Camping with toddlers can be truly magical. Everything they see is exciting and new, and their curiosity and energy can bring new life to the simplest of camping trips. Seeing nature and the outdoors through your child’s eyes can be an incredible experience.
If you are going camping with toddlers, it is important to keep them entertained. The more things they have to occupy their time, the more pleasant the trip is for everyone involved.
Many of our favorite camping activities for toddlers are open ended and imaginative, which is key to keeping them curious about the world around them.
While most of the toddler camping activities we mention below need some sort of parent involvement, do your best to step back and let your little one take the lead.
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1. Toddler Camping Toys
While it’s not necessary to bring a lot of camping toys with you, there are a few toys that always make camping with a toddler much easier.
You probably already have all of these things around the house and thankfully, they don’t take up much room at all.
Camping toys for toddlers to pack:
2. Camping Scavenger Hunt
A camping scavenger hunt is a great way to keep toddlers entertained. Give them a list of things to find, such as leaves, rocks, sticks, flowers, and bugs. You can even make it a race to see who can find the most items on the list.
If you’re feeling really creative, you can hide some treats around the campsite for them to find as well. To make this toddler camping activity a little more toddler friendly, try to use pictures with the words beside them!
A scavenger hunt is such a fun idea, we’ve included it in our list of toddler hiking essentials too!
3. I Spy
I Spy is one of the most classic toddler camping games and a great way to keep toddlers entertained while. Pick out an object, and then give them clues to help them guess what it is. You can make the clues as easy or difficult as you want, depending on the age of your child.
This game is also a great way to teach toddlers about different objects and animals that they might see while camping and to teach them to practice their skills of observation.
4. Campfire “soup”
Making campfire soup is a great way for your toddler to stretch their imagination and such a fun camping activity for toddlers!
Give your toddler a pot or bucket with a handle and instruct them to find fun things around the campsite that they could put into their “campfire soup”. They may add grass, pinecones, rocks, or even leaves.
After they’ve collected all their ingredients, add some water and let them stir their soup with a stick to create a “delicious dinner”. Pour it into bowls, or just pretend to eat it with spoons (sticks).
5. Camping Coloring Pages
Camping coloring pages can be the perfect way to wind down after a long day of playing. We love to give our toddlers coloring pages at the picnic table while we’re making dinner.
It keeps them close by and occupied while the adults take care of some camp chores.
Check out some of our favorite FREE camping coloring pages.
6. Rock Painting
Toddlers love to get creative, and rock painting is the perfect activity for them while camping. All you need are some rocks and some washable paint, and your toddler will be entertained for hours.
They can paint rocks to look like animals, flowers, or whatever their imagination comes up with. Once they’re done painting you can take the rocks home or gift them to one of your camping neighbors.
Don’t want to bring paint on your camping trip? Just bring a paint brush and let your toddler paint the rocks with water. Give them several rocks to paint designs on with water.
Once they’re done with the last one, the first rock will likely be dry so they can just keep going.
7. Go On A Bird Hunt
For this toddler camping activity, you’ll need a pair of kids binoculars or two toilet paper rolls taped side by side to make play binoculars.
Walk around your campsite and slowly watch and listen for birds. Once you’ve spotted one, pull out your binoculars for a closer look.
Your toddler will love getting an up close view of the birds. You can even bring along a bird identification book to help you identify the different types of birds that you see.
This is a great camping activity for toddlers who are early risers since it gives them something to do that’s engaging and quiet while the rest of the campground is still asleep. As a bonus, early morning is one of the best times for bird watching.
8. Search For Bugs
Help your toddler lift up rocks and small logs to look for bugs underneath. This is a great way to teach them about different types of insects and spiders.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even let them hold some of the bugs that you find (if they’re not harmful). Just make sure to put the bugs back where you found them when you’re done.
If you have a toddler who really loves bugs, consider bringing a magnifying glass so they can really examine the bugs closer.
9. Make and Float Stick Boats
This camping activity requires a little bit more parent help, but it’s so much fun that it’s absolutely worth the extra effort. Gather small sticks from around the campsite and put them all in a pile.
Once you have enough sticks, use some twine and lash them together into whatever shape of boat your toddler wants. You could make a circle or a triangle, a boat with a rudder, or one with a sail. Be creative.
After you’ve made your boat, find a stream to float it down. See what features worked well and which ones didn’t and go back and modify the boat to make it better. This is the perfect activity for camping with toddlers on a hot day!
