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.Fun with kids: Pitch a tent, toast s'mores, and tell fun camp stories with your kids on your indoor camping adventure.

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)
  • Marshmallows
  • Toasting sticks (skewers, chopsticks, forks)
  • Graham crackers
  • Chocolate
  • Plates
  • Wet wipes or a washcloth

Preparation Time
15 minutes

Activity Time
All evening long. You could even sleep overnight in the tent

Location
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.

draping sheet over chairs

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.

placing chairs

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.

kids in tent

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!

resting on pillows in tent

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.

ingredients for smores

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.

tealight candle

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.

marshmallows in a dish

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!

kids toasting marshmallows over candles

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.

smore on a plate

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.

Dig in!

boy eating smore

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.

mom and kids in tent

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.

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About the Author, Holly Chessman

Holly (@HollyChessman) is the co-founder of bozmyn, the secure, private, family-friendly social sharing site that lets you share what you want with who you want – and only who you want. Other posts by »




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  • Andy Fein

    Great article, Holly! But where are the mosquitoes, sudden thunderstorms, and ticks? Don’t you also need a dog that’s rolled in something stinky to complete the scene?

  • Nelson Rodriguez

    Holly: I love the idea of collective storytelling – where each individual has the opportunity to participate.. contribute. In that way the source is the crowd and the crowd is the source. Wishing you continued success… excellent start.

  • Holly Chessman

    Glad you liked the article Andy. LOL – I am a mosquito magnet! I’m always happier if I can avoid them.

  • Holly Chessman

    Thanks Nelson! I really like anything that gets the imagination juices flowing. It’s always cool to see how the story flows, as it often goes in directions I didn’t anticipate.

  • http://kommein.com Deb Ng

    It’s not truly a camping trip until you step out of your tent into a puddle of mud. Still, I can see where this is an attractive alternative!

  • Holly Chessman

    I like outdoor camping too – but indoor camping is a lot more comfy! You could also compromise and sleep on a deck. You’d get the fresh air and stars but you could still take the beanbag chair with you!

  • Angelique

    What fun! It’s a great sleepover idea, too. Tea-lights are really powerful enough to melt marshmallows?

  • Holly Chessman

    Yes! You have to keep the marshmallows fairly close to the candles (hence the reason they sometimes light on fire!) but it does work. Don’t tell anyone, but sometimes we just roast marshmallows and skip the camping part. :)
    You can also use a bigger candle of course. I stick to the smaller ones, though, because most of my kids are still very young and not always so good with the whole not playing with the candle thing.

  • http://www.mykidsadventures.com/ Jennifer Ballard

    Great article, Holly! Thanks for being part of My Kids’ Adventures from the start. We’ve done the crowdsource stories before and they can go in some crazy, unexpected directions! It’s great to see the kids’ imaginations at work.

  • Holly Chessman

    Thanks! I’m so excited to be a part of this wonderful publication! As a busy mother of four who works full-time, I like having an arsenal of ideas for easy ways to entertain my kids. Storytelling is a great way to do that! No props needed (though sometimes we use them) and everyone can get involved.

  • Carlisa

    This is really good. I need to go buy some chairs (we have limited furniture) so I can make this work!

  • Laura Singer

    That’s such a great idea! We’re going to try it. Especially in this heat wave! Thanks for sharing it.

  • Holly Chessman

    You can also try draping a sheet over the dining room table – that makes a good hideaway! Or just do the storytelling part. You don’t need any furniture for that, just the rooms of your imagination. :)

  • Holly Chessman

    You’re very welcome! It’s also great for rainy day fun or during the long, chilly New England winter we experience most years.

  • Jes Heit

    Awesome idea

  • Holly Chessman

    Thank you so much!

  • http://rebeccaslosberg.com/ Rebecca Slosberg

    Great ideas! We were planning an indoor camp out saturday night and i didnt even think to use tea lights for s’mores!! Thanks Holyl!

