Take Your Blanket Fort to the Next Level: Indoor Camping With Your Kids

Kids asleep in a blanket fort.

The kids are home for the holidays and let's face it, so many of the activities we share with them are hectic. There's shopping and Christmas movies and parties. Take a break from the frenzy and go camping - in your living room. It's cold outside and the days are short and dark. It's the perfect time for winter nesting in a blanket fort. All you have to do is join the children’s make-believe world. Set up camp indoors any time of the year, and as often as they want to. Foul weather or fear of creepy crawlies need not keep you away from camping fun.

Discover the joys of family bonding, cocooned in cozy make-shift tents pitched right in the living room.

Planning Your Indoor Camp

Even though you’re setting up camp indoors, give it as much of a camp feel as you can to create the right atmosphere. A bit of planning can make it an experience to cherish not only for the children, but for you as well. Do you want it to be a surprise? Or would you rather have the kids pitch in with ideas and real help? Think about the location, camp rules, camp food, and the activities and games that you should have. You can even have themes such as Arabian Nights, hippies, tribal life or beach holiday.

Where to Put Up the Camp?

Select a room that has plenty of space, and is easy to rearrange. It can be your dining room, family room, basement or attic. If you’re planning to have a bit of real fire, ventilation and other safety issues should be taken into consideration.

Setting Up the Tent

A large blanket stretched over the dining chairs may be the simplest of tents, but up your game and wow your kids by going all out. Cardboard shipping tubes are easy to come by and come in many lengths. Five long tubes can be the structure for a large A-frame tent. Drape it with blankets or an inexpensive tarp from the home center. Or use a single tube as a center pole for a teepee effect. These are simple to construct and store well for later use. Of course, if space permits, you can use your regular camping tent, but some wont stay up if they don't have tent pegs driven into the ground, and you might not want to do that.

Camp Rules

When you’re camping inside, it’s important to differentiate between camp life and the regular life at home. Create rules such as "no lights after sundown" exactly as in camping outside. Do all your night activities in the dim light of a candle - kept outside the tent – or with the help of a flashlight. Restricting movement out of the designated area of the house also enhances the camp feel.

Furnishing the Tent

Since the tent is set up at home, you can make the interiors as comfortable as you want. Build the bed in layers with quilts, comforters or blankets. Add pillows, cushions and stuffed toys. Decorate the tent to give it a festive look. Add some fairy lights for night-time ambiance.

The Campfire

What camp is complete without a campfire? Don't build a fire in the middle of your room, but you can position the tent with a view of the fireplace to enjoy the warmth of real fire. Or, make a fake fire with painted brown paper logs (or excess shipping tubes) and yellow-orange-red tissue paper bunches. An electric light inside the paper fire creates a great effect.

Camp Food

When it comes to food, we need all the usual camp staples in our indoor camp too. This includes marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate for s’mores. You can melt them over tea lights, but have plenty of tissue papers handy to clean up the mess. Doing this activity over a rubber mat can save your carpets and reduce fire risk too.

Trail mix, popcorn and a variety of fruit should serve as snacks, but have some fun eating cup noodles and baked beans straight from the can or preparing sandwiches together. Hotdogs and burgers, made beforehand and kept in the refrigerator, can be quickly warmed in the fireplace by a resourceful parent too.

Camp Games and Activities

Telling ghost stories and making shadow figures have no equal. It’s the ideal time to share your own camping experiences with your children. Play word games and taking turns spinning stories. They make the camp memorable. Have a few paper crafts and board games, and plenty of painting materials and play dough to fill in the gaps.

You can plan an outdoor exploratory activity in the neighborhood as part of your camp. Collect smooth stones, pine cones or different types of leaves, and use them to make collages or other crafts on coming back to the camp.

Fun and Togetherness

The whole idea of pitching a camp at home is to get together as a family and have fun. Be there and enjoy!