How to Have an Indoor Camping Experience
Want to go on a camping trip without leaving your house?
Dreaming of roasting marshmallows to golden-brown perfection without the campfire?
With a few simple “ingredients,” you can turn an ordinary room into a land of adventure.
In this article I’ll show you how to create a fun camping experience inside your home.
Why Indoor Camping?
I like indoor camping because it’s a fun activity that all four of my children, ages 1 to 11, can take part in. Moreover, it can be done any time of the year, regardless of the weather.
Put up a tent, roast some s’mores, tell a few good stories and you’ll have a great evening-long activity.
Not sure how to pull all that together? Read on and you’ll see it’s not so complicated.
What You’ll Need
- A large cloth (a king- or queen-sized bedsheet or tablecloth will do)
- Chairs (at least 4)
- Canned food or other heavy items to anchor your tent
- Comfy accessories (sleeping bags, blankets, pillows, stuffed animals)
- Tealight candles (one for each camper)
- A lighter or matches (for grownups only)
- Toasting sticks (skewers, chopsticks, forks)
- Graham crackers
- Wet wipes or a washcloth
All evening long. You could even sleep overnight in the tent
Your house or apartment
#1: Make Your Tent
Making the tent takes only about 10 minutes. To put your tent together, you’ll need to gather a few simple household items.
A large cloth: A light cloth works best to make your walls and roof. A top sheet (preferably queen- or king-sized) or large rectangular tablecloth is great. A big blanket or comforter can work too, but if it’s too heavy, your tent might droop in the center and could collapse in the middle of storytelling time. Though this type of surprise could add an element drama to your tale, that’s probably not the effect you’re looking for.
At least four chairs: You should have a chair for every corner of the tent, but sometimes my kids like to include additional chairs to make a more substantial tent “wall.” Chairs with high backs are best, as they provide added support for the tent. Bar stools can work too, but it’s more challenging to keep the tent intact when you use them. Moreover, bar stools are not as stable as chairs and may tip over if the kids knock into them.
Here is our tent.
Canned food: You must have something to weigh down the sides of the tent. You can use anything heavy to fill that need. I like using canned food because we always have it, the bottoms of the cans are fairly flat so they don’t often fall over, they are somewhat decorative and if we get hungry, we can always pop one of them open (just kidding on that last one).
Comfy accessories (optional):When camping in the great outdoors, the ground under your tent might be a little lumpy. But when you camp indoors, you can easily turn your tent into a snuggly den. Add beanbag chairs, sleeping bags, pillows, blankets, stuffed animals – it’s up to you!
Making the tent itself shouldn’t take you much time.
Place the chairs in a rectangle. Turn the chairs so that their backs are facing one another.
Bringing furniture into a new room is fun for kids. It’s not every day they get to rearrange the household!
Drape the cloth over the chairs. Be sure that the cloth is draped far enough over the chair backs so that some of the cloth remains on the chair seats. This will be where you’ll anchor the cloth.
Weigh the sides of the cloth down by putting the cans on the seats of the chairs.
It’s helpful to make one end of the tent higher than the other so it can function as a “door.”
Make the floor of the tent fun with your comfy accessories. Let playtime begin!
Blankets, pillows, soft chairs—use your imagination to make your tent a great place to hang out.
#2: Indoor S’Mores
It is a universal truth that every camping trip is made better by the addition of s’mores.They are the epitome of yumminess!
Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting you light a campfire in the middle of your family room floor in order to roast your marshmallows indoors.
Here is an alternative option that is safer and less likely to burn your house down.
Most of these items can be easily found in your kitchen.
You will need:
- Tea candles. This is the secret to indoor marshmallow roasting. Put the candles on plates or in candleholders, because that gives them a little extra stability. Also, I recommend that you use one tea candle per child or taking turns roasting the marshmallows over a single candle, because tea candles are small and don’t put out a ton of heat. EDITORS NOTE: We suggest you use non-paraffin tea lights. Go here for some.
- Matches or a lighter. It’s hard to light a candle without one of these!
- Toasting sticks. My “sticks” vary depending on what I have available in the house. I’ve used wooden chopsticks leftover from Chinese takeout, skewers and even forks to hold the marshmallows.
- Marshmallows. Medium-sized marshmallows are perfect. Small marshmallows generally don’t fit well on a stick and super-huge fist-sized marshmallows won’t easily cook all the way through when you’re using the tea candle roasting method.
- Graham crackers. You can use any type of sheet graham crackers, but my personal opinion is that cinnamon graham crackers are the best for making these delicious sandwiches. Chocolate and cinnamon is a great combo.
- Chocolate. Chocolate chips, chocolate bars, leftover chocolate holiday candy, whatever you have lying around the house is fine. However, thinner bars and smaller chunks melt more easily than their larger and thicker counterparts, and are therefore a better option.
