I knew before we started our preschool-at-home journey we could do C is for Camping but I wasn’t sure how exactly it would work until we got there: I wanted to actually camp with the kids, but I also wanted to do a bunch of fun activities to pair with it. We spent a whole week on C is for Camping since I kept coming up with fun stuff to do and couldn’t stop! We began our week by setting up our big family tent in our yard — that way we could do school stuff outside but also just PLAY outside all week. I can’t even describe what a JOY it was to simply have the tent set up in the yard for a week: it ended up being a gorgeous week for it (thankfully) and I even slept in the tent by myself a couple nights.
- Toasting Marshmallows
- Ladybug Girl and Bingo
- When We Go Camping
- Curious George Goes Camping
- Fred and Ted Go Camping
- A Camping Spree With Mr. Magee
- In The Red Canoe
- S is for S’Mores: A Camping Alphabet
LEARNING ACTIVITIES & ADVENTURES
||We kicked off our week by setting up our family tent in the yard with the intention that we would do all of our school time & play time outdoors this week.|
||“The watery world goes sliding by. Our paddles dip and swing.” (In The Red Canoe)
C is for Canoe!
We took a family canoe trip on our lake and saw a beaver dam & hut, wood ducks, dragonflies on lily pads, and lots of fish jumping.
|C is for candles & campfire!
We live in a cabin in the woods and lose power *a lot* in the winter (and sometimes in the summer too!) and have a hefty supply of emergency candles. I brought some in the tent today and had my son form a C with them. We kept them lit for a little while while I read some of our camping stories & poems.
Book: Toasting Marshmallows
|Mini marshmallow fun inside our tent: (1) counting into a numbered cupcake tin, (2) BUCKET TOSS, and, without question… (3) snack.|
|C is for Camping Gear. I created this camping gear lotto-style game for learning & fun (free PDF here). We matched all of the cards with actual items and then played lotto (each person has one card & you randomly draw individual items and the person who fills their card first wins).|
||Hammering tent pegs into the ground with a mallet. . .
There are SO MANY practical life skills in camping. Other than managing a campfire, I don’t see any reason to say no to my kids’ involvement on a campsite. I want them all-in.
|Woodland animal tent tea party. We just gathered a bunch of stuffed animal toys and had a tea party! Super simple and so fun. We have the Green Toys tea set and adore this wood cupcake set.|
|We made s’mores at the fire pit by our house and read camping poems from Toasting Marshmallows|
|Loose parts ABC formation.
We use this loose parts bin for a lot of play & learning activities. We worked on forming letters today — I provided printouts.
The wood tray is just a cutlery tray from the set we got for our wedding! We collect nature items and change them occasionally.
|Camping inevitably involves nature exploration!
We walked around our home for a nature color scavenger hunt. We collected flowers, leaves, tree nuts, tree seeds, berries, rocks & sticks.
We took our color sorting tray outside to try to find something of every color. No blue — though my son pointed out that the sky is blue… I asked him if he could reach up and grab some and he said “No, mama–it’s too far away!”
||C is for Clipping Carabiners on to a Chain
Again, I can’t say enough about the possibilities for preschool learning in camping gear. This is not for the faint of heart: my 2 year old would pinch her fingers when she first tried this but she’s persistent and kept with it (the smaller ones worked best for her while big brother could do all of these.
|Small world play campsite with hand-painted craft stick & cardboard mini tents, nature loose parts bin, and handmade peg dolls.
I used a hot glue gun to create the little tents with 2 rectangular cardboard pieces & 4 craft sticks each. Then, we painted them together and brought them outside when they dried to create a little play/pretend campsite.
|Flashlight storytelling fun with homemade glow-in-the-dark story stones!
Flashlight is the BEST BOOK EVER by Lizi Boyd. Personally, I absolutely adore her illustrations and basically want to be her.
A boy camping at night wanders away from his tent with a flashlight to discover a bunch of woodland creatures. It’s mostly black and white illustrations, with no text. A visual poem of a woodland adventure. And a fun way to dream about nocturnal animals. I want to LIVE this book. I dream that my kids will live this book.
