So you have finally carved out some time to hit the open road and explore some of the wonderful scenery of The Great Outdoors. While you may be relishing the idea of some time to disconnect from the world and enjoy the peace and quiet, your teen might very well be thinking, “Why on Earth did Mom and Dad bring me to this deserted wasteland when I could be partying with my friends in Miami?”
Actually, that deserted wasteland often represents Nature at its finest, and one day, your teen is sure to look back on those happy days of camping with really fond memories. But that doesn’t always help at the actual time! Dealing with sullen, resentful teens on a family vacation can be no fun at all.
When you are preparing for your next camping trip, it is a good idea to have a few interesting things planned that can really get your teen excited about the trip and help the entire family enjoy the whole vacation a little more. Our selection of camping activities is meant for kids of every age and ability level, but especially for teens, perhaps at summer camp.
Choosing fun camping activities and camping games for teens is kind of tricky, but if you focus on active games, you’ll reduce the risk of boredom. Many of these types of activities are challenging and they can lead to a lot of laughter and intergenerational camaraderie. We’ll take a look at some active outdoor activities as well as some indoor ones for those rainy days that will inevitably arise. Some activities might require a little more preparation and equipment, but some can be played at any time and almost anywhere.
Team Camping Activities
Competition between small groups of teenage boys or girls can create a great deal of fun in the campground, and also allow your teen to meet and mingle with other people of their own age. One interesting idea is to rent a tent that your teen can use on their own for the entire duration of the trip. Giving your teen a little more space is a great strategy. Here are a few other helpful suggestions for some enjoyable indoor and outdoor games that bring in an element of competition, but still allow for great group camaraderie.
1. Water Balloon Challenge
This game can be especially fun on really hot days. Simply fill a bunch of balloons with cold water. Get a group of teens together and divide them into teams, and then provide each person with a few filled balloons. The team with the driest members when the balloons are all dry wins the challenge. If you don’t have a large enough group for teams, then the person who stays the driest after all the balloons are gone wins the challenge.
2. Balloon Basketball
Set up two rows of chairs about three feet apart. Assign each team a basket at one end of the facing rows. Divide everybody into two teams and get them to sit with alternating players from each team. Put a large basket, box, or bin at each end of the facing rows. The object is to hit the balloon down the “court” and score a basket. If any of the players hit the balloon out of bounds, the leader awards the other team the ball to begin play again. Set either a score to be reached or a maximum time length to win.
3. Campground Ambush
Try to select a wooded area for this activity, which can work especially well for older kids. Establish a starting point, and divide everybody into two teams. Provide the first team with something to leave a trail, such as a bag of popcorn. All of the team members head off into the woods to set up an ambush point. The second team waits a few minutes and then sets off to find the first team. When they arrive at the ambush spot, the first team’s members jump out and tag all of the members of the second team before they can return to the campground. Those who are tagged join the first team. When everyone is back at the campground, players can switch sides, with team two doing the ambushing. Eventually, all the players will end up on the first team. The last player who remains untagged wins.
4. Catch the Cane
For this activity, you will need a cane, a broomstick, or a wooden baseball bat. Give a number to each player without any of the players knowing which numbers the other players have. Everybody then forms a circle around the player in the center, who holds the cane and releases it without warning, while calling out a number. The person assigned the called number runs forward and tries to catch the released object before it can hit the ground. If the player succeeds, he or she becomes the person in the center of the circle.
5. Bump, Set, and Spike
Get everybody to form a circle and pass around a beach ball or some other light type of ball. Players can only touch the ball once in a row. If they touch it twice, they are out. If a player is not able to keep the ball in play, they are out. If players touch the ball and then the ball hits the ground, they sit in the middle of the circle. If players spike the ball, and the players in the middle of the circle catch it, the player who spiked the ball sits in the middle of the circle. The object is to be the last one standing.
6. Other Outdoor Games like Volleyball or Dodgeball
If the campground has a volleyball court, then this activity is a no-brainer. For dodgeball, you can throw a single ball into the air. Players must allow the ball to bounce three times, after which any player can grab the ball. Players may only take three steps and then must throw the ball at another player. Anyone hit by the ball is out and must leave the playing field. However, if a player successfully catches a ball thrown at them, the thrower is out. Every time a new player is eliminated, anyone eliminated by them can return to the activity. The winner is the player left when everyone else is out. This activity can take a long time, so you can shorten it by having those players eliminated permanently from the activity.
7. Campfire Activities
By the time the sun goes down, lots of campers can often be physically exhausted. But having a few evening activities around the fire can help keep everyone entertained for a few hours. Once you have a good fire going, it doesn’t take long to cook up some mouthwatering recipes that will keep everyone satisfied for many meals. If you are looking for more inspiration in your recipes, take a look at some of our helpful tips for cooking around a campfire.
Many campgrounds have a pavilion or other safe outdoor gathering area if you’d like to meet up with other campers in the evening. There are several activities that your teen might enjoy and these will help make your time around the campfire as fun and memorable as possible.
