Campsite Cookout

  • Children icon Age: 0 to 8+
  • Clock icon Time: 1 hour+
  • Leaf icon Materials: Soil and water; kitchen tools (e.g. bowls, muffin tins); nature treasures and sticks; (Optional) Forest Putty
What is camping (or life, really) without food to give us energy and enjoy time together? This week at Tinkergarten Anywhere, as part of our pretend camping unit, we'll set up pretend campfires and mud kitchens in which we whip up nature treats to "enjoy" at our pretend cookout.

The Guide

Step 1: Gather materials:

  • Soil and water
  • Kitchen tools (e.g. bowls, muffin tins, pie pans, cooking pot)
  • Nature treasures and sticks
  • (Optional) Kitchen spice or herb
  • (Optional) Forest Putty

Step 2: Watch the Tinkergarten Anywhere Campsite Cookout video lesson.

Hop into your My Tinkergarten trial dashboard to watch the Campsite Cookout video lesson. Kids can watch how Meghan and other explorers build pretend campfires and mud kitchens, then get inspired to whip up their own campfire treats!

Not yet enrolled in Tinkergarten Anywhere? Join now or try a free trial here.

Step 3: Invite play and choose a spot to set up camp.

After you watch the video, ask kids, “How can you cook up a feast for a pretend campsite cookout?” Offer the kitchen tools you gathered and invite kids to head outside and look for a good spot to set up their campsite (e.g. an area with an open patch of dirt, access to water, a tree for shade, access to nature treasures).

Step 4: Build a pretend campfire.

  • Invite kids to gather and arrange sticks and items found in nature to build a pretend campfire to cook food, warm everyone at night or bring everyone together for singing. Need inspiration? Try out one of these types of campfire structures. We've had the most success making the Log Cabin, Teepee and Star types with kids.
  • Once their fire is built, marvel at what they have created. Take a small stick or other object and pretend to light the fire. How does the fire "feel"? Do we need to add more wood to the fire to keep it going?
  • As an added bonus, kids can add red fabric or scraps of paper to make pretend flames. You can also offer forest putty that kids can “roast” on sticks over the pretend campfire. 

Step 5: Make campfire treats!

  • Ask kids what kind of campfire food they would like to make at their campsite. Where could they find ingredients for their pretend cookout? If kids packed a treasure box of nature treasure ingredients, make it available for their cookout. Or, invite kids to use a bag, bucket or bindle to “shop” for sticks, leaves, seeds, tree fruits, flowers, grasses, etc. in their outdoor space. 
  • Make water available and welcome kids to make mud for their campfire cookout. If you’d like, explore some different mud recipes in your cooking play.
  • (Optional) Offer some herbs or spices and welcome kids to add them to their campsite food.

Step 5: Support play with “juicy questions”.

Food gets all of us engaged and talking, which makes cooking play an ideal time to engage kids in conversation and support communication skills. When we offer kids the chance to answer open-ended questions about their own experiences, we offer them wonderful practice with expressing. As kids play, look for signs that kids are ready to chat. When they are ready, try out some of these "juicy questions" to get them thinking and talking.

Want more ideas? Try out some of these campfire-themed DIY activities:

Why is this activity great for kids?

Food gets all of us engaged and talking, which makes cooking play an ideal time to engage kids in conversation and practice communication skills. This activity will engage all senses, helping kids to take in and process information about the world and helping their brains engage in a more robust and profound way. Pretending to gather, warm up and cook over a pretend fire supports creativity and imaginative play. Finally, constructing pretend fires and setting up a mud kitchen is marvelous practice in problem-solving.

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