Summer vacation 2023 has officially begun! We held our 3rd Annual Summer Kick-Off Indoor Campout and this was our best yet! Ever since our first year, we’ve been gathering ideas of how to keep the kids engaged, learning, and enjoying this simple event. This year’s campout was full of messy, inexpensive fun and the boys had a blast.
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The Set Up
We recently rearranged our living room in a way that made the indoor campout setup difficult. I know – what were we thinking?! To ensure we could fit a tent in the new layout, we actually took apart our sectional couch and put the unused pieces in the garage. This gave us ample space for all the activities, including the boys’ new two-person tent (you can get it here – it’s amazing!)
A previous challenge I wanted to address this year was truly setting the stage of being in a forest. We still used all the fake trees from our Christmas decorations, but I wanted something a little more impactful. Previously, I used green vinyl tablecloth from PartyCity (the kind that comes on a giant roll) but it’s so wasteful. I wanted something durable that could be reused.
Enter: The Leaf Backdrop
I found these inexpensive leaf backdrops on Amazon and was pleasantly surprised by the quality. I ordered various sizes to cover large areas of our walls and distracting furniture (such as a bookcase and toy storage.) The effect was immediate and incredible! The best part is they are reusable and packed up nicely for next year. You can get the backdrops here.
As always, we hung our twinkling star lights overhead to add a bit of additional outdoor effect.
One of my favorite areas of our campsite was the Fishing Hole. For Christmas, the boys received these Melissa & Doug Fishing Sets that were perfect for our indoor fishing tournament.
A nice decorative add was the campground signs printables I found on Etsy. I printed them on cardstock and then laminated them. They added such a cute authentic element to our campsite and were even a teaching moment as we talked to the boys about what each sign meant. You can get the campground printables here.
As always, we had our stack of camping related books for story time and added a new one this year that is too cute for words: A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee. The story is about Mr. Magee going camping with his dog when a hungry bear causes some hilarious chaos. Highly recommended!
Another recurring space for our campground is the coloring corner. And I could not believe how adorable these coloring pages were that I found on Etsy! The set includes bears, foxes, raccoons, bunnies and more characters all doing outdoor activities. You can get the camping coloring pages here.
We introduced the boys to trail mix this year with a simple Trail Mix Bar. I cut down small brown paper bags and rolled the edges down to make little bowls. (Learn from me: I tried rolling the bags down from the top without cutting off the tops and it was a nightmare. Trust me, cut the bags down to size.) There are so many options of what makes good trail mix! Ours included cashews, goldfish crackers, M&Ms, Cheerios, chocolate chips, banana chips, pretzel sticks, and raisins.
In addition to this delicious snack, we served Mac n’ Cheese with hot dogs and bought one of my new favorite things…
Check out this table top fire pit! Isn’t it cute? This tabletop fire pit bowl was such a good idea with littles. First, it burns… rubbing alcohol. No special fuels, no weird scents. So amazing! Second, it comes with the expandable roasting sticks, which gave us plenty of safe distance from the flames to make our s’mores.
Word of warning: The product description says that it’s an “indoor” fire pit and it absolutely is not. Even with a tiny bit of rubbing alcohol, the flames can get quite tall and warm. Don’t use this inside. Please.
Because this was the boys’ first time roasting marshmallows, we also kept a pot of water nearby for any flaming mallows. Highly recommend this as a safety precaution.
Every campout needs some fun activities, and this year, we did three fun and at times, messy projects.
This project is so easy, inexpensive, and to add an element of fun, we made it a race. You will need two cups per person, water, a paper towel per person, and washable markers. Fold the paper towel long ways (hot dog style) to fit into the openings of your cups. On the ends, color stripes with the markers to make rainbows on each end. Fill the bottom of the cups about halfway with water. When ready, put the ends of the paper towels into the water, and watch the rainbow grow as the towel absorbs water. The first person’s whose rainbow connects wins!
Baking Soda + Vinegar Mess
I would love to say we did this to make volcanos but we really just wanted to make a mess. Putting baking soda and little bit of food coloring into a cup, we topped it off with a dash of white vinegar and watched everything bubble over. The boys were obsessed with how active the reaction was and kept mixing colors. Super fun and again, inexpensive.
I wanted to do a project this year that was a little messy for the boys and created something they could keep. These lanterns are made out of empty apple juice containers with glue, tissue paper, and pipe cleaners. We helped the boys rip yellow and orange tissue paper into small pieces. Working one side at a time, the boys covered the jugs in glue and placed their tissue paper. Once all sides are covered in tissue paper, cover in a layer of glue and let dry. To add a bit of flair, the boys wanted to add glitter to theirs. You can also add stickers or pictures. We created handles for the lanterns by wrapping a pipe cleaner around the neck of the jug and looping another pipe cleaner over the top. Pop in a flameless candle and you have an adorable lantern!
This indoor campout is one of our favorite things to do with the boys every year. It’s inexpensive, engaging, and we all enjoy the quiet time together. The boys love it and I’m already thinking about what we can do for next year.
Until then, happy camping!