8. Campfire Story Contest
We’ve found that scary stories can often be a lot of fun, but be sure not to make them so scary that nobody can get to sleep! Try getting your teens to make up some stories or tell old ones with a new twist. Also, lots of teens love hearing about the “good old days” when the adults were their age, so it can be useful to think about some funny stories from your youth that you’d like to share around the campfire.
9. Storytelling Chain
If no one has a story to share, try a storytelling chain. You can get an adult to begin with a sentence that sets the scene and acts as an icebreaker. For example, “One night, not too long ago, right here in this campground, something strange happened.” Each camper adds a sentence until the story ends. If the stories are short, you can always encourage the telling of more than one.
10. Songs Around the Fire
If your campers do not know many traditional campfire songs, you may need to teach them. Try easy things at first, such as “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”, with singers joining in after each line is sung. For extra fun, you can add “instruments” such as a can filled with pebbles, pot lids, and “drum sticks” (a long-handled spoon) and pans. Another idea is to choose contemporary songs that the teens might all know, and after hearing the chorus a few times, the adults can try to join in a little too.
11. Acting and Miming (Charades)
In this activity, you can imagine yourselves being at another location and then acting as if you were there. Some suggestions are a sunny beach, another country, a state park, another planet, a cafeteria, or a restaurant. A good way to start this activity is for everyone to line up behind one another. The first person acts out an action appropriate to the chosen location in about fifteen seconds. The others try to guess what the person is doing and where they are. If those guesses are correct, the person goes to the end of the line. If the action cannot be guessed, the person is out and must sit down. The next person can then also put on a show.Everybody continues until there is a winner.
12. Obstacle Course
An obstacle course can provide a real challenge for your teens. If you have enough time and space, you can leave the obstacle course set up for a few days or for your entire camping session, and everybody can keep using it to improve their skills and scores. Using camp items and creativity, your obstacle course could possibly include:
- Collecting ten pieces of wood and place them on the campfire woodpile
- Crawling under the picnic table
- Finding 5 pieces of trash and throw them away
- Doing x number of jumping jacks or push-ups
- Hanging from a tree branch for 15 seconds
- Walking (or running) around the campground perimeter twice (or more)
- Leap-frogging over a stationary item (something soft)
13. Scavenger Hunt
There are two different types of scavenger hunts you can try with your teens: 1) a wide-ranging nature walk with a list for teens to check off as they find items, and 2) a scavenger hunt with parameters within the camp area. The list of items to find can certainly vary according to your circumstances, but either option can be a great deal of fun. If you decide on the nature-walk scavenger hunt, it is probably better for your teens not to pick up their finds, but simply check them off their list. Here is a list of possible items you might want to include:
- A bird’s nest
- Crawling insects
- Wild animals like deer or squirrel
- Fish or frogs
- A worm
- A piece of trash
- A toadstool
- A pinecone
- A rock with an unusual shape
- A slug or snail
- A snake
- Animal tracks
- A bug
- Moss or lichen
It might be a good idea to get all of the campers to work in pairs or teams if you have a very large group.
14. Camp Olympics
Other good camp games might include a kind of “Camp Olympics”. This is a great camp experience if you intend to include a wide variety of skills and allow all of your teens to make selections based upon their abilities. A good way to do this is to divide all of the camp activities into sets and let the teens pick from each set. Give points for the more difficult skills in each set and decide upon the total points necessary to complete each activity. If you do not force people to compete for the highest score, the activity becomes more fun and inclusive. Many fun camp activities can work for your Olympics. Try the following suggestions:
- Balancing on one leg, with a point for every 10 seconds
- Jump roping
- Skipping stones
- Long jump
- Tug of war
- Relay races
- Shooting basketballs
- Swimming competitions
15. Rainy Day Camp Activities
The weather does not always cooperate during camp sessions, so be prepared with some indoor and outdoor rainy day activities. If the rain is warm and there is no thunder and lightning, encourage everyone to simply get out and play in the rain. But if the conditions are too bad, try some of the acting and miming games we discussed earlier. Cards and board games are also some excellent ways to pass the time on rainy days in the campground.
A Few More Tips for Fun and Effective Camp Activities
Camping can be great fun with a group of people of all age levels. Nature enthusiasts can really get into greater knowledge about everything from the local bugs in the area or even the types of trees that are most commonly found. With teens, it is especially important to have a lot of planned activities to help them enjoy themselves and not feel so bored. To make your camp activities as fun and effective as possible, always consider these simple rules and guidelines. Choose the kinds of activities where everyone can participate and have fun.
Choose the kinds of activities that fit the age and ability level of your teens. Adults should participate with the teens. Give clear instructions and make sure all participants understand the activity rules. Encourage sportsmanship and discourage name-calling, rough playing, and any other behaviors that may hurt anybody physically or emotionally. One final idea is to have a few rewards, like ice cream or other treats like nuts or trail mix, to give to everybody after they have finished for the day. There is nothing like cold ice cream to enjoy at the end of a long day at the campground!