Family Fun: Indoor Camping

There is no time of year my kids look forward to more than camping season. The sun, the campfires, tromping around's all soooooo good. But right now, it's cold and rainy - definitely not the type of weather we like to camp in. Still, I have a special day lined up: Indoor Camping Day.

Indoor camping can be fun for the whole family - or you can make it a kid-centered event. It works any time of year - even if it's snowing or raining. It's not expensive. It's easy to organize. (And if the weather is decent, you can certainly move the fun to the backyard.) Here are a few ideas:

* Set up a tent. We have a play tent designed for indoors, so we'll use that. If you don't have one, though, you could use a small outdoor tent, or you can just make a blanket fort.
* Don't forget the sleeping bags, if you have them - or make beds from pillows and blankets.

* Bring out the flashlights. If you do indoor camping during the day, shut the blinds and curtains for a while so the kids can explore with flashlights.

* Build a fire. This could be a real one in the fireplace, but we'll be making one from toilet paper tubes and tissue paper (like this or this).

* Sing "A Camping We Will Go."

* Do a nature scavenger hunt - indoors or outdoors.

* Make camp food. S'mores melt in the microwave, and hot dogs can be cooked on the stove. You might also consider these fun campfire cupcakes. (Or the cake version, here.)

* Head outdoors and collect leaves. Depending upon the age of your children, you can stop there, or you can identify the leaves, do leaf rubbings, study a little botany, add them to a nature journal...

* Do some shadow tracing, if the sun's out. Stand in a fun position and have a child trace your shadow with chalk.

* Learn to use a compass. You can even make one.

* Make a sundial.

* Become a "tracker." Make "animal tracks" and have the kids guess which animals they are supposed to have come from.

* Make simple friendship bracelets.

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