One of the most overlooked parts of camping is having fun night time activities prepared.
Camping is an exciting adventure for families. It provides a break from the hustle and bustle of modern life, a chance to reconnect with nature, and a time to bond as a family.
Camping can also come with its fair share of challenges. One such challenge is figuring out what to do at night when camping with kids! Hiking, fishing and exploring are great for hot summer days, but what about when it gets dark?
This blog post will explore how you can have fun playing games around the campsite after the sun goes down. Use this list as a reference anytime you’re looking for fun night time activities for campers of all ages!
Outdoor Night Time Activities:
The best part of camping is being outside in the open air and enjoying nature. So why not play night time games outside until it’s time to head into the tent? Here are some of our favorite activities for playing outside after the sun goes down.
The first night time camping activity should be watching the sunset. It’s a nice way to start the evening, by sitting down with your family and taking a few minutes to enjoy nature and the colorful display of the sunset. Bring out some snacks and pretend it’s a mini-movie or a fireworks display!
If you’re lucky enough to be camping at night where there is little light pollution, stargazing can be fun for everyone! As long as someone in your group knows how to find constellations, there is a never-ending supply of things to look at in the night sky.
For the best stargazing experience, bring binoculars or a telescope and have someone use a stargazing app to identify the coolest things to see. You may even see a satellite, the international space station or a shooting star! We just got a Coleman telescope and we’re looking forward to bringing it on our next camping trip.
Some fish wait for the cool of the evening before they start biting. If night fishing is legal in your area, bring along a few rods and some night time lures. You can even bring light-up bobbers to make it easier to see when you’ve got a bite! Even if you don’t catch anything, the kids will enjoy being out at night catching up with their family while sitting on a dock!
Taking a boat ride after dark can be a lot of fun. Whether you have a pontoon, paddleboat or just a kayak, being on the water in the dark is a whole new experience. See if you can spot big fish or other animals that may come down to the lake to get a drink.
What better way to play flashlight tag than against a backdrop of pitch black darkness? Who ever is “It” has a flashlight and the rest of the kids will love sneaking around the campsite trying their best not to get caught.
Flashlight Hide and Seek
If your campground has a play area, hide and seek at the playground is a nice way to set easy boundaries so little campers don’t wander too far from the group. The play structure also gives easy hiding spots for younger kids to hide in.
Have one person be the guide, their job is to lead the other campers around the campsite showing them all the amazing things to look at in your campsite! Then switch guides and go on a different tour! See who can be the most hilarious tour guide, bonus points for silly accents or outfits!
Look for Nocturnal Animals
One of the best parts about camping is that you get to see all kinds of animals in their natural habitat. Use your flashlight or head lamp and explore what’s around your campsite while trying to spot a raccoon, fox, snake, squirrel, owl or deer!
You’ll be amazed at how many animals you can spot when you slow down and listen to nature! We’ve seen deer, squirrels, chipmunks, frogs, toads and a lot of cool bugs at our campsites. If you’re near water, you can try to spot fish, crayfish, turtles, frogs, toads or salamanders too!
If you have some time before bed, a night hike is a great way to sneak in one final adventure before everyone snuggles into the tent for the night. Make sure everyone has a good headlamp and head out on an easy hike, keeping an eye out for plants and animals you may not have seen during the day. Add glowsticks, clip-on lights or reflective tape to make all of your Critterz easier to spot.
Glow in the Dark Camping Games
There are a lot of games made for fun after dark at a campsite. Back when Momma Critter was first camping, we had a glow in the dark Tic Tac Toe set and we thought that was the coolest thing ever.
Now there are light-up balls, hula hoops, frisbees, cones and so much more! Playing catch with a light up ball or frisbee is so much more fun than the daytime version. Have fun inventing your own games like mini-golf with a light up ball and sticks as putters! You can also add lights or glow in the dark tape to standard campsite games like ladder golf and bean bags so you can continue the games after the sun goes down.
After the dinner dishes are washed and ready for breakfast, clear off a spot on the picnic table to play a fun board game with your family! For night time playing, you’ll need to get out the lantern so everyone can see. We have a neat all-in-one game set that you can play checkers, chess, mancala, parcheesi and backgammon on. If you bring one of those, you’ll never run out of fun games to play!
Don’t forget the fun games you can play with your standard playing cards! Teach the kids how to play rummy, cribbage or even just go fish and enjoy spending some quality family time together after dark.
Plan the next day’s activities
It’s always fun to gather around the park map and plan out our next hike. Somehow doing it after dark by lantern or firelight makes it feel like we’re hearty explorers off on an exciting journey.
Any night time camping activity is made better by sitting next to a campfire. You can roast marshmallows and make s’mores, sing songs or play music together, tell stories around the campfire, even stargaze. It’s a great way to wind down at the end of an awesome adventure-filled day.
