My family goes on 4 to 5 camping trips a summer and I can tell you from experience that it can be exhausting camping with kids, but it gets much easier as they get older. By dinnertime, it can be hard to find the energy and motivation to keep the fun going! Looking back at all my camping experiences as a child, I remember some activities during the day like canoeing and swimming, but mostly I remember how much fun we had around the campfire.
My dad would let me sing crazy camp songs that I learned and he would tell scary stories that I now tell my oldest. My mom would share silly games and stories from when she was in girl scouts. Some of my greatest memories of camping as a child were spent around the campfire.
I chose to start the camping series with this topic because even people who have not been camping are able to do a lot of these things at home.
I will share campfire snack ideas, activities for around the campfire, and other nighttime activities. I’m sure you may be familiar with some of these ideas, but I hope I am able to give you some new ideas or remind you of different things to try with your kids.
Campfire snack ideas:
We love the original graham cracker, Hershey bar, and marshmallow version, but we also have tried different candy bars (Reese’s and Kit Kats are some favorites) and cookie alternatives (Fudge Stripes with no candy and just one marshmallow)
Fill ice cream cone cups with mini marshmallows and mini chocolate chips to the top. Wrap in tin foil and warm on the side of the campfire until chocolate is melted. You may also line the inside of the cone with peanut butter before filling it.
Split banana with peel lengthwise and fill with any desired toppings. We have used peanut butter and Mini M&Ms but there are several banana boat recipes to try! Wrap in tin foil and warm over the fire until toppings are melted.
Roasted Starbursts or Circus Peanuts
This is one I learned from when I was a child and went on camp-outs for camp. Put an unwrapped Starburst or circus peanut on the end of a stick and keep it over the heat until it gets bubbly and/or starts dripping. Wait for candy to re-harden and then enjoy!
Popcorn over the fire? YUM!
Cinnamon roll on a stick
Using a tube of refrigerated cinnamon rolls, cut rolls in half and roll into ropes (about 5-6 inches). Wrap around skewers and cook over the fire for about 5 mins. Make sure to keep turning them so they cook evenly. Use icing from the tube to drizzle or spread over cinnamon rolls.
Things to do while sitting around the campfire:
Share favorite parts of the day
This is something we do after we finish eating dinner, so when we are camping we save it for around the fire.
Color changing packets (affiliate link)
Songs with hand motions
Singing around the fire is fun for everyone, but using songs with hand motions is especially fun for younger children and toddlers. Some of our favorites are “Peel Bananas,” “Going on a Bear Hunt,” and “Baby Bumblebee”.
Play campfire games like “The Name Game (ABCs)” or “20 Questions”
Pick a category or topic for The Name Game (foods, animals, etc). You can change the level of difficulty based on the ages of your children by requiring each person to recite the previous words if you have older kids or picking a specific letter for your child if they are younger.
Read a picture book by the light of the campfire or have kids help with their flashlights
Any picture book would be fun, but try to use one that is new to them. A camping or nature-themed book would work perfectly.
Listen to music or a Brewer game on the radio (not from a phone or iPad)
Our children hear a lot of music that they get to choose using an iPad or device like Alexa, but other than maybe sometimes in the car they may never listen to a radio. Although this may not be the most engaging activity, it is something you can listen to in the background, or listen to a few songs of one category (ex. Country) and then turn it to a different station (ex. Oldies). If there is a Brewer game on when we are camping we make sure to turn it on. This is something my parents always did and Bob Uecker’s voice still reminds me of sitting around a campfire up north.
Other nighttime activities:
You can choose to do this around your campfire if your campsite doesn’t have a lot of tree coverage above. We have also brought chairs to an open field and the beach at times to look at stars and try to find satellites. There is an app called Sky View that helps you identify specific constellations, stars, planets, etc.
Glow in the dark bubbles, beach ball, jewelry, etc.
Does your child need to run off some extra energy? Anything glow in the dark (affiliate link) always brings excitement to our boys. We like to let the boys run around on the beach and use glow-in-the-dark bubbles and beach balls. This is not something we do every night. Usually, we do it once on each camping trip and it is something they always look forward to!
Find a nice open space to do this (away from the campfire). The person who is “it” closes their eyes and counts to 20 while everyone else scatters. The person who is “it” opens their eyes, turns on the flashlight, and tries to find the others that are running around. When they find them they call out their name and shine the flashlight on them. That person then becomes “it”.
We go to 2 different campsites that have a ton of fireflies at night, but there have been other places where we don’t see any. They are found more in high grass or humid and damp areas. We have found them in prairies and on the edge of the woods. You can catch them by hand or a net. They are fun to catch!
Lanterns and board games on the picnic table
Although many RVs/campers have outdoor lights built-in, it is still fun for kids to use lanterns and flashlights. Playing a board game or a card game like Uno by the light of a lantern can be something different and fun to do!
Walk around the campground with flashlights
Make sure kids know not to shine it in campsites or at people walking. We have also brought the boys down to the beach to shine flashlights in the water and run around the beach. If you are at a campground with a raccoon presence you can sometimes hear them in the woods and my oldest shines his flashlight up in trees to find them (which he has – twice!). Again, flashlights and lanterns can provide a lot of entertainment for children when camping!
Other information and tips:
We ask our boys to gather sticks and small pieces of wood/bark for kindling each day. They know that we can’t have a campfire until they have collected a good-sized pile of kindling.
We draw a circle in the dirt around the fire pit that no one is able to cross except for Mom and Dad. When the fire starts, we are in our chairs or playing at the picnic table or a different place in the campsite. My oldest is 10 and he is allowed to add wood to the fire but not until his little brother is in bed. I don’t want to get too much into guidelines we have or rules we follow, so here is where you can find more information on campfire safety.
For more camping tips, check out “Look in Your Belly Button… and other useful camping safety tips”.
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