How it Plays
In the late afternoon, ask your child if she'd like to go campingand tell her the trip won't involve any driving at all. She'll undoubtedly say yes. Explain that for this one night your backyard, deck, or patio is going to become a campground, and you're going to do all the things people usually do on a camping trip. (Hint: This is a great way to get a young child ready for the challenges of the real thing.) If you have a tent or can borrow one for a night, set it up. (Unless it's windy, it's really not necessary to stake it down.) If you can't get your hands on a tent, then a tarp and some sleeping bags or blankets will do fine.
Set up your "camp," complete with barbecue, flashlight, and your child's favorite stuffed animal or sleeping blanket. Light the barbecue and have a dinner cookout. Then let the fire burn down to coals and get out the marshmallows. If there is a bush available, cut off a couple of green sticks and use a knife to sharpen the tips. Wooden-handled skewers are also an option.
Show your child how to put a marshmallow on the end of her stick, though of course you'll have to roast it for her. Now for the really fun part: It's time to introduce your child to the traditional camping dessert s'moresshort for "some mores," since kids always ask for seconds! This easy treat is made by sandwiching a square of chocolate and a hot, melty marshmallow in between two graham crackers.
After dessert, crawl into your sleeping bags and read a few stories by flashlight. Toddlers and young children can't sleep outside alone at night, so at this point you'll need to either settle down for the night yourself or wait until your little one's asleep and then carry her back to her own cozy bed. Either way, she's had her first camping experience while safe at home.
What You'll Need
Learning and Growing
Depending on how old your child is and how much she participates, she'll practice both gross-motor skills (setting up the tent, spreading out sleeping bags) and fine-motor skills (skewering marshmallows) during your campout. It's also a fabulous way to enhance your child's sense of adventure and ease her into experiencing a night under the stars.