SO, awhile ago I painted these rocks with the illustrations of the boy & animals (including the green luna moth) from the book. I also painted them to glow in the dark so we can hunt for them with flashlights in the dark like in the story. We have brought them in the tent this week for some fun & storytelling engagement.
|“Turn something we do without thinking into a learning activity” (John Bowman, Help Your Preschooler Build a Better Brain)
Flashlight assembly! Right is tight, left is loose — I also brought out some nuts & bolts to further illustrate the point (and so one kid could work on the flashlight and the other kid would have something equally fun to do and not be mad that there’s only one flashlight!)
SO MUCH PRACTICAL LIFE LEARNING IN CAMPING. I can’t say this enough!!
Hand & finger control, eye-hand coordination, sorting & matching skills, and problem solving skills.
FYI: John Bowman has a helpful list of sizes to buy for nuts, washers, & bolts in Help Your Preschooler Build a Better Brain on page 87!
|Camping bingo for a fun tent game. Thanks so much to Rachelle at Mom Collaborative for sharing this idea from her family camping trip.
This is a free printable from the National Wildlife Federation! I printed one card for each of us (it’s a set of 4) and then one extra sheet to cut the little squares to put in a basket. I put the kids in charge of picking the cards from the basket, naming the item, and placing a little tree circle on the correct spot to try and get a BINGO.
|Campfire handprint art activity
We did this in the order of building a real campfire: we first glued the sticks on, then I put paint on a tray for them to do a handprint stamp as the fire. Then for roasting marshmallows we glued little white pom poms on to mini craft sticks (great for fine motor skills!) and glued those on the paper (after playing with some and pretending to burn our marshmallows in the fire!)
|C is for Cord stops
These little cord stops are on pretty much EVERY camping gear item: sleeping bags, tent bags, gear bags, etc. Awhile ago when we got sleeping bags for the kids I started challenging my son to do the cord stop himself to open it up. He couldn’t do it at first but every time they got their sleeping bags out, I invited him to do it on his own … and now he can do it! Great for strengthening those little writing fingers.
||Invitation to paint sticks.
Stick-painting is simple, involves fine motor skills and coordination plus it’s also this wonderful open-ended invitation to create. We play with sticks a lot but never painted them before and my jaw literally dropped at how intensely both kiddos were so focused on this and lovingly selecting each color, attempting to paint the entire stick surface. I want to capture that moment and bottle it up forever.
We also painted big hiking staffs because every decent adventurer needs a staff. Just the perfect size for him and for her.
||C is for Compass & map skills.
Okay, we didn’t really do a true compass lesson! BUT, my son has shown interest in the compass this week and I tried to find a way to make it more practical for him.
SO, to simplify: I taped off a 6×6 “map” grid of small squares big enough for us to stand in, with N, S, E & W marked on the four ends of the blanket. We played a game where they had to follow instructions: “Take one step toward the N is for North. Now take 3 steps toward the E is for East….” THEN I had my son give the instructions to me to move me around the blanket. Super fun!
|More Map & Compass.
Here’s a watercolor & ink map of the camp property where we live I created last year for my kids. They love reading “Winnie the Pooh” and adore looking at the map at the back of our book. So, I thought I’d make a map in that same style of our very own. I basically left out a lot of the camp property and only left landmarks that we really interact with on a weekly basis, putting their names for things like “owl tree” and “frog water”.
Making a map for you kids is something you can totally do in a much simpler way than this! Do you have a regular walking route that you take with your family? Make a simple map on a white sheet of paper with a pen or marker (or have your kids do it!) — add landmarks they know like the park or a gas station or a friend’s house, etc. Take it with you on their walks and show them directions (NSEW or right/left). When you get home have them show you on the map the route you walked and tell you what you did along the way. I keep our map on the wall in the kids’ room but take it down a lot and ask my kids to tell me where we went that day. It’s great for inviting them to think about *place* but also to narrate their day!!
|Super simple scissor skills activity: cut grass. This will occupy kids for ages.|