Fun Games Your Family Can Play in the Wilderness

Prepping as a family has its challenges, but it can also be a lot of fun, especially when you make it into a game.  One of the most important parts of prepping a family is ensuring they have wilderness and outdoor survival skills.  No matter how old the members of your family are, there are wilderness survival skills they can learn.  What better way to do this than by playing wilderness games?

There are a variety of outdoor and wilderness games that can make learning these skills fun and engaging for kids of all ages.  From getting kids comfortable with being in nature, increasing their awareness of what is around them, and helping them learn how to accomplish a variety of tasks, the games that follow can accomplish these objectives.  But first, a word on how to present these games to your kids.

Talking to Your Kids

No one knows your kids better than you, which means you are the one who knows the best way to talk with your kids about survival.  Maybe your children are older and/or able to handle the truth of why you are prepping.  Maybe they are younger or more sensitive and cannot understand or would be stressed if they knew the whole story.  Either way, it is important to discuss different aspects of prepping with them.  You can tell them the why of it if you think they can handle it or you can just present it as something to learn just for the fun of it.

You should talk to your kids, if they are able to process the why, before you start playing these games, so they have some context when playing.  This will help them better absorb what they learn.  You can also talk to everyone after you have played the game to find out what they learned, what stood out for them, what they might have struggled with, and if they have any questions.

At the very least, giving everyone who is playing some background is helpful.  Potential world disaster scenarios aside, every child, no matter how sensitive, should understand that emergencies happen and that the family has an emergency plan.  Kids should also know what to do if they ever get lost or if they are concerned about a stranger that has approached them.  If you spend time camping and in the wilderness, then they should know basic survival skills.

Safety First

Even though these are games, parents must not let their enthusiasm get the better of them.  Take things slowly and teach kids one skill at a time.  If you overload them, they won’t absorb it as well as they should.  It is also important to ensure that the game suits the age of the players and that an adult is supervising the game at all times.

Be sure that kids understand their responsibilities, as well.  This means following the rules and staying within the boundaries set by the adults in charge.  Kids must also be taught to respect the environment and any equipment or tools they are using.


That said, it’s time to learn some great wilderness games to play with your family.  The following games are listed with the appropriate age range when applicable.  Please remember that the age ranges given are just suggestions and you will need to judge the appropriateness of any of these games for your children based on their age, developmental abilities, and maturity level.  Choose the ones you think are most applicable to your family, your situation, and the skills you need to learn.

Track Those Tracks (any age)

Whether you are in the city or outside of it, there are bound to be animal tracks around.  Determine which are the most common tracks in your area or where you are camping or hiking, and create a sheet that shows a variety of tracks and to what animal they belong.  Give one sheet to each player.  This is also a great game for adults to participate in to test their track-identification skills.

Choose your area and see who can identify the most tracks within a given period of time.  If you have lots of participants, then people can pair up, perhaps an older child or adult with a younger child.  This is a great way to learn the various animal tracks, which will help kids learn to track animals when hunting or know which dangerous animals might be in the area.

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Wild Edibles Scavenger Hunt (any age)

This is a great game in which anyone, young or old, can participate.  Create a sheet of a variety of wild edible plants in your area in which you are camping or hiking.  Ensure the plant pictures and names are on the sheet and have everyone find as many of the plants as possible.

boy during scavenger hunt in the woods

This is a fantastic way to help family members learn to identify wild edible plants they can eat in emergency situations.  However, for the sake of safety, be sure everyone understands that they should never eat a plant if they are uncertain if it is safe, as there are poisonous plants that look similar to edible plants.  Children who are unsure about a plant should always ask an adult before eating it.

Shelter Challenge

Before playing this game, teach the kids about the different types of shelters that can be built in the wild, such as lean-tos and teepees.  Kids should understand that outdoor survival depends on finding or making shelter that will help keep them warm and dry.  This game can have a couple of variations.  With the first, you can have everyone, either individually or in teams, locate the best natural shelters they can find.  This can be hollow trees or logs, natural overhangs made from tree branches, caves, or other applicable shelters.

The second variation is to divide people into teams and have a challenge in which you see who can build a lean-to or other type of shelter the fastest.  You can do this near your campsite or find a spot along a hiking trail.  Wherever you are, make use of material you find there.  You can also choose to provide each team with some basic items they might have in their survival or bugout bag, such as rope, duct tape, or a tarp.

