After-dark campsite fun for kids

Think back to some of your fondest memories camping as a kid. More than a handful of them surely took place at nighttime.
Silhouettes of children playing at dusk
February 08, 2018 05:03 PM

When the sun goes down on the campsite, there’s still plenty of fun to be had for kids. With a little planning and a lot of imagination, they are sure to love evening games as much as they did their daytime adventures.

Light a fire for instant fun
Start by having an adult build a campfire. After all, it’s where all the nighttime fun begins. Let the little ones roast marshmallows for s’mores. They’ll be singing songs and telling stories as soon as they can get all that sticky stuff off the tips of their fingers.

Of course, you don’t need a fire to create the right atmosphere for storytelling. The glow of a lantern will work, as well. Traditionally, campfire stories are frightening affairs. That’s not always a great idea, though, for young children and first-time campers. It may be wiser to tell a tale of heroism or adventure and send children off to their tents thinking happy thoughts.

Set the stage for laughs
If you have an especially creative bunch, ask them to perform skits. Have the audience decide the actors’ characters and scenario, then give the performers time to come up with something—the sillier, the better.

Open their eyes to nature at nighttime
If you’re fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time, fireflies can put on an impressive light show—a miniature, natural fireworks display. (What’s really happening is that male fireflies are flashing their lights in a particular pattern and sequence in order to attract female fireflies of the same species.) It’s easy and fun to catch a firefly, and kids will enjoy watching its bottom glow on and off for an hour or so before setting it free.

If there’s a trail nearby, ask an adult to lead the older kids on a walk. They’ll be amazed at what nature looks like after dark.

Once it gets later and darker, let the kids study the stars. Far from the glow of city lights, the night sky is a dazzling display. On a clear, moonless night, the number of stars visible will amaze you and your children. Bring a book that shows the constellations you can see from your part of the country and try to spot them. On a bright, moonlit night, focus on the moon with a pair of binoculars for a truly impressive view.

Settle in for the night
Once it’s time to head to the tent, take a few minutes to let the younger campers make shadow puppets on the walls. If the older kids aren’t ready to sleep just yet, tell them they can lie down and read by battery lantern light.


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