When we envision taking our kids out camping, we imagine that they will sleep snugly in their sleeping bags and play with sticks and dirt all day. This happens to a degree, but there are some things we need to have to make this dream become a reality.
If you’re just starting out camping with your kids, we have the essentials for you. If, like us, you’ve been at it a while but need some fresh ideas to liven up the campsite, we’ve got you covered, too.
Need a gift quickly? Here are our top picks:
Why We Like It:
Rocks are usually found by the dozen while camping. (This set comes with a few, just in case.) Brighten up your campsite with some art!
Why We Like It:
This classic toy is perfect in all terrain types: dirt, mud, sand, water, etc. They're sturdy and made to be abused.
Why We Like It:
Family fun in the outdoors is what camping with kids is all about. Kids of all ages enjoy this one. (And parents, too!)
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Kid Camping Essentials
This 2-pack of headlamps is perfect for your child, so they have a spare when they misplace one headlamp. You know it’ll happen. They have multiple brightness modes in both white and red light. The headstrap is adjustable to fit any head comfortably, so they won’t slide off your kid’s head. I think headlamps are better for kids than flashlights because they’re harder to lose and they keep both hands free for eating, playing, or going to the bathroom at night.
Every kid needs their own camp chair, and it better have a cup holder. This Disney chair would be loved by any kid, up to about age 10. Once they hit 10 years old they’re about the right size for an adult chair. But this chair will fit their cute little bodies and allow them to eat, rest, or play comfortably. It comes with a carrying bag to make storage and transportation simpler.
These roasting sticks are great for kids (and adults) of all ages. They are extendable and can reach from 12”-32”. That makes them great for roasting by the campfire for arms of any length. Each stick is made of stainless steel but has a wooden handle so it won’t get hot. And the two prongs allows kids to double up on marshmallows for a better s’more.
One of my kids’ favorite parts of camping is rolling their sleeping bag out and climbing inside. Something about being in that tight space makes them feel cozy. This is a great bag for most of the weather you’ll encounter. It’s rated for around 40 degrees F to 80 degrees. (If it’s colder than that, just stuff a warm blanket inside with them.) It comes in many colors so you’ll definitely find a color your child will love. At over 7.5 feet long, it will be big enough for all ages of kids.
This 12 oz. insulated water bottle is the perfect size for kids on the go. It’s big enough to keep them hydrated but small enough for them to carry around as they explore the campground and beyond. It’s straw flip cap is leak resistant so there will be no messes when it’s closed and all its parts are dishwasher safe. In typical Yeti fashion, there are several bright colors to choose from.
Nothing is worse when you’re camping than cold toes. These merino wool socks are cushiony and soft and warm and the kids will love the colors and patterns. If your child is in between sizes (or they are just growing like weeds) size up as these socks tend to run a bit small. Available in sizes from kid size 6 to adult size 8.
Fun gifts for kids at any age
Beach toys are good for so much more than the beach. They’re great for rocks on the bank of a river or the shore of a lake. They’re also great for the endless amounts of dirt and sticks found all over campgrounds. Kids can dig and build to their heart’s content and even play make-believe with the toys. I like this set because it comes with a bag to keep everything contained.
These water shoes are great for the rivers or lakes that can be rough on kids’ feet. They’re also great for simple hikes because they are closed-toed and slightly grippy. Our kids have loved these and it’s nice not to have to take multiple pairs of shoes on a hike or camping trip.
All kids like to have things that are just theirs. Get each of your kids their own spork (made famous by Forky in Toy Story 4) in their own color so they can find it quickly and be responsible for it during a campout. This is a cheap gift that every kid will be excited to receive.
A Kindle eReader is different than a Kindle Fire tablet. The eReader holds BOOKS ONLY and is in black and white, just like a book. So there’s no worry that your kids will be watching videos or playing games when they have this out. All three of my kids have one and they carry them with them everywhere they go. Watch Amazon for sales to pop up for the kids version. It’s the same as an adult version, but it comes with a case and a two-year guarantee. They’re great for camping because kids can read in the tent without needing a flashlight and the kindle will turn itself off after use (when kids fall asleep mid-sentence) so there’s no wasting batteries or getting up to turn off lights.
If your child is reading a book that they just can’t stand to put down while you’re camping, this neck light is perfect for them. It’s comfortable to wear and will make reading in the tent or in their camp chair so much easier than with a flashlight. It has a rechargeable battery and will last up to 80 hours with just a single charge.
