rock Tic-Tac-Toe
This tic-tac-toe option is fantastic because it's a two-parter. On your first day camping, you can have your kids collect and paint rocks. The next day (or even later that first day), they can use those same rocks to play a classic game of tic-tac-toe. It's the perfect tent-based activity during pop-up storms and a way to wind down but still have fun during your campground's designated quiet hours.
9. Rainbow Camping Scavenger Hunt
This is so easy. If your kids know the concept of ROY G. BIV (the colors of the rainbow), they can do this independently. Just send them exploring within your predetermined safe zone and have them try to collect something to represent each color of the rainbow. You could even make it more challenging by designating Round 1 for nature-only objects and Round 2 for picking up litter.
10. Teamwork Water Tower
That storage tub you used to pack up all your camping odds and ends? Time to put it to a new use. Fill it with lake water (or whatever water you have handy) and have one family member set it on the feet of everyone else in the family as they lay on their backs with their feet (socks on) in the air. As your family works together to hold the water bin up with your feet, each person takes turns trying to remove a sock. Will your bin spill? Can you keep it upright? The game is over once everyone has removed both socks... or you drop the water!
Just about everyone has a cornhole set now, and if you don't, you probably have friends who do. Plus, many campgrounds have them in their recreation area. It never hurts to invest in your own set of bags, though. And you can even have a local crafter use fabric to represent your family's shared interests. This game is fun for kids and easy enough for even the drunkest adults (if you decide to leave the kids at home or with the grands).
12. Square Game
Sometimes rainstorms spring up out of nowhere, and you find yourself stuck in the tent or the car or hiding under some other shelter with limited space to play. As long as you have a notepad and a pen, though, there's always fun to be had. To play the Square Game family-style, you'll start by drawing a grid of dots on a sheet of paper — 12 to 15 rows of 12 to 15 dots each. Space the dots roughly half an inch apart. Taking turns, each player draws a line from any dot to any vertically or horizontally adjacent dot.
The goal? To form a square by joining four dots. Whenever a player draws a line that completes a square, they get to write their initials inside it and go again. Once all possible lines have been drawn, the person with the most squares initialed clinches the win.
13. Water Bottle Bowling
All you really need for this is some half-full water bottles and a relatively heavy ball (think: a kickball or that rogue bocce ball that belonged to the set you long ago lost). Add glow sticks to the water bottles and wrap some glow tape around your ball to play it at night.
14. The Naturalist's Tic-Tac-Toe
Got sticks, flowers, and rocks? Of course you do; you're camping. Send your kids out to scrounge up enough of these natural playing materials to create a board (the sticks) and two opposing players' tokens (the flowers and rocks). This will keep the kids busy for a hot minute so that you can set up the fire or hose down and secure the inner tubes for tomorrow.
15. Silent Disco
While camping is supposed to be a time to disconnect, it's also a great time to cut loose, be a little wild, and enjoy a level of darkness you probably can't find at home. Load up your kids with glow sticks and glow jewelry (and maybe even glow paint), give them some earbuds, AirPods, or wireless headphones, and let them dance to their hearts' content. You can let them listen to the same songs (which you control with your phone), or let them have their electronics and each choose their own songs. The latter is actually a lot more fun to watch.
16. Yard Twister
Bring some nature-safe spray paint and use your paper plates to create a grassy Twister board. Then, watch your kids fall all over themselves playing a game you loved just as much when you were younger (and bendier).
17. Water Balloon Fight
If the weather during your camping trip is especially warm, cool off with a water balloon fight. Find a local river or lake and fill the balloons with water. Make sure you have an equal amount of two different colored water balloons. Split the campers into two teams and hide your water-filled weapons around the area. Then once the game begins, the team that runs out of water balloons first loses.
Bird watching may sound like a tedious activity, but it can actually be pretty exciting. Based on your area, make a list of all the birds you may run into. This activity allows you to explore the woods and get in a little nature hike while you're at it. Each time you find a new bird, it'll be an exciting accomplishment. And don't forget your binoculars and a camera.
19. Sleeping Bag Race
Use your sleeping bags for more than nighttime comfort on your neck camping trip. Set a finish line and whoever crosses it first wins. Think of a sack race, but with sleeping bags instead. And FYI, taking a tumble in a sleeping bag provides way more cushion than the average potato sack. Your chin and knees will thank you.
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