10 Favorite Camping Traditions For Happy Campers

by Mel

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Want happy campers? Try these 10 creative and easy camping traditions to make your camping trip fun and memorable!

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Easy Camping Tradition Ideas

Summer is over. Sigh. As always, it went way too fast! I’m so glad our last summer fling was my favorite trip ever-a visit to Marsh Lake in the Uintahs. It sure makes it easier to end the summer on a trip like that.

We have been going camping there every summer since I can remember. And it’s even just as much fun now that my siblings and cousins are grown-up and we have families of our own. In my opinion, we have the most fun that anyone has camping. Spending a week with some of the most festive people I know make camping actually really enjoyable, contrary to what most people think.

A few disclaimers: 

  • One of the biggest reasons we go camping is to unplug and have LOTS of unstructured time for our children to get dirty, explore, and enjoy nature. With that said, adding in a few of these fun traditions break up the time a bit and give them something to look forward to!
  • We usually camp for 3-5 days at a time, so we have plenty of time throughout the week to fit these activities in. If you are just going camping for a few days, just pick one or two to incorporate. Remember, the key is to relax and have fun! And relaxing can look different for each family.

Easy Camping Traditions

1. The Gummy Worm Fairy

What? You haven’t heard of the gummy worm fairy? Let me explain.

Maybe its not such a good thing that a lot of our traditions revolve around food. Especially when you’re trying to be healthy. Oh well. This tradition is a fun one that had some certain motivation behind it. I guess it could be improvised with something healthy, but it might just not have the same effect.

On our week-long camping trips, we had a special visitor called the “Gummy Worm Fairy” (GWF). The GWF would make a visit to our tents sometime between brunch and the afternoon. If our sleeping bags were “made” and our stuff fairly organized, she would leave gummy worms on our pillows. And if they weren’t, we either didn’t get as many or we would have to wait another day to get some.

In our excitement for her visit, we would even make little baskets or bird nests for the fairy to leave the worms in. As funny as it sounds, it was one of our favorite traditions and I’m sure it kept our parents happy!

How-to: 

On the first day of camp, announce the “Gummy Worm Fairy” will be visiting every day after breakfast. The Gummy Worm Fairy will leave gummy worms on the pillows of those who have made their beds and picked up their belongings.

What you need:

  • Gummy worms

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2. Treasure Hunt

Usually on our last full day camping, we have a treasure hunt. Our treasure hunts range from simple to complex, depends on who is in charge! But mostly they are simple, like this one.

We put together clues based on the ages of the children and then let them take turns running around the campground to find the next clue. The treasure is usually hid under the canoe (since it’s a place big enough) but they seem to forget that each year. Haha!

What you need:

Camping-Activity-Treasure-Hunt-Ideas

3. Pinata

Having a pinata is a newer camping tradition now that there are lots of younger kids around. They love it! You can get a cheap pinata to fill with candy and let the kids use tree branches and sticks to hit it! Tip: lay a tarp down underneath the pinata so the candy doesn’t get all dirty!

camping tradition pinata

4. Amazing Food

Diets don’t exist when we camp. And neither does instant, backpacking-type food. We go ALL out!

Like I mentioned before, we usually camp for a good chunk of the week, so we set up an outdoor kitchen with a campfire stove, dish pans, etc to make cooking real, good food possible. If you are only going for a night or two, you might want to do most of the prep ahead of time.

Camping Meal Tips:

  • Make as much as you can ahead of time. Dressings, sauces, pancake mix, and chopping most veggies and fruit can be done ahead of time.
  • If you are going with another family (or families), divided up the meals. Each family can bring all the ingredients and paper goods for their meal so not one group is cooking the entire time.
  • We like to have a huge breakfast/brunch and then just have snacks and easy meals like sandwiches for lunch.
  • Use disposable plates, cups, and utensils for easy and quick clean-up.

Check out this post for What To Cook On Your Next Camping Trip 

camping-meal-ideas-dutch-oven

5. Campfire Treats

Speaking of food, one of our favorite camping traditions is having a special campfire treat each night. We don’t eat dessert right after dinner, rather, we wait for the campfire to have a our treat. Everyone looks forward to the campfire treat! We eat our campfire treat around the fire as we talk, sing, and tell stories.

Some of our favorite campfire treats include:

  • Smores
  • Spectacular Secial K cookies
  • Roasted Starbursts
  • Roasted refrigerated crescent rolls sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar
  • Peach cobbler and whip cream
  • Hot Chocolate and Marshmallows
  • Rice Krispy treats

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6. Games, Games, Games!

Camping would not be camping without lots of game playing! We play lots of card games, day and night!

Here’s our favorite all-time camping games: 

7. Make Music

One of the best perks of camping is all the down-time! We like to embrace the downtime with plenty of card games, but also music! We bring our guitars, ukuleles, and children’t musical instruments to sing songs to.

8. Paper Plate Awards

On the last night of camp, my mom and aunt would hand out “Paper Plate Awards” to each person there. They are called Paper Plate Awards because they would write the award on a paper plate. We kept our stack of paper plate awards in our camping box and it was so fun to look back over the years and reminisce on the awards each of us received.

To give out your own Paper Plate Awards, all you need is a paper plate for each person, some markers, and a creative mind. Paper plate awards can be given for anything including: cleanest camper, happiest camper, best fisherman, peacemaker, best camp chef, etc.

9. Embrace the Dirt

We don’t stress about dirt in the tents, on our faces, or on our clothes. We embrace it! Of course, we try and keep things tidy throughout the camping trip, but we are okay getting dirty! That’s what baby wipes are for! 🙂

camping with kids

10. Star Gaze

I remember so many times as a child when in the middle of the night, my dad would wake us up and say, “Melissa, have you seen the stars? They are INCREDIBLE tonight!” (My sister and I slept in a separate tent with my cousin.) We would groggily climb out of our sleeping bags in to the cold night air and look at the stars. And yes, they were incredible. My dad would teach us about the constellations and we would gaze for as long as we could handle the cold. Those are some of my favorite camping memories.

So no matter what activities and traditions you start with your family, remember to at least look up into the night sky once and marvel at the peace and quiet and INCREDIBLE stars that await you on your camping trip.

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