A summer rite of passage, camping trips have been bonding families for years — from the patience-trying task of erecting the tent to the more pleasant moments of roasting marshmallows and singing tunes around the campfire. Our family loves camping, but Florida mid-summer camping isn’t exactly the most enjoyable experience with the heat–not to mention packing and unpacking the car with everything we need for three little ones in a primitive setting. However, we’ve figured out a way to enjoy some of our favorite camping experiences without even needing the bug spray: we bring it all inside — the tent, the campfire, the fishing hole.
Want to create a summer camp at home? Here are a few simple ideas to make it happen.
Set Up a Tent in the Living Room
Move the furniture aside to create a large open area for a campsite. A play tent is perfect, but if you don’t have one, you can use sheets and blankets, a few chairs and some clothespins to make a camping fort. Pull out sleeping bags, pillows and blankets and tell your kids to put pajamas on — even in the middle of the day — to make your camping experience more authentic. You can even add a sound machine with nature sounds for an outdoors effect — and there are several free nature sound phone apps.
Turn the Lights Off and Use Flashlights
Every good camper knows that camping is the most fun once the sun sets. Turn off all the lights, pull out some flashlights and tell ghost stories by the light of the flashlight beam. Read stories in the dark, make shadow puppets on the wall. Pretend it’s nighttime and you hear a bear headed for your campsite! Quick! Hide under the covers! Be very, very quiet! Your kids will play along and love your imaginative spirit.
Make a Campfire
One of our favorite toys is our play campfire set. You can make your own campfire by making a circle on the floor with rocks, crumpling up some orange material (a T-shirt will do) and piling up some sticks you find outside on top of it. Pretend it’s cold and rub your hands together over the “flames” to get warm.
Roast Marshmallows (for real!)
This is definitely an adult-supervision activity, but you can safely roast marshmallows without a fire as long as Mom or Dad monitors. All you need is a can of Sterno (used to keep catering food hot), which produces a small flame that will quickly toast a marshmallow. We used sticks from outdoors to toast ours and finished them off with some chocolate and graham crackers.
Make a Bathtub Fishing Hole
Head down to the fishing hole to catch your dinner by creating a lake in your bathtub and using some homemade fishing poles and fish. All you need is a stick, some string, a roll of electrical tape, a large ceiling hook and several pipe cleaners — things you probably already have at home.
Throw your pipe cleaner fish into a tub filled with a little water, and let your kids practice good hand/eye coordination to snag a fish with their hooks.
Go on a Nature Hunt
Make a list of nature items for your kids to find outside, give them a basket and set them loose to complete the challenge. Not only is it a fun camping activity, but it also promotes learning, observation and a love of nature.
Finish off your camping adventure by teaching your kids some fun camp songs and taking pictures of their special day.
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