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Fire Prep Challenge (ages 6 and up for gathering materials; ages 10 and up for building a fire)

Do your family members know how to start a fire?  Even older children can learn.  And young children can learn what materials are required to make a fire.  This challenge will see individuals or teams in a wilderness setting gather the materials they think they would need to successfully start a fire.  Before starting the challenge, talk about the different materials that can be used to get a fire started, such as materials that would make good tinder and kindling, and what wood is best for the fire.

This game has a few variations, including:

  • Have participants gather materials that would make good tinder or kindling or wood. You can use just one of these categories and see how many materials they can find that would qualify or you can have each person/team find the materials for one category.  The adult supervising the game can then test out the materials to see which ones work and which ones don’t.
  • Have participants gather all material they would need to successfully build a fire. Each person/team will have to determine what would work best.
  • For older kids and adults, you can take the previous challenge further and have them arrange the tinder, kindling, and wood properly and actually try it out to see who can get the best fire going based on the materials they collected and how well they built the foundation for the fire.
  • Have the person/team gather materials and build the fire as in the previous challenge and then try different ways to start the fire without a lighter or matches.

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Ultimate Hide and Seek (ages 6 and up)

This is a hide-and-seek game that will teach kids how to move with stealth.  This is a useful skill to learn in case the time ever comes when they have to stay hidden from potentially dangerous people.  The game is played as follows:

  • The seeker will set boundaries for the playing area and designate six locations that are bases.
  • The seeker will remain at the sixth and final base and the players will all hide.
  • For each turn at moving toward one of the bases, the seeker will call out how they will count and what number they will count to. They might choose to count to 10 quickly or five slowly.
  • When the seeker counts, the players move toward their next base. If any player is visible to the seeker when the counting for that turn is finished, that player is out.
  • The first player to make it to the final base without being seen wins.

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How to Get Back to Camp (ages 8 and up)

The final game is one that will help kids develop their navigational skills.  If you are camping, have a cottage, or are just hiking for the day and have a base area set up, you can play this game.  Stay together as a group, or if you have more than one adult who can navigate, split up.  Then play as follows:

  • Each group will have a map of the area and a compass.
  • Take the group to a random location (different locations equidistant from the base if you have more than one group).
  • Have the group find their way back to camp or whatever base or location you have chosen. If you have more than one group, then the first group that makes it back to base wins.

You can start with an easy location that is close to the base and work up to longer distances and more complicated terrain.  This will ensure kids learn how to find their way anywhere, whether or not they are familiar with the area.

Bugging Out

You can call this game whatever you think is the most appropriate for your kids.  It could be called Going on a Road Trip or anything else you can think of, but essentially, it is a bugout drill.  Create an imaginary scenario (appropriate to the age and sensitivity level of your younger family members) and give everyone 15 minutes to pack the essentials and be ready to go.  This will give your family practice at getting ready to bug out and you will see where you need to work on your preps.  After you are ready to go, you can follow through with a nice drive or day trip with your supplies, choosing to see how you would get by with them for the day or choosing to do something fun and unrelated to prepping.

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Geocaching is a great activity that teaches navigation.  Geocaching is essentially a scavenger hunt where people hide items and other people find them using GPS navigation.  But you can do this with your family with an added twist.  You can do away with the GPS and use a map, compass, and written communication or symbols to find the hidden items.  After all, when disaster strikes, there won’t necessarily be cell service and GPS to rely on.  Kids and adults alike have to learn to rely of old fashioned methods of navigation.

You can hide items in various areas around your home or neighborhood or around the area where you are camping and get your family members to team up and find them.  Provide them with a description of where the items are and a map and compass and let them find the items.  In a real life survival situation, you might have to rely on leaving caches for other family members to find, so this is a great way to practice.

The above games are fun to play and kids and adults of all ages will love them.  They will teach the kids and adults in your family skills that will serve them well in any emergency situation, no matter where they are or where they need to go.  You can adapt any of them to be done in an urban setting and they can also be great games to play when disaster strikes or the collapse of society happens.  When there is no longer internet to keep kids occupied, these games will ensure they are entertained and educated in important post-collapse life skills.

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2 thoughts on “Fun Games Your Family Can Play in the Wilderness”

  1. What an absolutely brilliant idea! A lot of grown-ups don’t realize that children learn best by playing. These games are an awesome way to teach children the basics of survival, while letting them have fun at the same time.

    One suggestion? You might want to add an extra category in the wild edibles game–plants to stay away from! Add poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac to the list with pictures so they will know not to get too close.

    We have been planning a survival camping trip with the grandkids. They may be too young for these activities now (they are both under 3), but you can bet I’m going to be saving these ideas for when they are older.

    Thank you so much for posting this!


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