- Plates. While letting crumbs and gobs of marshmallow fall to the ground when you are outside is perfectly acceptable, you might not want that kind of stuff to end up on your floor.
- Wet wipes. You can use napkins dampened with a little bit of water, but wet wipes are pretty much the best thing there is when it comes to cleaning up marshmallow-coated fingers and chocolate mustaches.
Here’s how you make indoor s’mores:
Gather your materials. Find a good place to put your tea candles and other s’mores ingredients. If you are camping with younger children, be sure to put the candles in a high enough location that they won’t get knocked over or played with without adult supervision.
Light the candles. With younger children lighting candles should be an adult-assisted activity. Please carefully monitor all candle-related activity, regardless of what age group you are working with.
Tea candles burn slowly so you can usually use them several times.
Prep the ingredients. Put a marshmallow on each person’s “stick.” Break the graham crackers into sandwich-sized squares and place on the plate so you’ll be ready when the marshmallows are toasted.
My husband and I like chopsticks but my kids prefer forks.
Toast the marshmallows by rotating them over the lit tea candles. You will have to put the marshmallow somewhat close to the flame in order to cook it. Sometimes the marshmallows catch on fire. Don’t panic; just blow them out. It’s all part of the cooking process!
Helping your smaller children roast the marshmallows boosts their confidence and helps them feel safe because they know you won’t let the fire hurt them.
Make your sandwich in this order: Lay a graham cracker sheet on the plate. Add your roasted marshmallow. Then add your chocolate. Top the whole thing off with a second graham cracker.
I like to bury some of the chocolate right in the marshmallow before I smoosh it all together. You can never have too much chocolaty goodness.
Eating s’mores indoors is an extra-special treat.
#3: Sharing Stories
Sharing stories is a great activity, with or without a tent. When you tell stories inside your tent, you share a more intimate experience. It makes you feel closer to your audience and if you want to tell ghost stories, it also can also provide a creepier atmosphere when it’s dark out.
You can find stories in many different places. Read a book out loud or tell a story that you’ve memorized. There are tons of story websites where you can find spooky stories, scout stories to print, or even stories that you can download to read directly from your tablet or other device.
A tent brings you closer together physically, which makes you feel closer emotionally.
Sometimes I use stories I find as inspiration. I change them or add my children’s names into the stories to make the tales feel more personal. Sometimes I use a flashlight or the light on my phone to give my face weird shadows and make the experience a little scarier.
My favorite option is to crowdsource stories. To “crowdsource” something means to solicit ideas from a group of people in order to improve the end product. Having your kids provide story ideas is a great way to stimulate their imaginations and make the story interactive.
This type of storytelling works well across a variety of age groups (even adults!). You can focus on scary themes to fit the “campground”/ghost story idea, or you can let the stories go in whatever direction your campers want to take them (that’s my preferred method).
Here’s how you crowdsource a story:
Have everyone sit in a circle. If there are only two of you, sit across from one another.
The leader starts by saying the opening sentence of the story. The first time we tell a story, I usually have an adult provide the initial line, so my children have an example to follow.
The next person in the circle says the next sentence. It should follow the preceding sentence in at least a semi-logical way, but the person who is saying the current sentence can take the story in any direction he or she wants. For instance, the first person might say, “Once upon a time, there was an adorable fluffy white dog who loved bonbons.” The next person might continue with, “One day, the dog decided to go punk and she dyed her fur bright pink, shaved her tail and started wearing a black leather jacket around town.”
This process is repeated by the next person (if there are only two of you, just go back and forth with each one of you providing a single sentence to move the story along). Keep taking turns and adding to the story. For instance, the third sentence might be, “The punk dog decided to start a band because she really liked howling.” Continue to repeat this process until someone ends the story.
Help guide the story:
When you explain how this game works, you should suggest that each child begin to think about what to say a little before it’s his or her turn. That way it’s less likely that people will freeze up when it’s their turn and it’s easier to keep the game moving.
If the story seems to be floundering, you, as the adult, should step in and provide some guidance without telling the child what to say. Ask an open-ended question that can stimulate the child’s thought process. For instance:
- Where does the main character live?
- How do you think the main character feels? Why does he feel that way?
- Does the main character have any special powers or talents?
- What would you do if you were in this situation?
- Do you think we should add any new characters to the story?
If the story seems to be dragging on too long, you should again step in and gently suggest that the children begin to think about how the story should conclude.
#4: Ready, Set, Camp!
Camping, whether indoors or out, is a fabulous activity.
You can expand on your experience by decorating to create additional atmosphere (for instance, hang paper stars from the ceiling). Or, add board or card games into the mix of activities, or have a sleepover in the tent with friends.
Some Final Thoughts…
Indoor camping is a great way to have fun with your kids, share stories, and connect with them by talking and playing together.
What do you think? Tell me about your experience or show me with a picture. Do you have ideas about other activities to add to your indoor camping adventure? Let me know in the comments below.