No camping trip would be complete without smores. Roast some marshmallows, add chocolate and graham crackers, then enjoy! We usually use Fudge Stripe Cookies and forget about the chocolate bars that never melt. Other options are to use any chocolate candy instead of the thick chocolate bar. Our favorites include peanut butter cups, chocolate covered caramels and mini snickers.
Pudgie Pies, Camper Pies, Hobo Pies, Cast Iron Pies, call them whatever you want, the result is always delicious. All you need is pie irons, bread, butter and some kind of filling, then make as many pies as your family can eat! You can use any ingredients you want, pie filling, Nutella, fruit, pudding, even marshmallows. You name it, you can put it in a pie and cook it over the fire!
These magic fire packets are an awesome addition to any campfire. Just toss the packet into the fire and watch the awesome colors flicker and dance. Campfires are already awesome and the colors make it look extra cool in the dark! Make sure you only use this AFTER everyone is done cooking for the night.
Talk about your day
One great way to bond with your family while camping is to have everyone list what their favorite part of the day was. Even if you had a rough day where it felt like nothing went right, there is always some good to come out of it. Tiny Critter often surprises us with the things that he finds to be the most fun.
If you ask Tiny Critter what his favorite part of our last camping trip was, it would be when we were all brushing our teeth and Momma Critter spotted a toad. She tried to alert the others so no one would spit toothpaste on the poor critter, but couldn’t talk well because of the toothbrush. He does a hilarious reenactment of the scene and then laughs until he falls down.
Campfire songs are a great way to pass the time before bed. Tiny Critter is always learning fun songs at school, classics like “Baby Bumble Bee”, “I had a Tiny Turtle” and “On Top of Spaghetti”. If someone in your group knows how to play guitar, have them join in for a group sing-a-long. You could also have a song writing contest and see who can sing the funniest song about your camping adventures that day.
Telling stories around the campfire is a great night time camping activity. Everyone has a story to tell, whether it’s about something funny that happened, a joke story or even just what the day was like. You can even tell spooky stories if everyone is agreeable. We try to keep the scary stories to a minimum, as we don’t want Tiny Critter up all night with bad dreams.
One fun way to tell a story is to go around the campfire and everyone adds one sentence to the story. It’s hilarious to see where your story ends up from where it started!
Inside the Tent Night Time Activities
If the evening gets too cool to stay outside, there is still fun to be had in the tent. Grab your lantern and head to your tent for these fun activities.
The shadows on your tent walls are a great place to have some creative fun at night. Grab a bright light and point it at the wall of your tent, then use your hands, body and other props to cast some fun shadows! You can see how many different shapes everyone can make, or try to tell one of your favorite stories with shadows. If you have older kids, playing shadow puppet charades is always good for a laugh!
Glowstick Hide and Seek
When Tiny Critter was little, he loved taking turns hiding a glowstick and finding it. It’s a great game for young toddlers to play, learning how to look for things and practicing picking up a glow stick is great for mastering those fine motor skills! It’s a perfect game to play in a tent after dark, glowsticks are so much fun to hide and find.
If everyone still has the wiggles once you’re in the tent, having a dance party is the best way to spend that extra energy before jumping into your sleeping bag. Clear the dance floor by putting the air mattresses up against the tent walls, play some music (at a reasonable level) and jump around! Glow sticks and string lights are a great addition to any tent dance party.
Family Reading Time
Somehow reading by the light of a lantern or headlamp while snuggled into a sleeping bag makes books more fun. Our family likes to read chapter books aloud before bed. Once Tiny Critter gets bigger I’m sure he’ll be very excited to take a turn at reading to the family. This is our favorite night time camping activity as it helps the whole family wind-down after an awesome day of hiking, fishing and adventuring.
Once everyone is in their own sleeping bag and settling in for the night, if your kids are still too excited to sleep, playing a word game may help everyone drift off.
We play “I’m going camping and I’m packing..” where someone says that line and then thinks of an item that starts with A, like Air Mattress. Then the next person says the line, says the item that begins with A, and a new item that starts with B. So “I’m going camping and I’m packing an Air Mattress and a Boat!” continue on throughout the whole alphabet. Everyone can play and help the others remember all of the words.
Another fun alphabet game is to pick a category and then list items that begin with A through Z. We’ve played vegetables (Artichoke, Beans, Carrots to Zuchinni), Cities in Minnesota (Anoka, Bloomington, Champlin through Zumbrota), or Funny Colors (Amethyst, Beige, Colbalt to Zinc). See how many lists you can create!
Having fun with these fun after dark camping activities will help you bond with your family and end the day on a great note. Flashlight and glow stick hide-and-seek is great for little ones, while grownups can enjoy a campfire singalong. Make shadow puppets on the tent walls or have a dance party before settling down for some reading in bed!
With these fun night time camping activities, you will make memories that will last a lifetime.
I’m Molly Foss, aka Momma Critter. I’ve been camping since I was 9 years old and I always wanted to be Robin Hood and live in the forest when I grew up. I’m excited to share my love of camping with my son as he grows up. My favorite thing to do while camping is roast marshmallows over the fire.