Many children enjoy the thought or idea of camping outdoors, but that doesn't necessarily mean your toddler is ready for three nights of sleeping on the ground and going to the bathroom in the woods. Doing camping activities in your backyard or at a local campground is a great way to get your child excited about a more rugged camping experience sometime in the future, without having to drag all your supplies and equipment into the middle of nowhere.
Pretend Campout Activities
Pitch a tent in your backyard during the daytime and let your little one pretend to cook with a few play cups and bowls. Let her drag a few blankets into the tent and pretend to "sleep" in the tent with her favorite teddy bear or blanket. Depending on your toddler's bedtime, you can also take turns telling unalarming "ghost" stories with a flashlight when the sun goes down. Even though they're set in your backyard, these simple activities get your child used to enjoying herself outdoors, according to the National Wildlife Federation.
Camping Art Projects
Making art projects out of items found nature can help your toddler tune into the resources around him, rather than running for the electronic tablet or DVD player at the first hint of boredom. Gather several small twigs and arrange them into a frame bound with sturdy thread or dental floss. Paint leaves or pieces of loose bark from a tree and use them as stamps for a dishcloth or white T-shirt, suggests Preschool Express. Collect rocks and glue them around the perimeter of a shoebox for decoration.
Playing pretend, whether it's with dogs or action figures, helps children process and understand new events, reports HighScope Learning Project. This includes camping. Help your toddler create a tiny tent inside a shoebox and paste cotton balls against the painted blue background. Provide your little one with a few human-like figures and let her practice putting the figures to bed inside a small piece of cloth inside the tent, or making food over the fire made from a few crumpled red and orange tissue papers.
Even though you may not be camping outside the entire night, cooking outdoors over a campfire or simple grill -- for an older toddler -- can help acclimate him to camp-style eating. This can help your toddler feel comfortable with a little dirt on his hotdog bun or roasting marshmallows with a stick. Let him help prepare the food and practice diligent safety in terms of staying away from anything hot or on fire. Let him help distribute paper plates or tin plates and cloth napkins if you want to make the experience as close to camping as possible. Finish by having him help wash and dry the dishes so he learns that this is also involved in the camping experience.
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