Hiking and camping are great ways to spend lots of time outside with your family. While free nature play is ideal, sometimes you need a little inspiration to keep your kids busy. Below you will find 16 fun outdoor games and activities for kids – either while you hike and explore nature together or while you bond around the campsite.
Pigeon Creek Park in West Olive, Michigan
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Hiking Games & Activities
Hiking, going on nature walks, and exploring natural habitats are essential activities while camping. These first 8 activities are perfect for adding some extra fun as you explore nature with your family. If you have reluctant hikers (been there!) these may provide some distraction or motivation as well.
1. I Spy Nature Variations
If your kids love the classic I Spy game, try one of these simple twists. Instead of guessing what one person is thinking of, these variations focus on having your child look for various items.
- Rainbow I Spy: Perfect for toddlers or young preschoolers, this version has children searching for something in nature of each color of the rainbow. Go in rainbow order to teach the ROY G BIV (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet) acronym.
- Alphabet I Spy: This one is great for children who have learned the letter sounds. Go through each letter of the alphabet and take turns looking for something that starts with each letter. You may need to skip over certain letters, unless you happen to come across a xylophone on your travels!
2 & 3. Geocaching or Letterboxing
If you haven’t tried geocaching or letterboxing with your kids yet, this is the year to try it! Geocaching and letterboxing are outdoor treasure hunts located in public spaces like parks. The goal is to find the hidden cache, typically a plastic or metal container, using either GPS coordinates (geocaching) or a series of clues (letterboxing).
Read all about these outdoor adventure activities in my Letterboxing Vs. Geocaching and Letterboxing With Kids: 7 Tips For An Awesome Adventure posts!
4. Tree or Wildflower Identification
We received tree and wildflower field guide books as gifts and our kids are fascinated by them. Being surrounded by a variety of plant life while camping is the perfect time to try to identify the different plants you see while hiking.
Either check out a copy from your local library or invest in your own copy. Below are the links for the Michigan guides we use and similar ones are available for a variety of areas.
5. Bird Watching
Millennium Park in Walker, Michigan
Similar to the plant identification, your children may enjoy looking and listen for different birds while you walk. A bird field guide for your own area is a handy tool. Also, having their own pair of birding binoculars makes bird watching extra special for kids. Just look at those sweet birders!
6. Walking Sticks
I have yet to meet a child who doesn’t like to play with sticks! Hunt for a nice and sturdy walking stick along the path for your little adventurers to enjoy. When you finish your hike, place the sticks in a handy spot for the next hikers looking for a good walking stick.
Grand Ravines Park in Jenison, Michigan
7. Red Light, Green Light
When you hike with kids, it can be difficult to keep everyone at the same pace. Some kids race ahead and others prefer to sit and play in the dirt. If you are on a relatively flat path where it is safe to run, try playing the childhood classic game of Red Light, Green Light.
For a quick refresher, here’s how the game works. One person calls out different light colors. Green light means run and red light means stop. A couple fun variations to add: yellow light means walk and reverse means walk backward. This works great for keeping my kids motivated and at the same pace!
8. Nature Scavenger Hunt
For a different spin, try this gratitude nature scavenger hunt! It’s perfect for adding a little thankfulness and appreciation while you explore.
When you need a break from adventuring, take some down time at the campsite. If your kids are still full of energy and need some specific activities to occupy them, try out some of these fun ideas.
9. Nature Art
First, gather your nature items like leaves, pine cones, stones, acorns or sticks. Be careful not to damage any plants and only use objects that have fallen on the ground. If you went on a nature scavenger hunt earlier, use those treasures you found.
Use your imaginations and create a piece of art with the nature items – maybe a face, house, flower or an abstract masterpiece. When you are done, leave your nature items there to preserve the natural habitat of the area.
10. Outdoor Toys
In our family we have two categories of toys – indoor and outdoor. Once a toy becomes an outdoor toy, it stays an outdoor toy! Sand toys or some outdoor trucks are great toys to use at the campsite.
Thrift stores can be a great place for finding a few toys to bring along for camping instead of turning a newer toy into an outdoor toy.
11. Travel Board Games
If you love board games like our family does, you will want to pack a couple of small, travel games. These are helpful as a rainy day option or when you want a more low-key activity.
Below are some of our family favorites that travel well and are fun for most ages. The Spot It! camping version is perfect for a family camping trip. Check out the current prices on Amazon here:
12. Kids’ Magazines & Activity Books
Another good option for rainy weather or quiet time is having some lightweight reading material on hand. Pack some kids’ magazines or activity books with mazes, word searches, or hidden pictures. My kids love anything by Highlights.
13. Yard Games
Bringing along an outdoor yard game or two provides for a quick and easy option for kids looking for something to do. Simple activities like kicking around a soccer ball or throwing a frisbee back and forth are fun ways to burn energy and make great family memories.
Some of our personal favorite yard games include:
14. Campsite Chores
While this is not the most exciting idea, many hands make light work. Assigning simple chores like looking for kindling for the fire or putting out plates and utensils for dinner are great ways to keep kids occupied. Plus, chores help develop responsibility and self-esteem.
Spending time around the campfire is a classic camping activity. If you need some healthy and easy meal ideas for your next camping trip, try these Easy Kid Friendly Camping Meals.
After dinner, sing songs around the campfire or take turns telling stories together as a family.
16. Lanterns or Glow Sticks
If your kids haven’t crashed yet by the time it is dark, they will love using lanterns or reusable glow sticks at night!
These may be my favorite camping accessories we have found for the kids. Check out the link below for the cutest camping lantern that is just the right brightness to work as a nightlight. We also love using these reusable glow sticks instead of the disposable ones – much more environmentally friendly.
Happy Hiking & Camping!
What are some of your favorite hiking or camping activities with kids? Drop a comment below!