Now, obviously when you go camping it should be possible for your children to just run free and not need any extra entertainment, right? Well, that sometimes works, but it’s also a good idea to have a few camping toys to hand in case the kids run out of ideas.
We’ve been camping with our two boys every year since they were tiny (they’re nine and seven now) and we’ve tried and tested plenty of kids’ camping toys and family camping games over the years. We’ve also camped with groups of friends who’ve brought different children’s camping toys along to keep all the kids occupied. So, if you’ve ever wondered what to bring to entertain kids when camping, what follows is a selection of some of our favourite finds. What do you think are the best toys to take camping for children? And what is the best activity to do while camping with kids? Let me know in the comments below.
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The best camping toys for kids
When we went camping with a group of friends recently, the children disappeared off into the woods and played hide and seek in teams with walkie talkies. They were gone for quite some time.
Head torches aren’t really a camping toy, more of a camping necessity. However, they’re so much fun I’ve decided to list them here. We have some wind up headtorches but if you don’t fancy winding up a torch in the middle of the night when you need a wee, there are some pretty good headtorches with rechargeable batteries on the market.
Along with a nature book or two (the RSPB and I Spy both have some good ones), binoculars are great for children who have an interest in the natural world. Alternatively, they’re also good for spotting and spying on the enemy in camp war games.
Wandering into Mountain Warehouse is akin to walking into a sweet shop with my children – we always seem to have our arms twisted into buying something. Most recently it was a water bottle filled with among other things a penknife. However, as the total cost was only a tenner, the penknife was pretty rubbish so it’s disappeared into the bowels of our house never to be seen again.
If you’re after a decent kids’ penknife, I’m sure the traditional Victorinox penknives (of which there is one specifically designed for kids) will do the trick. I’m still slightly nervous about letting my kids loose with one as I still have memories of my brother accidently cutting his hand open when he had one. However, with a bit of adult supervision, penknives are great for getting kids involved with collecting kindling for a campfire and preparing food.
I love the squeals of delight from my boys when their kite finally gets airborne. We’ve done quite a bit of kite flying over the last year – I’m sure a lot of kites were dusted off during lockdown. They’re a great way to entertain kids when you’re camping – particularly if you’re like us and frequently find yourself camping on a slope…
Frisbees and flying discs
It’s a sign of age when you find yourself saying “when I was young…” but I just can’t stop myself. When I was young, the selection of frisbees and other flying discs was rather limited – just a hard bit of plastic which my brother used to try to decapitate me with. Anyway, there are many, many different flying objects on the market nowadays, even ones which don’t double as a sibling slayer.
If you’re lucky with the weather, a bit of water play is a great way to keep kids entertained while camping. Our kids love a good campsite water battle. Just make sure you confer with your friends if you’re going as a group – water gun envy and water gun superiority can cause a few problems.
Bring a large bucket
If your toddler isn’t keen on taking a shower, it’s a good idea to bring a large bucket which you can dunk your child in for a wash. Buckets have many uses when you’re camping – from lugging dirty dishes to the wash block to sterilising infants’ bottles.
If you’re not camping near the sea and it’s really hot, a big bucket of water is a great way to cool little people down.
Sports toys to take camping with kids
Camping is the perfect time to actually hang out with your kids and play sport – there’s no boring household jobs to distract you from a good old fashioned game of cricket or footie.
Football goal (and ball)
A small portable football goal is a really useful bit of camping kit. As well as for football, it’s also helpful in cricket if you need an extra defence against fast moving balls. One of our boys spends hours kicking balls into a net at home so it’s handy for children to use independently when there aren’t other kids around.
I find cricket a tricky game to follow but the simplified version which we play when camping, or French cricket where you just have to hit the batter on the leg with a ball, definitely work for me.
Badminton and volleyball
There are various badminton nets on the market – Decathlon and Amazon have a good selection. And if badminton isn’t your thing, the nets double up very well for a game of volleyball (and possibly a limbo competition).
The perfect game for a child to play by themselves! I searched EVERYWHERE during lockdown for a swingball set – they were sold out for months but we finally managed to buy one in the middle of winter. There are two types – the sort with a spike to hammer into the ground, or the more portable one with a carry case which you can fill with water to become the base.
