Pitching a tent in the woods is a summertime rite of passage. But, if you don’t plan on taking a camping trip this year, there’s no reason why you can’t have a Wild-style adventure right at home. We’ve mapped out ten ideas to bring the ultimate in outdoor vacation fun (s’mores included!) to an afternoon playdate, a sleepover, or even a whole weekend with your crew. Read on for the details.
photo: Allison Sutcliffe
1. Find the Foliage
If your kids are in need of a major nature boost, lace up their sturdiest shoes and head straight for the forested fields of your local arboretum or botanic garden. Be sure to snap pics of your discoveries and record them in a simple notebook (aka field guide, if you’re fancy) to add authenticity to the afternoon’s tiptoe-through-the-tulip adventure.
photo: Michael Bentley via Flickr
2. Make Camp Munchies
To the untrained eye, camping’s all about roughing it in the wild. But kids know it’s actually all about the campfire snacks. You can cook baked apples, banana boats and other tin-foil favorites over the kitchen stove for a camp-at-home experience. And, don’t forget the all time classic—s’mores! If you want to get fancy, we’ve got the best recipes for those gooey goodies right here.
photo: Michael McCullough via Flickr
3. Take It Out Back
Take to the wilds of your own backyard for a sleepover. Invite friends, and be sure to set up a telescope or use binoculars to for a little stargazing (Find our tips and tricks here.) before settling down in sleeping bags spread out on the lawn. No grass? No problem. Plop down the air mattress for a night out on the patio or balcony.
photo: Personal Creations via Flickr
4. Build a Fort
Construct a fort in the living room (here are our favorite ideas). Then stock it full of camping provisions that would make your Scout leader proud. Flashlights for casting shadow animals on the wall? Check. Campfire cookware for pretend play? Check. Little expeditionists? Check! It’s a staked out spot that’s perfect for all-day imaginary play and maybe even a good night’s sleep.
photo: Sue Lively via One Time Through
5. Fire It Up
When Sue Lively of One Time Through couldn’t get to an actual campsite she “built” a fire right in her own living room. Find out how to make your own, then break out a few classic campfire songs and spooky ghost stories. Two of our favorites include We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and In the Dark, Dark Wood, which, of course, requires being read in a spooky voice to max out those cute camper giggles.
photo: Gabby Cullen
6. Head for the (Local) Hills
When wandering the flowerbeds just won’t do, dust off your favorite field guide and hit the trails of your local nature preserve or neighborhood park. Add a picnic basket to your list of things to bring, then set up “camp” in a clearing when the Littles need a break and snacks to recharge. Eat your heart out, national park!
7. Take an Urban Hike
All it takes is a knapsack, water bottle and trail mix to prepare for an urban hiking adventure in the concrete jungle. It’s just as much fun to observe zooming taxis, bright red fire hydrants, and cyclists weaving through traffic as it is to turn over leaves and rocks to find crawly creatures in the forest. Keep an official record of your “wild” finds to wrap up the day!
photo: Pacific Science Center
8. Sleep with the Fishes (or Lions)
Load up your kids’ backpacks and make the trek over to the local zoo, aquarium, or museum for a little indoor camping action. These adventures put a whole new spin on the typical wilderness adventure. Because sleeping under dinos or outside a lion’s den? That pretty much trumps everything. Check out our guide to find a wild night in your neck of the woods.
photo: Leslie Science & Nature Center via Flickr
9. Park Your Tent
Urban camping events in park districts and nature preserves are a continuing trend across the country. It’s a great way for your urban dweller to get time in an open green space. Plus, any chance you get to give city kids to get a lesson in pitching a tent is a total bonus. If you don’t live near an urban camping program, simply grab a tent and set up shop at the park for the day—it’ll be just as exciting.
photo: Gabby Cullen
10. Chart a Course for Fun
Set your survival skills to ready and try basic orienteering with your sidekick in a nearby open space or park. Or, pair a compass with a map (X marks the spot!) to steer your littlest camper to the playground or nearest coffee spot. What a great way to take the scenic route!
Got any clever ideas for “camping” close-to-home? Share with us in a comment.
— Allison Sutcliffe
featured photo: Maggie & Rick via flickr