How to Plan Fun Family Camping Activities

If you are planning a family camping vacation this summer, you might be wondering how you're going to keep the kids entertained when you're not out hiking or sightseeing. Luckily, many of the state and federal parks that are popular with family campers feature a lot of family- and kid-oriented activities during the summer to keep everyone entertained.

The first place to look for ideas on family camping activities is the description of the campground on its ReserveAmerica page. Two summers ago, we spend the Fourth of July holiday at Joseph H. Stewart State Recreation Area, near Oregon's Crater Lake National Park. ReserveAmerica describes the park as follows:

"There are 201 campsites, hot showers, playgrounds, hiking and biking trails. In the spacious day use area there is a large swimming area, boat ramp, marina, boat rentals, restaurant and groceries. There are also 11.5 miles of bike and hiking trails through a lush conifer forest with year-round streams and ample wildlife viewing."

When you're camping with young children, you can't go wrong with playgrounds, bike trails, swimming and wildlife viewing! It's always nice to have a nearby grocery store, too, particularly if you are new to the camping experience.

In addition to the activities listed on ReserveAmerica, many state and federal parks feature Junior Ranger programs throughout the summer. These programs vary by location, but generally run an hour in the afternoon and feature a youth-oriented activity that is fun, but also teaches something about the area or the wildlife.

If your summer vacation plans include hiking, you might be wondering how to keep your kids interested and engaged. One strategy is to turn the hike into a scavenger hunt. Begin with the letter "A" and challenge your children to find an object whose name begins with that letter. Continue through the alphabet during the hike and, before they know it, the hike will be over and they will probably be looking forward to the next one. Kids can take pictures of the object, or simply keep a list of the things they find.

At the campsite, it's a good idea to have some toys and games available to keep your kids occupied during downtimes, or when you're cooking meals. I like games that are small and easy to pack, like Uno or one of the memory games, where you try to find a matching pair of cards. These games are fun for adults, too, and they are easy to play on a picnic table.

Activities that both parents and children can participate in together are always best--after all, this is family camping. A soccer ball can actually be a lot of fun, even for small children, and it can be kicked around in a relatively small area. Games like badminton and volleyball require a larger area and more equipment, but can be a lot of fun if you're camping with friends and have a larger group of adults and kids to entertain.

Camping is a great adventure for kids and they are going to have a lot of fun just being in the woods with a tent, sleeping bag and a campfire. In fact, your biggest challenge will probably be trying to get them to sleep each night! The best way to capture some of that excitement is to involve them in as many of the camping activities as possible, such as putting up the tent and building the campfire. Planning for a few fun activities is just icing on the cake, and will ensure a successful and memorable trip for kids and parents alike.

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