Not only is this a great toy for burning energy, it also doubles as a washing line.
Bat and ball
My brother takes this game rather seriously and can often be found on a beach on the Isle of Wight playing bat and ball for what seems like hours at a time.
Free games to play when camping
Camping is meant to be a cheap holiday but it’s very easy to get caught up in buying a whole load of camping “stuff” which you don’t necessarily need. The other problem is space in the car – if you don’t have a giant boot, there’s not much space left after you’ve packed in the tent, mattresses, sleeping bags and so on.
So, here’s a list of games to play when camping which won’t cost you a penny and won’t take up much space in the car.
Sports day games to play
We went camping for my son’s birthday last year – there was a group of six boys to entertain – so I packed hessian sacks (which we use for our allotment), bean bags and some old ties (for three-legged races) so they could have a mini sports day. We’ve also played tug of war with an old bit of rope on another camping trip.
This is a great free activity, all the games can be modified – egg and spoon can be stone and spoon, sacks can be bags for life (or sleeping bags if it’s not too muddy on your campsite), and so on. If you have children who aren’t big fans of traditional sports, these fun games should definitely win them over.
Simply make a list of all the things you’re likely to come across on a campsite and send the kids off with pen and paper to tick everything off. I love this game.
Play with sticks and stones
Even though my kids are getting a bit older now, there seems to be no end in sight for the obsession with sticks. I was particularly impressed last summer when one of my boys made a Harry Potter-inspired magic wand by sticking a feather to the end of a stick with melted marshmallow (a very powerful glue as it turns out).
To really test your kids’ stick skills, get them to erect a frame to play limbo. Not only will this take up quite a bit of time finding suitable sticks, but there’s the hilarious game itself to play afterwards. And best of all, the kids will always win!
As well as bringing a roll of string, bring some pens and chalk along so the kids can paint rocks and stones.
I used to love this game when I was a kid. If your memory is a little hazy, I’ll remind you – someone is picked to be the detective and leaves the group while the rest decide who will be the killer. It’s then the detective’s job to find the culprit before all the group die by being winked at. My kids love to enact particularly dramatic death throes.
It always amazes me that my younger son enjoys playing this game for SO LONG.
This list of free camping games could go on and on: make paper planes, play hopscotch, hide and seek, tag… do you have any favourite camping games? Let me know in the comments at the end.
Wet weather games and toys to take camping
Ah, camping and rain, that very British problem. This is when compact camping toys come in very handy. Aside from the obviously colouring books, sticker books and hmm… books, here’s a few ideas which have worked for us.
Travel board games
Many of our traditional board games now come in a useful travel format (although I do find the almost microscopic discs in our very tiny Connect Four extremely annoying). Guess Who and Battleships are popular in our house.
One of our favourite card games is Top Trumps. The choices are endless – in our house, Harry Potter, fast cars and football stars are the most popular packs but I recently enjoyed a Bake Off version with my niece (although I didn’t agree with all of the ratings).
Our kids are also rather fond of Plop Trumps. Similar to Top Trumps but poo-themed, these are both educational and gross – what more could you ask for!
Leaf or flower press
I loved my flower press when I was a child. I had boxes and boxes of colourful pressed flowers and I’m glad my boys enjoy this activity too. Our press is currently on its most important mission – pressing a four leaf clover.
If you only bring out the Play Doh once a year, it’s amazing how it continues to appeal to kids of all ages. At a recent Beaver Scout meet up, the kids spent almost a whole hour creating structures from toothpicks and Play Doh – spaghetti also works apparently.
Camping in the garden
One of my best buys of the last few years was a Den Kit. I did balk at the price (£40) but I knew it would be a good investment (and that was before Covid came along!) My boys love pitching this little den in the garden, it comes out in all seasons and the den has taken many different shapes over the last few years. It is currently hanging from a tree in our garden.
The Den Kit make a brilliant birthday or Christmas present.
So, what do you think are the best toys to take camping? Let me know in the comments below.
Not sure what to pack for your camping trip? I’ve put together a list of camping essentials and tips.
And if you’re looking for ways to get your kids outdoors, read my post about hiking with kids.
For more travel-themed gift ideas, head over to this article packed with great suggestions for travel presents.
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