Do your kids want to go camping? Does that sound like a terrible idea to you? Well, pretend camping is your solution!
You can now camp with the kids, with no packing, no driving, no paying for campsite rental, no questionable bathrooms, and you can sleep in your own bed.
My kids are 6, 4, 2 and 2, and they had a great time pretend camping. I think camping with them for real would be very unpleasant at this age, and the amount of packing i would have to do would be INSANE! :)
Step 1: Find Your Campsite.
We are very lucky to have woods in our backyard. We set up our tent in the shade. I let the children pick out the camp site. Then they gathered some wood and rocks for our "campfire".
If you don't have a backyard, you could go pretend camping anywhere: park, playground, you name it.
You don't need a tent. You can just hang up a string and a tarp, or just lay out a blanket and "sleep" under the "stars".
Step 2: Go for a "nature Hike"
We went for a "hike", all the way to the front yard. We gathered more firewood. We also searched for wild animals. We saw some birds, a dog, a cat, and a squirrel. We went through a "jungle" of tomato plants, and a tiny pond (our bird bath) just use your imagination, and the kids will join in. You'll be amazed at what they see.
Step 3: S'mores !
No camping trip is complete without s'mores. We didn't want to have a real fire, so we attempted to cooks marshmallows with a magnifying glass. It was fun. It didn't work great, but it was really neat to try. The kids were fascinated that the sun could get so hot from the magnifying glass. They each got a turn to try. They felt the light, and felt how hot it got. Out marshmallows didn't really cook. They got a little hard on the outside, and a little gooey in the middle.
I added a little dry grass, it caught on fire, and browned out marshmallow a bit. While the kids were swimming, I made a little cooker from some tinfoil. It got the marshmallows a little hot, but then it got cloudy. The microwave comes in handy at this point. :)
Make sure you teach them not to look at the sun through the magnifying glass, not to focus the light on each other, not to start any real fires, etc. This can also be a good lesson on why it's important to wear sunscreen. If the sun can cook some food, imagine what it can do to your skin.
Step 4: Swimming in the "lake"
We were lucky enough to have a nice "lake" next to our campsite.
This was a good chance to cool off. Emma got to try out her new snorkel. She was looking for "fish".
Step 5: Hunting and Gathering
The kids had a great time hunting and gathering. Emma had the idea to make a bow and arrow. She also spent a lot of time catching dragonflies. Make sure they know they're not allowed to hurt an animals, or each other. It's all just pretend.
We also had fun foraging for food in the garden. We found some delicious green beans. (obviously, only eat what you know is edible.)
Step 6: Fishing
Jack really enjoyed fishing. Just a stick with some yarn, and a little stick for bait. Emma made a homemade water lilly, out of a big leaf and a flower.
Step 7: Have Fun!
The kids also did some rock climbing, horseback riding, bird watching..........
The key is to have fun, and use you imagination. The kids come up with amazing ideas. I never would have thought to make a bow and arrow.
You can sit around your "campfire", sing camp songs, and tell stories while you eat your s'mores.
Then, when the kids get tired and cranky, home is only a few steps away. They can go inside, enjoy some air conditioning, and watch a little TV. :)
Have fun camping.!