10. Bake Pies Together
Pie iron pies are so easy to make and are the perfect campfire cooking dessert for toddlers to help with.
Get your pie iron out, have your toddler put a slice of bread on each side and then scoop canned pie filling onto one of the pieces. Clamp the pie iron closed and let your toddler help you hold it as you roast it over the fire.
This is one of the easiest camping desserts to make and your toddler will love that they can help every step of the way. They might be slightly less messy than the ever-popular s’mores!
11. Create a Natural Obstacle Course
This is a great activity to do if your toddler is full of energy and needs to burn off some steam. Use logs, rocks, and sticks to create an obstacle course for them to navigate.
You can make it as simple or as complex as you want, depending on the age and abilities of your child.
Maybe you’ll want to make a log for them to jump across, sticks to crawl under, and rocks to use as stepping stones. Get creative, depending on your toddlers abilities and the area you have to work with.
12. Glow Stick Dance Party
This is the perfect toddler camping activity for those times when you just want to relax and watch your toddler have some fun. Put on some music and give them each a glow stick to dance with. They’ll have a blast dancing around in the dark, waving their glow sticks around.
This is one of the most fun things to do in a tent with toddlers to get all those extra wiggles out before bed.
13. “And Then” Story Telling Game
Select one member from your camping group to be the first narrator. Whether it’s real or make-believe, they’ll begin telling a story that will leave you hanging. When the storyteller is ready, he or she’ll say “and then….,” and someone else in the group will pick up where he or she left off.
The story can go in any direction, and it’s fun to let the kids’ ideas guide whether this is a silly or exciting story.
Here are a few “and then” story starters to get you going:
I was sitting in my tent and then…
I saw a bird in the sky and then…
I went for a walk in the woods with my mom and then…
I found a secret trail and then…
I heard a noise in the bushes and then…
14. Read Stories In A Hammock
After a day out hiking with a toddler, planning downtime into your toddler camping trip is always a good idea.
Camping hammocks are a great addition to your camping gear stash because they can work as a chair, a place to play, or as a place to relax and maybe even take a nap.
Bring along a few small paperback books on your trip that have a nature or camping theme to them.
15. Create Nature Art
This is one of our all time favorite camping activities for toddlers. It’s so simple, but so much fun. All you need is some construction paper, crayons, and a variety of nature items like leaves, acorns, berries, and pinecones. Let your toddler go wild creating their own masterpiece using the items they find around them.
This is such a great activity for toddlers because it’s open ended and they can use their imagination to create whatever they want. It’s also a great way to get them interested in all the different items they find while exploring nature.
16. Make Leaf Rubbings
This is a camp activity that toddlers will love and will also need a little bit of help with.
Grab a variety of leaves from around your campsite and place them on the table. Place a piece of construction paper over the top and help your toddler hold it down while they color over the leaf with a crayon. This generally works best if you remove the wrapper from the crayon, hold it on it’s side, and rub back and forth.
The result is a beautiful work of art that includes all the different shapes and colors of leaves they found on their camping trip. This is such a great way to preserve the memories of your trip and the things you saw while you were there.
Bubbles are the perfect activity for camping with toddlers and should be a part of your toddler camping essentials! They’re easy to pack, and you’ll get lots of little giggles when you start playing with them together.
Make sure to have some water to rinse soapy hands off on hand since things can get a little bit messy if you don’t.
With all of these toddler activities for your next camping trip, things should be more fun for everyone so that you can all relax and enjoy the great outdoors together!
This post was written by Jessica Averett.
Jessica is an outdoor loving mom of 5 kids. She believes that the best memories are made outside and mixed with a little bit of dirt! You can follow some of her best outdoor advice at KidsCampingTips.com.
More on Camping with Toddlers
This post was written & edited by:
Celine Brewer is the owner of Baby Can Travel. Not only does she have years of experience traveling with babies & toddlers, but she's helped millions of new parents travel with their babies and toddlers for over a decade. In addition to writing on her baby travel blog, she has shared her expertise on traveling with a baby or toddler by contributing to articles about traveling with a baby with the Washington Post, USA Today, the Lonely Planet magazine and Pregnancy & Newborn magazine.
Celine also writes about family travel on the site FamilyCanTravel.com, which she co-owns with her husband. Being from the Canadian Rockies, she shares her passion about her home and travel to Banff National Park and area on their site TravelBanffCanada.com.