Pretend Camping With the Kids




About: I am a domestic engineer, aka. a stay at home Mom. A former science geek, scenic carpenter, and quilter.

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. 

Here's How! 

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.!



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    16 Discussions

    Doc Wyoming

    2 years ago

    This is a clever idea, if you get into the role of acting like its a real camping trip, the children will get into the role too.


    3 years ago

    Looks like a lot of never-forget fun! Thanks for sharing. I grew up camping alone or sometimes with my little brothers in the upstate NY Catskills. My husband grew up in central FL and did not camp as much as I always did. I took our four kids [ages 9, 6 (a highly special needs kid), 5, and 2] camping on the Natchez Trace one week-end that was supposed to be "good weather." A heavy rainstorm came up on our first night out and I awakened to find we had two inches of water running through our tent! I loaded the kids into the station wagon and bundled them up, loaded everything else in record time, and we went back home to sleep in our dry beds. That was one of the more memorable of our countless family camping trips. Our daughter grew up to take her two kids camping regularly; the youngest son still goes out in the AK wilderness and hikes and camps a great deal. Train up a child in the way he should go...


    4 years ago

    I wish me and my brother could do that


    5 years ago

    What are recommended ages ?


    6 years ago on Step 7

    Surely memories not soon forrgotten by you or your kids. something to cherish . Makes me proud to be a dad myself , you should give yourselves a pat on the back thats what real parenting is all about. Good to know there are good people out there still


    6 years ago on Introduction

    When my kids were young, I had purchased a small travel trailer. It looked like we could never go camping as much as we liked because I was working shift work and the kids were in school, etc,etc. Well, my wife got the kids together one evening while I was working and called a "Camping Trip" in the trailer in the yard.
    There was no electricity or water hookup but they used flashlights and opened the windows for the night. The kids had a blast! They still remember this to this day.

    This is really just wonderful! What a great thing to do with your kids. I remember setting up a tent in our yard, practically right outside my bedroom window, to camp in, but always chickening out at night and being too scared to sleep outside :)


    6 years ago on Introduction

    We camp in the backyard too! and the loving room on occasion!
    Nice Instructable, beautiful kids. Great job on both counts.

    1 reply

    6 years ago on Introduction

    Indeed a great idea. You can even do a version indoors. Let the kids sleep in sleeping bags on the floor. For some weird reason, it's a "treat."

    1 reply

    6 years ago on Introduction

    Very creative mom there! I'll be the kids loved it! thanks for sharing your parenting skills! Sunshiine


    6 years ago on Introduction

    This is fabulous! So great to see what fun kids are having outside using their imaginations despite the heat, instead of vegging inside the house in front of a video! Kudos to you for your Mom skills! I especially like the "rock wall climbing" in a skirt!