If you’re camping longer than just an over-nighter, sometimes you need a little something for the kids to do. My kids love painting rocks. If there are rocks around where we’re camping then I’ll have them collect and wash their rocks before I get the paints out. But we aren’t always in a rocky area. This kit comes with some rocks and all the paint and embellishments they would need to beautify rocks around camp.
As soon as my son saw this he had to have it. Something about it looks so cozy for kids. This swinging pod can be used indoors or outdoors and would be perfect tied around a branch of a tree. It comes in multiple colors and is rated for 100 pounds. This is easier to set up than a hammock because it requires only one branch of a single tree instead of two trees that are perfectly distanced.
This is a soft, thin hoodie that any kid would love to wear. It’s perfect for those summer mornings when it’s just a little chilly in the mountains. While the kids love the colors and the stretchy fit, I love that it’s SPF 50+. This gives great sun protection that they can wear for much of the day since the fabric is breathable and light. This is the perfect layer for kids to keep handy during any camping season. Available for ages 7-16.
Best Camping Gifts for Toddlers
When my kids were toddlers we went camping A LOT. We had a goal of 15 times per summer, and we usually hit that. My little boy was only a few months old when we started and for the next three years, these trucks are what he played with every time we went camping. We kept a 5-gallon bucket in our tent trailer with these big trucks and a shovel and he (and his older sisters) would play in the dirt for hours. No lights or sounds to worry about, just good ‘ol fashioned fun.
On those hot, summer days in the woods, kids love to play in the water. But those little ones are sometimes too small to play in the river like the big kids. This water table is the perfect way for them to splash around and have fun without moms and dads having a heart attack around the rushing water. For the really little ones, don’t attach the legs onto the basin so they can sit or kneel next to it and have a great time. I bet you’ll even find the bigger kids gathering around the water table to play.
Sometimes we as parents need those adorable little toddlers to be contained for a little bit so we can cook, get dressed, or just relax for a few without them eating rocks and dirt. This little pop-up tent is the perfect way to keep your little ones entertained while you take a minute to yourself. It pops up easily and comes with a few little camping toys for them to play with. It then collapses down flat so you can slide it under the tent when you’re packing up. Kids love feeling like they’re one of the big kids and this will have them feeling like real little campers.
Toddlers love popping bubbles for hours but parents hate blowing them. This automatic bubble machine creates the best of both worlds! And when you use it outside in nature, there’s no need to worry about any messes or stickiness, they can just rinse off in the lake later. You’ll need six C batteries and 400mL (12.5 oz) of bubbles for 30 minutes of continuous entertainment. (But might I suggest you get double that amount of bubbles and give yourself a nice, long break to relax in the sun.)
My in-laws gave my kids these butterfly nets for Christmas one year, and they sat largely unused until our next camping trip that spring. We threw them in the trailer and when we got to our camping spot, there were dozens of little purple butterflies all over our campground. While my husband and I set up camp our little kids had a blast trying to catch those butterflies. They also caught grasshoppers and even a couple little minnows in the nets. They’re a great size and sturdy enough to be whacked on the ground over and over as those little hands try to catch some magic.
My youngest son and his green shovel went EVERYWHERE together when he was a toddler. He dragged it around our backyard, to the beach, and all around our campgrounds, for three years. When we moved out of the country and gave away his green shovel he was beyond devastated. (Don’t worry, we bought him another one when we got to our new house.) It’s amazing what kids can do with a simple toy like a shovel. I like this one because it has a long enough handle for kids to get some leverage. It also has a blade that will actually dig, but won’t hurt anyone around them if they get a little unwieldy with the thing. And anything made by Melissa and Doug is a win in my book.
Fun camping gifts for kids ages 3-12
As kids get a little older, they want to start doing some of the same things around camp that their parents are doing. While I’m not ready to hand my child a full-on survival knife, I do want them to learn knife safety and proper techniques. This Opinel Junior No. 07 knife is the perfect starter knife. We gave my son this knife when he turned six and he took his training very seriously. It has a non-slip grip and a rounded safety tip. It has an easy to use safety mechanism for when the knife isn’t in use. Your kids will love trimming willows for roasting sticks or widdling a branch as a souvenir with this pocket knife.
There’s something so mesmerizing about a burning fire. If you throw a couple of these packets on a hot fire it’ll take that effect to the max. These packets will create vibrant colors in your flames, leaving your kids in total awe. Simply throw one or two unopened packets on a hot fire and sit and watch. There are no fireworks or extra sparks, just beautiful colors. It’s important to note that you shouldn’t cook any food over the colored flames. Roast your hotdogs and marshmallows first and then add the packets and enjoy the colors.
