11 Must-Do Camping Activities for Preschoolers

Ray Cahoy
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Leaf Painting

Liven up your child’s look with leaf art. Find freshly fallen autumn leaves. Let your child use his imagination and paint the leaves. He may draw a face, write a word, or even practice writing his name. Take a picture of your child’s leaves so the next year you can see how much he or she has grown.

Campfire Stories

While we parents sit around the campfire, it falls to the kids to entertain themselves. From playing with sticks to building a teepee out of pine needles, it takes a while for them to tire out! Pre-teens and teens will need something indoor-like but outdoors.

So, initiate an indoor storytelling session. Grab a few pillows or blankets and make cozy little camping forts. The greatest thing about this is it gets the kids active while still letting them rest. They can sit up, make faces at each other, and play pretend games as they exercise their bodies and minds virtually.

The adults can even get in on the game, passing around a ball and taking turns playing catch. If you have energetic kids, put them up to a physical challenge!

Assorted Rocks

Collect different types of rocks from your hike before you head home. Let your preschooler create a rock collection at home and have him name each rock as he goes along.


Give your preschooler a small assortment of small rocks, marbles, old buttons and rings. Let him sort them according to shape and size.

Silly Sounds

Have your preschooler create sounds with rocks. Teach him a sound that each type of rock makes and have him pay attention to how each type sounds. For instance, if he hits two stones together, one of the stones will sound fast while the other will sound slower.

Paint Chips

Give him paint chips and have him create a painting using rocks. Let him use his imagination and create his own masterpiece.


Roll up pieces of newspaper and stuff them into a small box. Cut a hole in the top of the box and leave the top off. When your preschooler is ready, blow up balloons, cut off the ends and place them on top of the box.


Help your preschooler to light a candle inside the cave he created. With one candle, he can light a second candle and so on.

Scavenger hunt

One of the best ways to keep your preschooler busy and learning new things is to engage in an indoor scavenger hunt. Here’s how you can make one yourself:


  • Small bag or basket
  • Pre-written list, in alphabetical order, of a variety of household items
  • A pre-written list of items that are missing, in alphabetical order


Put the pre-written alphabetical list of missing items in the bag and have your child search the house to find the items on the list. When he does – (and he will – very quickly) — he can place the items in the bag.

5.Wood toys

Teach them to whittle using a simple piece of wood. The process of whittling involves scouting for the best stick or branch, shaving off the sharp edges, and to give it a specific shape using blades. It’s a rather simple process, but there is a lot to learn in it.

You can make the whittling fun by making a game out of it, have older kids give younger children demonstration first, or hold simple competitions as to who can make the best toy.

Make sure that the teacher and the child wear safety goggles, because there will be splinters.

Paper plane challenge

Making paper planes is a fun activity for kids because they love to throw and see how much distance they can achieve. But did you ever think that you can make a checklist for the challenge?

As kids take one by one each paper plane that they have made to the yard to test how far the paper plane can go, they can also make a chart and write down the distance of each paper plane they made. This is a great way to track their progress since you can also take photos to show their progress throughout the day.

Decorate-Your-Own S’more Stick

For the visual learners in your group, this is a perfect campfire activity. And with marshmallows, graham crackers, and Hershey’s bars on-hand, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a messier or yummier campfire activity than this one.

Graham Crackers

Pre-cut graham crackers to fit in each muffin cup.

Melt chocolate over low heat in a double broiler (or even better, a makeshift low-tech double broiler using a small bowl inside a larger container filled with water).

Once chocolate has melted, hand out the muffin cups and miniature Hershey’s bars to each child. She’ll have to break the candy bar into pieces and place it into her own muffin cup. You may want to provide an extra cup for easier clean up.

Alternate adding a small marshmallow (one that’s small enough to fit in the muffin cup) into the chocolate, and then picking it up with a toothpick to place it on top of the graham cracker.

Repeat until you have a pretty little arrangement in each cup.

Sing along with glow sticks

When walking at night, have your preschoolers carry their own glow sticks. By having them hold the glowing sticks themselves, it makes the experience more entertaining for them and can add for a lot of fun as you and your children perform a night-time routine.

If they’d like, they can even make up their own songs as they pass their glowing sticks to each other.

I spy

This is an easy way to keep little ones entertained out in the wild. All you need to do is roll a few pine cones and place them on the ground within your child’s reach.

If you want a challenge, roll up some leaves and place a pair of gloves on your child’s hands. The gloves and leaf trail need to be just a bit out of reach of your child’s arms.

Now let them do what they love to do: explore. Closely supervise your child while they’re exploring so they don’t poke their eyes or fall off a cliff.

Take a nature walk

Take a walk with your child and point out things he may see like: animals, plants, colors, shapes, etc. Be sure to guide your preschooler in hiking gently over the trail. It’s best to keep walks around 30 minutes.

Explore and get dirty.

Let your preschooler get down on the ground and roll around. Let your child touch and play with natural objects, like leaves, rocks, and acorns. Physically connecting with nature will allow your child to start to appreciate the outdoors.

Play hide and seek.

Your child is beginning to understand concepts like big and small, so make hiding trees, rocks, and sticks a game. Let your child seek out the objects.

Tell stories.

Early learning experts believe that profound learning can be coupled with storytelling. When telling a story, incorporate a few lessons your child can apply to everyday life.

Collect items.

Collecting items can be an enriching act. Collect flowers, rocks, and leaves. Be sure to read labels so you can identify and explain any plant or animal.

Take pictures.

Taking pictures is a fun way to preserve a family’s vacation memories. Take pictures of your child playing in nature, collecting items, and hiking.

Try knot tying.

Blanket Ball

This game is easy to play and incorporates other camping essentials like a blanket and a ball. Adults can play too! Blindfold one person and have them sit in the middle of the blanket. The other children can be anywhere but try to be close enough that the blindfolded player can touch them. Then the teacher says something like, “It’s a hot summer day. I think I’ll have a picnic.” Once the teacher says picnic, the children try to sit on the blindfolded player. If the player is able to sit on one of the children before they sit on her, that child becomes the new blindfolded player while the first child goes in the middle of the blanket.


Now, doesn’t that look good and feel good?! The memories and traditions you make as a parent and a family are an integral part of your child’s childhood. Make sure you’re giving your child the very best in outdoor experiences and you’ll be giving them the gift of life-long memories and connections. These experiences will help them connect the dots between their childhood and adulthood. They’ll learn that nature provides peace and relaxation, that the outdoors is a place of fun, and that getting dirty doesn’t have to be a bad thing, after all… It’s all okay and part of life.