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Camp Out (or in)!

Age: to
Time: 1 hour+
Materials: tent, tarp or bed sheet, flashlight, blankets or sleeping bags, imagination

As part of our June, 2021 Calendar and in celebration of the annual Great American Backyard Campout, we've published this DIY guide to camping out—whether it's in the back yard, the deep woods or just in the living room, let's kick off this summer with some camping!

And, if you don't have one yet, you can now download your free copy of our monthly calendar with new ways to connect and play in nature at tinkergarten.com/calendar.

The Guide

  1. Download your one-page guide to camping with kiddos—a whole week's worth of pretend play activities to prepare you for a Saturday night under the stars (or under a sheet in the living room)!
  2. Invite Friends to Join In!
  3. Set Up a Shelter—If you have a tent and can keep it up, pitch it today! If not, drape a bed sheet to create a tent or fort for your little one. Kids can enjoy picnics, cozy story time, flashlight play and all kinds of pretending in the new shelter.
  4. Build a "Fire"—Wonder, what do we need to make a pretend campfire? Challenge your kiddo to gather and arrange sticks and nature treasures to build a fire. Place balls of forest putty on one end of a stick to roast pretend s’mores.
  5. "Cook out"—Head to or set up your mud kitchen to whip up some camping food. Give kids dirt, water and kitchen items, or just “cook” over your pretend campfire. Learn how to set up a simple mud kitchen here.
  6. Make your own sky!—Place a light bed sheet or piece of paper on the ground and offer kids frozen berries, spices and water, or ice paint (i.e. ice and food coloring on a stick) to paint a sunset. Or, use chalk and water to create "stars" on a dark sheet. Enjoy a super sensory satisfying way to paint your pretend sky, then hide out under it!
  7. Go "Fishing"—Drop large blocks of ice into a bowl of water and offer scoops to “fish” them out. Or, freeze one end of a piece of twine into a large ice cube, then tie the other end to a stick. Voila! Your fishing pole is ready for action. Get more fishing play ideas here.
  8. Enjoy your campout, whether it's in the woods, the backyard or in the living room. Share photos and stories using #tinkergarten and #TGmoments or in our free Outdoor All 4 Facebook group. Younger kiddos may not make it to see the summer stars, but you can revisit play activities your child enjoyed throughout the week and enjoy some of the special camping rituals like eating in your campsite, singing and building a fire all summer long!

Why is this activity great for kids?

Camping is a super experience for the senses and a way to build a family culture around our connection to the outdoors. But, you don't have to start with deep woods backpacking—you can start small and get there whenever you and your kids are ready. Plus, no matter where or how "hard core" your camping turns out to be, you can get kids excited about camping by teeing up ways to play that have a camping theme. Whatever camping looks like for you, happy camping this summer!

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