When it comes to walkie talkies for kids, I like to keep it basic. No need for super long range or fancy frequencies. Our kids like to talk to each other when one is at the front of the pack on a trail and the other is at the back. These do the job perfectly and come with a few extras that the kids like, like a flashlight and calling feature. They aren’t waterproof so keep them away from water, and they need three AAA batteries.
We found these little backpacks when we were living abroad and we fell in love with them. They are the perfect size for kids ages 3+ to carry around their most precious items (like stuffies and books). Our kids take them on road trips, flights, and definitely camping. They’re big enough to fit what they really want, yet small enough to keep them from taking ALL their squishmallows and dinos. They comfortably fit a couple books, a couple small toys, a water bottle, and a loved blankie or stuffed animal. They won’t be too big for your child to carry on their own (hallelujia!) and the zippers and seams are very durable.
Our family loves Playmobils; the simplicity and compact nature are the best. This little camping set comes with its own carrying case, which means its little pieces can stay together. I would leave this set in with all the camping things so it only gets to come out when you’re on your adventures; that makes it all the more special. Best for kids who are no longer interested in putting little pieces in their mouths.
Depending on the time of year you go camping, sometimes you have a few hours of darkness before it’s bedtime. This big pack of glow stick bracelets and necklaces will be a hit and will help you keep track of those kids. Let the kids make all kinds of shapes and designs while snuggled up in the tent. This is a cheap, easy entertainment idea for all ages.
A pair of binoculars is one of those gifts that keeps on giving; your kids will be able to use these for years to come. These binoculars are great for kids of all ages once they know how to hold and use them. And these aren’t toys that look like the real thing, they ARE the real thing. They can focus on objects up to 1000 yards away and they’re compact enough that even little hands can grip them. They come in over a dozen colors so there’s a perfect match for everyone.
This isn’t just another one of those remote control cars that your kid can’t drive and doesn’t go where you want it to. No, no, no. This car is an off-road stunt car! It’s great in the driveway or on the front lawn, but it really shines in the campground or along a trail where it can climb over rocks and hit and flip off of bigger boulders and trees. My kids love playing with theirs all around our campsite. It comes with the rechargeable battery pack you need for the car and it’ll last about 30 minutes on a single charge. It charges up quick with a USB port at home or on the go. Get one for each kid and watch them battle it out all around your tent!
Camping gifts even your teen will love
I know, I know…we’re trying to get our kids off their devices when we go on a family campout. But hear me out. This isn’t really a screen device and it’ll provide your teen with a chance to be creative and engaged with the family. This GoPro alternative is a fun way for any teen to document what’s important to them and to feel like they’re in the mix of what’s happening. At a much cheaper price point that their name brand competitor, this is a good compromise if you want a screen free weekend with your teen.
This is a great gift for your athletic teen who always wants to compete and try new things. Slacklines are difficult and take a lot of strength and concentration. This is a great set that comes with everything you need to get started and perfect the slackline.
Does your teen love to read something new and then share every detail with you? I’ve got a couple of those kids and they would love to teach me all about the night sky. This book will teach them about the moon and stars and how to identify different points. It’s full of diagrams and graphs and helpful hints for finding just about any point of the viewable universe. It starts out with easy-to-find stars and constellations and uses them to guide the reader to harder-to-see points in the sky. Such a fun activity for the whole family at night when they sky opens up and you can see into the universe.
This would be a fun pairing with the night sky book above. This telescope is great for teens, beginners, and amateurs. It’s got enough power and magnification to help you see aspects of the sky you just can’t see with the naked eye. But it’s also not over-complicated, so you can spend time looking up at the sky and not down at assembly instructions.
Everyone everywhere is wearing a fanny pack, either around their waists or across their bodies. These are great for every teen to pack around their essentials. Yes, it’ll fit their phone, but hopefully you can convince them to leave it behind at home. It’ll also hold snacks, chapstick, makeup, ear buds, etc. They’re super comfy to wear and come in fun, bright colors. Your teen probably won’t care, but you’ll be supporting a small business with this purchase.
I love the idea of journaling, but sometimes knowing where to start or what to say keeps me from starting. I’m sure your teen feels the same way. But there are a lot of details and memories that get lost if we don’t write them down. This journal has a page of prompts that your teen can fill out on each camping trip. Next to that page is an open page for thoughts and photos from the trip. This journal could stay in the camping box and get pulled out on each adventure your teen goes on. In a few years, they will have a book full of adventures to look back on. And probably some places they’d like to return to before they leave the nest. Pair it with a fun pack of pens and you’ve got a great gift.