How to have a fun camping trip – with kids

How to have a fun camping trip – with kids

Prepa­ra­tion is key to ensur­ing the whole fam­i­ly has a great trip.

Want to take the kids camp­ing? Sleep­ing in a tent is a great adven­ture and there’s so much to explore in South Australia’s nation­al parks and reserves.

Research has shown that being out­side, engag­ing in unstruc­tured play in nat­ur­al spaces is great for children’s health and development. 

With chil­dren – and adults – spend­ing more time than ever in front of screens, think of camp­ing as a dig­i­tal detox for the whole family.

With a bit of plan­ning, you can all enjoy time in the great out­doors. Here’s how:

Before you go 

If you haven’t been camp­ing with chil­dren before, start some­where close to home. 

If you live in Ade­laide, Deep Creek Nation­al Park is a good choice. It’s only an hour-and-a-half from the Ade­laide CBD so you can always pack up and head home if you need to.

Use the Find a Park tool on the nation­al parks web­site to search for a spot. You can even view your results on a map to get a bet­ter idea of how far you’ll be travelling.


You might be right across what to bring on a camp­ing trip with a group of adults. (Or if you’re a new­bie, you might like to read our sto­ry for some ideas: Your guide to pack­ing for your next camp­ing trip in SA’s nation­al parks).

But for a trip with chil­dren, there’s some extra things you might like to con­sid­er tak­ing. Here are our suggestions:

  • Bring lots of easy-to-access, healthy snacks to keep ener­gy lev­els up.
  • Pack rainy day activ­i­ties like books and colour­ing-in, just in case the weath­er turns driz­zly and you have to spend some time in the tent.
  • Bring plen­ty of changes of clothes, espe­cial­ly socks. Noth­ing makes for sad faces like wet, cold feet.
  • Bring ther­mals.
  • Pack plen­ty of wet wipes for clean­ing hands and faces when soap and water aren’t handy.
  • Bring your bikes. Lots of parks allow bikes and many have ded­i­cat­ed cycling or shared-use trails suit­able for young riders.
  • Bring a head torch for each child so you can find them eas­i­ly in the dark and for night-time toi­let trips.
  • Don’t for­get to take sim­ple first aid sup­plies like band aids, spray or cream for stings and bites, and anti­his­t­a­mines for aller­gic reactions.

When you get there 

Camp­ing means a break from the non-stop stim­u­la­tion of com­put­ers, tele­vi­sion and game con­soles. How­ev­er, at home or on hol­i­day, there’s always a chance you’ll hear the dread­ed words, I’m bored’.

You don’t need spe­cial equip­ment to con­nect with nature. Here’s some activ­i­ty ideas for the whole fam­i­ly that make use of what the bush has to offer, or com­mon items you might have in the tent or car.

Although don’t for­get to embrace the dirt (it will always wash off!) and plan rest time at the camp­site so every­one can relax.

  • Find a rain­bow by col­lect­ing items of each colour like flow­ers, leaves, stones, feath­ers and sticks. Red, orange, yel­low, green, blue, indi­go, vio­let – who can find the first rainbow?
  • Build a fairy house, or vil­lage, using twigs, bark, leaves and stones.
  • Noughts and cross­es any­one? Col­lect stones or shells and let the com­pe­ti­tion begin.
  • Have a nat­ur­al trea­sure hunt. Chal­lenge each oth­er to find items like feath­ers or gumnuts.
  • If there’s a creek near­by, go explor­ing and see if you can spot lit­tle fish.
  • Make minia­ture boats from bark, twigs and leaves and have races in the creek.
  • Col­lect a cup of creek water and dis­cov­er the insects liv­ing in it.
  • Make and dec­o­rate mud pies. Mud can be great fun and will always wash off.
  • Cre­ate art in the dirt. Use a stick to draw pic­tures and dec­o­rate with pebbles.
  • A bird book and pair of binoc­u­lars can pro­vide hours of enter­tain­ment. Even with­out the equip­ment, see how many ani­mals and birds you can spot.
  • Crush coloured rocks or dirt and mix with water. You can then fin­ger paint on rocks or trees.
  • Go on a night walk and look for spi­der eyes with a torch. Hint: they’re the lit­tle pairs of glow­ing dots on the ground.
  • Look for a good marsh­mal­low roast­ing stick and cook marsh­mal­lows over the campfire.
  • Try geo­caching. Lots of parks have these lit­tle trea­sure troves, so make sure you down­load a geo­caching app to your smart­phone before you leave home.
  • For pho­tog­ra­phers, put the cam­era on a tri­pod and let the kids star in long-expo­sure pho­tos after dark by writ­ing or mak­ing pat­terns in the air with a torch.
  • Nature Play SAen­cour­ages chil­dren to play out­doors and has fun activ­i­ties and events for fam­i­lies. What are your favourite fam­i­ly camp­ing activ­i­ties? Tell us in the com­ments below.

And a few oth­er tips for camp­ing with kids:

  • Take short, inter­est­ing walks rather than long hikes that will leave chil­dren ask­ing, Are we there yet?”
  • It can get dark quick­ly so it’s a good idea to start cook­ing din­ner early.

For more tips on prepar­ing your­self for a camp­ing trip, you might like to read our sto­ry: Every­thing you need to know for your first camp­ing trip in a nation­al park.

This sto­ry was orig­i­nal­ly post­ed in April 2017 and has been updat­ed with extra information.

This con­tent was pro­duced in part­ner­ship with  Good Living