Kid's roasting marshmallows while camping is always a crowd pleaser

How to Camp With a Toddler

Low Cost Camping Hacks with Kids

If you’re camping, you need some creative camping hacks with kids to make it an enjoyable experience for everyone. We suggest some camping gear for kids that you probably already have. Since electricity and internet service may be spotty, this list of kids’ camping gear will help entertain your kids for hours.

Kids’ Camping Gear That You Already Own

Since campers are always concerned with weight and space, there’s no need to haul a lot of extra items.

Hands down, one of the best camping hacks with kids that I can suggest is to keep a Ball in your car. Choosing a Rest Area for your bathroom breaks works well as they generally have large grassy areas. If your car is small, an Inflatable Beach Ball works great. (Bonus Airport Hack: inflatable balls can even be used in the corner of an airport terminal since they can’t roll too far away, and aren’t likely to cause any damage to walls or people.)

Let every kid have his own Flashlight. It will give them a sense of security when they’re walking around the campsite after the sun sets, and in the tent. Hand shadow puppets, anyone?

Packing a kid's sized chair is an absolute must when camping


Campfire Food is one of the best parts of camping. Give them a long stick and some thickly sliced veggies. Or they can assemble Hobo Packs (meat or fish, veggies, some butter/oil and seasonings in aluminum foil). The meal is delicious and the clean-up is a breeze! And it leaves time to make S’Mores…

Your kids’ camping gear MUST include a plan for Rain Activities. You know it is true: weather forecasts are not always accurate. Plan some games to play in the tent or camper. Perhaps this is a chance to allow for some screen-time. Or pull out a surprise new game or book that you’ve brought for a weather emergency. But don’t forget the basics: decks of cards, favorite books, notebooks and pencils and crayons, basic arts and crafts supplies, etc.

A “Treasures” Box. Provide each child with their own place to keep the treasures that they collect during the trip. A storage tub will work well. When you return home, help them make a shadow box with their favorite items. You can research the items and add notes of interest. 

You have likely set some screen-time limits for your kids while camping. But don’t limit access to the Camera. Let them take pictures of everything that interests them. This will extend your learning opportunities after your adventures. Once you get home, you can print the photos and make a scrapbook. You can research the animals, the cities, and the historical places.

A camping trip is a good time to bring out an old-school Map. Whether it is a map of the campground or a map of your route, this is a great opportunity to teach map-reading skills. Let them be the guide as you do your exploring. 

Digging Tools will provide hours of entertainment, and you don’t need anything fancy. Search your general camping gear and tools for different ways to use them. Multi-use tools are the best.

Water Toys. Even if you’re not camping near a lake or a beach, many water toys can be used for other activities. Pails and shovels are great in the dirt. Pool noodles can be used as out-of-bounds marks for field games. Inflatable toys are easy to pack.

Rope is one of the most versatile items to have in your camping gear. Use it for tying, for marking field game boundaries, for made-up games, etc.

A Tarp or a Sheet can be used as a teepee or a kids’ play space. Sometimes kids just need a quiet place to play. You just need a rope and or a tree branch as roof support.

Campside firetales are the best for long nights together

Storytelling is a great fireside activity. Whether you tell ghost stories or fun family tales, spend time together in the evening. Let your kids lead the discussion or participate in the storytelling. 

Since you already have a ball with you, don’t forget Sports Gear that will expand your options.  Take along a baseball bat and glove, and use logs as bases. Croquet items don’t take up much room, and you can create a cross-country course. Don’t forget a Hacky Sack, a Frisbee, Horseshoes, etc.

Nature Activities. Follow a trail of ants and watch their habits. What happens when you obstruct their path? Are squirrels more comfortable around people in campgrounds? Play I-Spy or create a treasure hunt.

Kids’ Camping Gear that you may want to buy

Binoculars are good to have for every age. You’ll likely encounter animals that you may not have in your residential neighborhood. Using binoculars will allow you to get a close look without startling the animal away or endangering your child. 

Toddlers love to feel challenged and can test their limits safely outside


Fishing Gear for kids need not be fancy. A quality fishing net may be all you need. If you’re at the beach, catching crabs can be done with a string and some meat. Area grocery stores generally sell chicken necks and other scrap meat for fishing. A good net will help you scoop up your catch. Be sure to check online or at the local marina to be sure that you are following the local rules and policies.

Walkie-Talkies provide hours of fun. You can use them and a Map to do some exploring.

Pocket Microscope or Magnifying Glass for investigating small plants and animals.

A Telescope is a great learning tool if you’re going to be in a place with low light pollution.

Nature Guides are available from your local bookstore or the library. 

The Most Important Part of Kids’ Camping Gear

Ditch-the-Routine Activities. Take the opportunity to upend your normal routines. Your kids will remember those times, perhaps more than the times you spent a lot of money. Remember that memories are formed from the time spent together. Let your kids create their own fun. They want hot dogs for breakfast? Why not? I mean, really….how is that different from a sausage biscuit?
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