camping on a budget: entertaining games, toys and activities for kids

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #dothe99 #99obsessed #CollectiveBias

There is nothing I love more than camping and my kids generally do too – as long as they don’t get bored. A successful family camping trip hinges on you being prepared with a full itinerary of activity ideas. Daytime activities like hiking, biking, kayaking and exploring should take up the bulk of the day, but those downtime campsite hours can also be super fun. Depending on the campground and ecosystem, I always bring a few different toys, activities and games.

This was last week on our camping trip to Payson, AZ over Memorial Day Weekend. When that boredom sets in, it gets real – real fast.

I wasn’t going to repeat my mistakes on this trip. We are currently living our best RV life at Vail Lake Campground in Temecula, CA where the cell service is spotty (at best) and the scenery is beautiful.

Before we left on this adventure, I stopped by the 99 to stock up on super fun camping games and toys for the kids to avoid any boredom during the downtime. Boy, did they have a huge selection to choose from!

camping games and toys for kids

Here is a mega list of my kid-tested-and-approved camping games, activities and toys that are simple and budget friendly. All toys you see pictured were purchased at one of my all-time favorite places – 99 Cents Only Stores. I seriously hit the 99 three or four times every week. I like to go in the late morning to snag the best deals first, that’s how dedicated I am to a good deal! While the 99 is a great place to grab food for camping, it’s also the perfect place to grab budget-friendly camping toys.

Camping? I’d 99 that!

arts and crafts

  • rock painting supplies – bring the paint and brushes, gather a rock or two at the campsite.
  • coloring books – downtime needs supplies too. Pick up a few coloring books/colored pencils.
  • chalk – many campgrounds have paved roads winding through or rocky boulder areas. Bring chalk to create hopscotch boards or fund designs. Wash them off with water after the kids are done playing.

The 99 has an awesome 2-in-1 paint set that comes with a brush – easy peasy.

nature activities

  • nature journal – find a ready-made nature journal or make one yourself with just a spiral-bound notebook and markers. Have kids keep a log of each trip/hike with written comments, pressed flowers and photographs.
  • bug hunt – take a journal or bug identifying book along with a magnifying glass and explore! What kid doesn’t love finding bugs?
  • create a geocache box – this high-tech treasure hunt is always a LOT of fun. No need to leave expensive treasures though, just get creative!
  • scavenger hunt – snag a pack of plain brow paper bags and markers. Write the scavenger list on the bag and let the kids run free! Ideas: green leaf, yellow flower, 4 inch twig, quartz, worm, clover, moss, ant, bark, etc

We tend to camp in a lot of desert climates, so when we venture somewhere lush and green, the scavenger hunt is always #1 request. Here the kids were able to collect a whole range of flowers, leaves and such + spot all kinds of wildlife. Every sunset, we’ve had bunnies hop right into our campsite! It has also been a great spot for Savannah to work on her nature journal.

sports toys

Sports toys are always great to bring because they can get bring camp neighbors together! This last trip we had a campground baseball game of 15 kids every night, which brings me to my favorite idea – a wiffle-style ball with a glow stick inside for night games!

  • wiffle balls and a bat – for night games, add a glow stick inside the ball.
  • frisbee
  • finger launchers
  • throw and catch set
  • badminton set or volleyball
  • croquet/bocce ball

One of my kids’ favorites is this throw and catch set from the 99. The little suction ball set is SO fun and so easy to just pick up and play – great for kids of all ages. I bought two sets so we can all play as a family or a version of “monkey in the middle”.

Finger launchers are all the rage now and these from the 99 are so fun. Turn it into a competitive game by seeing who can rocket theirs the farthest!

Another fan favorite is this jumbo badminton set from the 99! If your campground has a volleyball net, you’re good to go. These rackets are sold separately, so you can buy exactly as many as you need. Each one comes with a jumbo-sized shuttlecock.

water and sand toys

Depending on the season and location, water and sand toys might be your best bet. If you are camping at the beach or the lake, definitely don’t forget the sand sculpting toys. If the weather is warm and your campground has a pool, don’t forget the pool toys!

  • sand sculpting toys – camping at the beach or lake? Get hours of enjoyment out of these.
  • pool toys – campground have a pool? Don’t forget the pool toys – water guns, soaker balls, diving sticks
  • water guns – these can be enjoyed at any campground and are great for cooling off, games of tag and general sibling rivalry.
  • water balloons – no explanation needed.

The swimming pools at our campground right now are the best I’ve ever seen… three pools surrounded by sand and cabanas. What a score, but there are often swimming pools at family-oriented campgrounds. It seems the two favorites from the 99 are soaker balls and the flying splash disks.


  • card games – Uno, Old Maid, Crazy Eights, Family Feud, Spoons are our favorites
  • travel games – Connect 4, Yahtzee, Camping Bingo (or Zingo)
  • glow-in-the-dark ring toss – all you need is water bottles and glowstick rings for this horseshoe-like game.
  • camping tic-tac-toe – gather sticks, rocks and pine cones and you’re all set!

I snagged a new Match 4 game at the 99, which was bigger than my old travel one. The kids play Match 4 every day on every camping trip, so this one is a must. It is easy for kids of most ages but a great little brain-exerciser.

It is true that camping can be a great budget-friendly way for families to travel while staying active, BUT it ain’t free. Every trip we are adding more gear to our arsenal, stepping up our menu/activities and it all adds up. The kids need to be entertained, but you don’t have to spend a lot on it! At the 99, you can grab all kinds of games, toys and activities. You can even find your favorite name brands at a ridiculous price. For example, check out this killer Nerf water gun I found at the 99 for just $10!!

You really never know what you’re going to find when you do the 99!

Find a 99 Cents Only Store near you!


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