“Can we go somewhere?”
The stay-home routine was wearing thin for my daughters. So for their spring break, we decided to break up that routine — by going camping in a comfy, warm setting: our house.
We pitched the tent on a Friday afternoon in the playroom, leaving the rain cover in its bag for the first time in our decades of Northwest camping. Siena, 11, and Clara, 9, got busy hauling dozens of stuffed animals and blankets into the tent. Our dog’s bed went inside, too, to her delight.
While they were feathering that nest, the grown-ups grilled hot dogs to kick off a spring-break week like no other, complete with a hike near our house one day. Back at home afterward, two tired kids sacked out in their sleeping bags. The tent gave us some badly needed magic: The girls and dog slept inside it all week with no fighting (!!) and plenty of happy whispering.
Here are three ways you can plan your own home camp-out or camp-in, with expert tips from the Washington State Parks Foundation, several Girl Scouts and a Boy Scout.
Keep it simple
If you’ve never done this, here’s the easiest approach:
- Pitch a tent or build a pillow fort inside.
- Make your “campfire.” Fashion it from felt, fabric, tissue paper or holiday lights, or crumple the newspaper and paint it red — after reading it, of course. If you’re not crafty, stream a virtual campfire.
- Stream the parks foundation’s Great Washington Camp-In (waparks.org/greatwacamp-in), an evening of online ranger talks, stories, singalongs, poetry and campfire recipes. Or sing your own silly songs, accompanied by whatever musical instrument is handy.
- Grill hot dogs, and make s’mores in the microwave.
- Tell Alexa to play nature sounds while you grab flashlights and try your hand at making shadow puppets.
- Bring a lantern for bedtime reading, storytelling or card-playing.
Hey scout, you’re out (side)
Set up the tent in your backyard, then follow these next-level tips:
- Go for a hike, even an urban one, to wear your kids out for a good night’s sleep. Try a nature scavenger hunt along the way. Find a free, downloadable one that you can print and color at st.news/hunt.
- If you have a fire pit, roast little smokies (tiny hot dogs) and marshmallows.
- Warm up with s’mores cocoa. Find chef Kathy Casey’s recipe at waparks.org/smores-cocoa.
- Try a favorite camping breakfast on the grill, like pancakes and bacon.
- When it’s all over, teach your kids how to roll up sleeping bags and clean up their campsite.
Martha Stewart in a tent
Don’t do what I did one year. Don’t make homemade marshmallows and graham crackers for the s’mores (unless you’re a true Martha wannabe, then you can find the marshmallow recipe at theochocolate.com/blog/homemade-marshmallows). They were good, but it was a bit much. You can still plan a full weekend of homespun fun without an irrational amount of fussing:
- When you hike, find walking sticks. Decorate them by stringing beads on cording, then wrapping it around the top of each stick.
- Go geocaching, or make your own geocache and find a home for it. Thousands of geocaches are hidden around the Seattle area. Learn more about this outdoor adventure at geocaching.com.
- Collect some rocks, paint them, and leave them in little nooks and crannies in your neighborhood for others to find.
- Tie dye T-shirts, socks, bandannas or what-have-you.
- Make paracord survival bracelets, a fixture at our Scouts’ camp-outs. Find a lesson at rei.com/blog/camp/diy-paracord-survival-bracelet (supplies are available at many other online retailers, too).
- Get the grill going and cook dinner in a foil packet, or sizzle up some fajitas.
- Wake up with s’mores pancakes.