The boys and I did a little at-home camping this week. Here is a picture of our set-up.
This wonderful day(s) of play all started after we received a package in the mail. Smart-Fab, a company that makes a cool fabric material that is strong and durable yet easy to cut, glue and paint. Smart-Fab sent us a sample of their product to allow us to get creative and have a little fun!
I asked Jacob (4 years old) what we should make using the Smart-Fab product. Without a second thought Jacob said he wanted to make a tent. I thought it was an unusual idea to come from him because we have yet to go camping as a family and really have never talked about a tent or camping. But the big guy knew what he wanted to do and he wanted to do it that moment! We had to get creative with what we had around the house to make the tent. I kept it basic by stringing a rope from a tree to the fence and then laid the Smart-Fab over the rope. We also stuck the Smart-Fab to the ground using stakes. The stakes went through the Smart-Fab easily. I traced and cut out stars from another color of the Smart-Fab and glued them on as it hung on the rope and as my boys outfitted the tent.
They outfitted the tent with some pretty cool items. A blanket to sit on, food, dishes and pans from our toy kitchen, a chair to sit on, a toy dog, a toy cell phone, music instruments and a piece of wood for a fire. I thought those were amazing things to add to a tent for the camping experience, especially coming from two boys who have never camped. I loved Jacob's idea to grab a piece of wood for a fire so I went in to find some red, orange and yellow tissue paper to represent the fire. We did not need the tissue paper, just thought it would be fun and add to the experience.
The tent was perfect for our play (we would not be sleeping in it). It blocked the sun yet allowed air to circulate through and when the wind blew we could feel the cool breeze even within the tent. It provided enough shade that baby brother could even enjoy it.
The boys delved right into play. Joey (2 years old) sat and played some music for while big brother made some lunch for us. He made us eggs and fish that he caught first (from our play food). He cooked them over the fire and served us the food on plates. I sat in the tent (as instructed) while the boys played as they wished. They were able to occupy themselves in the camping play for the entire day. I suggested a few activities but they spent the day coming up with most of their own ideas. The ideas were all make-believe or role playing and included; making food, walking the dog, talking on the phone to invite friends to join us, fishing, sleeping, hunting, a nature walk to look for animals in the mountains and roasting marshmallows.
I was really surprised that Jacob chose to "camp." Like I said, we have no experience with camping and do not own a tent. My best guess is that we have read books about camping and that sparked an interest in his mind. Books, life experiences and even TV can be a good source of ideas for play. Regardless, it was a fun filled day playing campout in the front yard!
Plating up the food
This is within the tent, you can see how the Smart-Fab shades the boys within the tent. There is a soft blue hue which helped keep it nice and cool within the tent. I was very happy with Smart-Fab as our tent fabric. The best part: we left our tent up over night for more play in the morning. It happened to rain that night. Not only was the tent in tack but the stars that were glued on, stayed. The tent showed no signs of getting wet and the ground under the tent was dry. We ended up leaving the tent up for 3 days with not one problem! When I took it down I folded it up and plan to keep it for future play for inside or outside use.
If you are interested in creating a camping play experience, do not feel that you have to own items that are typically found at a campsite. Make do with what you have around the house. Having the children use their imagination and pretend that a toy has a different use, is great practice for imaginary play.
Smart-Fab can be purchased at various retail stores across the country. Check out their website to learn more and get some great ideas for use.
Disclosure: All thoughts are my own and I was not paid for my opinions. I did receive some samples of the product to try out.