When you’re preparing to go on a camping trip with your kids, there’s a lot of work to do. Between the planning and the packing, you’ve already lost a year of your life.

And it’s easy to think that, after all that work, you’re not going to have a whole lot of downtime to account for. But it turns out that during a couple of days in the wilderness, there can be an awful lot of time to kill. So it’s a good idea to have a list of games you can play with your kids out in the wild.

1. Build a nature village

Homes made of leaves, sidewalks out of pebbles, people out of twigs — you’re only limited by your imagination, and you’ll be amazed by the world your kids will construct.

2. Build a story

A great game to play around the campfire is to build a story. You trade words or sentences back and forth until they build upon each other to create a story. You don’t have to worry about plot twists when you’ve got kids ready to throw a unicorn or an explosion into the mix.

3. Scavenger hunt

The idea of a scavenger hunt isn’t new, but there’s a version over at Real Family Camping that has some great picks in it, like “a rock shaped like a heart” and “something a raccoon would like to eat.” These ideas make the game a little more interesting.

4. Board games

A camping trip is the perfect time to bring out a board game. There are lots of times you’re going to be sitting quietly outside by the fire, enjoying nature, and your kids are going to need something to do.

You can go old school and bring along Monopoly or Chutes and Ladders, but there are also plenty of games that are geared toward the outdoors, like this Education Outdoors Camp Board Game. It teaches kids fun facts about nature while they play.       

5. Alphabet game

The alphabet game — where you look for things that start with each letter of the alphabet — is just as fun out in the woods. You can go all the way from ants to zebras, depending on where you’re camping!

6. Bocce ball

Bocce ball is simple, easy to set up, and the sort of game that everyone from the young tots to the grandparents can play.

7. Card games

Other than a harmonica and a man named Cookie boiling some beans, all campsites are begging for card games. You can even get camping-themed cards, such as this Uno Wilderness set.

8. Activity books

Activity books like Mad Libs, word searches, and crossword puzzles are perfect for that quiet time before wrestling the kids into their sleeping bags. This set of Mad Lib camping stories is perfect for the outdoors.

9. Geocaching

If your kids love scavenger hunts and hide and seek, they will love geocaching!

You can set up a free account on their site, and then you and your kids can join what is known as “the world’s largest treasure hunt.” There are hidden treasures all over the place, and you can spend hours hunting down the ones near your campsite.

10. Horseshoes

It’s an oldie but a goodie for a reason. Horseshoes, like bocce ball, doesn’t take a lot of instruction or set up. And these days you can get a wooden version, which allows you to leave the heavy metals at home.

11. Bring a telescope and study the constellations

Your kids will never look at the stars the same way again after they see them through the eye of a telescope. Start out with an inexpensive kids telescope like this one and start searching for constellations.

12. Campfire magic

Now you can even make the fire itself a source of entertainment with these color packets that change the color of the flames! There isn’t a child alive who won’t enjoy seeing the fire change its color to blue, red, green, or yellow. Not one. In fact, you might want to buy a couple of extra boxes.

13. Cornhole

Cornhole? Of course, cornhole. There is never a bad time for cornhole. You can get cornhole boards with a variety of different pictures on them, cornhole sets with weather-proof bean bags, and even cornhole night lights for playing after dark.

14. Velcro head games

Your kids like throwing things at each other’s heads anyway, right? So why not use a velcro hat and soft balls and make it an adult-approved game? As long as they stick to the squishy balls and don't go for rock and pinecones, you might avoid a trip to the emergency room this summer.

The takeaway

When you’re camping with your kids, there are plenty of accessory-free things to do. Hiking, playing at the beach, and walking through the woods will hopefully take up most of your days and nights.

But there’s going to be some downtime, and kids hate downtime. By investing in a few small and simple games like the ones listed above you can head into your weekend knowing that you have done all you could to keep your children entertained.

If none of this works, then that child can either play the quiet game or they can experience the mind-cleansing powers of boredom.