Games to Play on Your Picnic

Megan Johnsen, Interpretive Naturalist at St. Croix State Park

"Mom, I'm booored! Can I watch a movie?" This is NOT what you want to hear on a family picnic or camping trip. You know what else you don't want? A bunch of work making elaborate plans and props for team-building exercises. So what are we to do with our fickle kids and their short attention spans? Try out these ideas for fun and easy outdoor games.

Bobbing for Doughnuts

This combines two activities that are high priorities for kids: eating and playing. It's also a blast to watch.


  • Laundry line (you've got to hang those wet beach towels anyway!)
  • String (never leave home without it!)
  • Donuts (the kind with holes.)

How To

After hanging your laundry line, estimate the distance from the rope to the height of your loved one's mouth.

Tie a string around each doughnut and hang them from the line at appropriate chomping heights.

Line up the participants, one facing each treat. With hands behind their backs, give the signal and witness the hilarity.

Image of donuts hanging from rope for game.
Image of stringing a rope between trees for game.
image of people eating donuts in the game.

Picnic Blanket Checkers

It goes without saying that you love picnics. Fresh air, tasty food and quality time with the family is a recipe for happy summer memories. But let's say you have some down time, maybe while the brats are grilling. What to do? Play checkers, of course!

image of a quilt used for a checkers game.


  • Checkered blanket or tablecloth
  • 12 Stones (or whatever)
  • 12 Pine Cones (or whatever)

How To

Send the kids on a scavenger hunt. You will need checkers and you can use almost anything that will fit in the squares on your blanket. (Though we don't recommend turtles; they get impatient.)

To mark out the boundaries of the checker board on your blanket, you will need four sticks. Be sure to only take sticks that are dead and down, and tell the kids why we don't damage living trees. The checkerboard area is 8x8 squares.

Lay out a dozen of each game piece on the blanket and play! When you are done, scatter the game pieces back in the woods. Praise those kids for leaving no trace!

Glow in the Dark Bowling


  • 10 Plastic Drink Bottles
  • 10 Glow Sticks
  • 1 Bowling Ball (whatever ball you have)


Image of drink bottles used in glow in the dark bowling.

How To

Collect your water or pop bottles as your family keeps hydrated. Peel off the labels and fill them with water. Crack glow sticks and drop them into the bottles, then screw on the caps.

Set up 5 pins on each end of your bowling lane. It should be flat enough for the bottles to stand up, but extra lumps and bumps will add to the challenge! 

Grab whatever ball you brought camping and use it as a bowling ball. (You probably brought a soccer ball, right?) Play by the regular rules of bowling (3 rolls per turn) or make up your own! Did you bring necklace or bracelet glow sticks? Assign points to the bottles and play ring toss! Maybe each older player has to bowl with their eyes closed or backwards. Get creative!

When you are all "funned" out, remember to empty and recycle the bottles. Talk to your kids about the importance of reducing waste.

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