Camping with tweens and teens is a little different than camping with younger children. While little ones are easily distracted by coloring, butterflies, and goldfish crackers, these older kids are a little more difficult to impress. After the initial excitement of getting to the campsite and setting up the tent (or camper) and gear wears off, it’s helpful to have some fun camping activities for teens and tweens planned in advance to distract from the lack of electronics and comforts of home.
Here are some camping activities I put together for our last trip, and some old family favorites to fend off the teen grumpies:
Fun Camping Activities in Nature
Hiking. A bit of planning ahead in this area can be incredibly helpful. Knowing what cool thing is at the end of the journey can help with those less keen on the hike itself. While the little ones are often content with a path to check out caterpillars, teens are less content “walking to nowhere”. Choosing a campsite near some interesting features like caves, arches, bridges, and streams also makes hiking more fun. Plus, parents get bonus points for anywhere kids can climb giant rocks. It’s always a hit.
Our last trip included a trip through a rock “tunnel”, across several natural bridges like the one pictured below, a sinkhole with a waterfall inside it, and several stream crossings.
Geocaching. Our family has been geocaching for a few years now, and tweens are the perfect age to be introduced to the game. A handheld GPS (or a smartphone with a geocaching app, though they are slightly less accurate and require a cell signal) is needed, but can be found in a wide variety of price ranges. One great option is a geocaching-specific device aimed specifically at tweens and beginners called the Geomate Jr. that works very well. We use the either the Geomate or one of the Garmin eTrex models when we go searching. Seeking the hidden cache container, then trading small swag items, is a great way to add some interest to a hike. Find out more at geocaching.com.
Water Fun. If your campground has a nearby lake, search for local kayak, sailboat, and stand-up paddleboard rentals (or bring your own if you have them). Trying active water adventures is a great addition to swimming, and can battle the summer heat in a new interesting way. If all else fails, there’s always the giant shiny dragon floatie.
Printable Camping Activities for Tweens and Teens
Scavenger Hunt. – I made my own scavenger hunt for tweens using a combination of items from similar sheets as well as adding my own ideas. I brought along small inexpensive prizes like puzzles, balls, and masks for completing the sheet (which also served as entertainment back at the campsite!) We checked off the items instead of collecting them, since we didn’t want to disturb the area.
You can find my printable fun camping activities for tweens and teens using the links below.
Animal Home Search– National Wildlife Federation has their animal home search sheets ready to download and print. Looking for animal homes while hiking or around the campground is another way to keep focus on the environment. Great for tweens as printed, but blank sheets are also available if you want to make things more challenging.
Campground Activities for Kids
In addition to the printable campground scavenger hunts, there are plenty of campground activities to keep teens busy.
Campfire Wishing Stones. – A huge success for all ages! Tweens can heat the rocks in the campfire and remove with tongs (with adult help). Then they can create their own melted art at the picnic table. We’ve made these in the campfire, in our backyard fire pit, and in the oven. Even adults enjoy swirling the crayons and watching the colors melt over the edges of the hot stones.
Fairy/Gnome Houses. – Building fairy houses (or gnome houses for those tweens not keen on fairies) is a fun camping activity that uses natural materials found on a hike or around the campsite. It has building/engineering fun + whimsical fantasy for kids with varying interests. Kids can work together to build one house, or separately to create their own creations.
Music. – If your teen plays an instrument, like a guitar or ukulele (this one is the waterproof, teen-friendly ukelele we take camping), bring it along for a great time around the campfire. A good old fashioned camp song or two can be lots of goofy fun. They can also spend some time playing in the hammock.
Pick Up Sticks Giant Outdoor Game. – Giant yard games aren’t only good for the yard! Lighter, easy to pack versions like this DIY Giant Pick Up Sticks game are fun for all ages and may even help kids find some new friends around the campground.
Camp Cooking for Tweens. – And last but not least, is an activity that needs a separate list of its own. Campfire cooking! Kids love to be part of the process, and helping with interesting camping food teaches skills and entertains! Additionally, having the freedom to cook their own meals is a fantastic “life skills” moment.
Thanks for stopping by! What are your family’s favorite fun camping activities and campground activities for kids? Let me know in the comments.