  • Brandon Schaefer

    Lovely idea, great to see your article.

  • faigie

    We actually do something like this in our summer art camp. We make it into a pajama party where the kids bring their pajamas and a pillow and we actually roast the marshmallows over our fire in our fireplace…yes! in the Summer. The kids are thrilled with it and with the AC you dont even feel the heat that much

  • Caroline H

    Can’t wait to try this at home!

  • Holly Chessman

    You’re very welcome! Let me know how your adventure goes!

  • Holly Chessman

    Thank you so much – I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  • Holly Chessman

    That’s a great idea. What fun! Bet you don’t use chopsticks for roasting the marshmallows, though – that might not work so well. :) With a fireplace it’s time to pull out the real skewers or longer sticks.

  • Holly Chessman

    Great – hope you have a blast! Let me know how it turns out.

  • pleasuremechanics

    Sweet idea, but most tea lights are made of paraffin, a sludge waste product from the petroleum industry. They are highly toxic to breath, let alone cook your food over. If you have a gas oven that is a cleaner flame option for indoor roasting. Sorry to be a downer, but thought many parents would want to know to avoid toxic tea lights!

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks for this. I know many are used for warming trays and they actually get their name from warming pots of tea, so they couldn’t be that bad. I imagine you could find plenty made of wax, no?

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Here is a good source for non-paraffin tea lights: http://www.naturalcandles.com/Tea-Light-Candles-s/23.htm

  • pleasuremechanics

    Here is one article on it: http://www.keeperofthehome.org/2012/04/toxins-in-candles-sad-but-true.html
    Many people in the “green” world don’t even burn them, and my concern would be cooking over them would allow the chemicals in the soot and fume to absorb right into the marshmallow and be consumed.
    Every parent has to make their own call about what risks to take, just thought folks would want to be aware of the information.
    Thanks for this site, it is already fabulous and you are just getting started!

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Got my editorial team adding a note to the article about non-paraffin tea lights, thanks again for bringing this to my attention.

  • CJAllDressedUp

    LOVE this Holly! I will have to try it out with my toddler who is a little too young for the great outdoors. Thanks for sharing!

  • Holly Chessman

    Glad you like it! Be on the lookout for more great ideas on this site as time goes on. There’re a whole lot of very creative people writing some fantastic posts filled with ideas that are perfect for busy parents like us!

  • http://www.mykidsadventures.com/ Jennifer Ballard

    Thanks for pointing this out. Parents will want to know! We’ve updated the article with a note about non-paraffin tea lights.

  • Hermansyah

    ‘Menarik’, informasinya … ‘Terimakasih’.

  • BenitaWizehouse

    Holly, love this post!! My girls are avid ‘living-room tent architects/ builders’! I’ve learned additional nuggets, from your post, to make the whole experience full-filling..thanks!

  • Holly Chessman

    You’re welcome Benita! I hope you have many more fantastic indoor camping experiences!

  • EmilyQuestions

    And what better way to create longer-lasting fun than recording the crowd-sourced story. Thenyou have a lasting memory of your indoor campout and can add to it on future outings! My iPhone has a record feature – and I would imagine most phones and or tablets do as well. If you don’t have that level of tech, a simple cassette recorder will do!

  • tburgess57

    This looks like a lot of fun. Oh to be young again

  • Al Hopper

    Holly, thank you for sharing this post! It brought back fond memories of my brothers and I as kids making blanket-forts. My girls have started doing that as well. We use broom handle or upright vacuums to solve to problem of saggy blanket roofs.

    I told my wife about using tea candles to make s’mores. I guess we are going shopping this weekend to get some! Thanks again!

  • Holly Chessman

    No reason even adults can’t at least make s’mores and tell stories! We’re all young at heart. :)

  • Holly Chessman

    You’re welcome Al! I’m glad to hear you are excited about the idea. My kids really love playing in the tent – it turns a “regular” room into a whole new place of adventure.

  • Georgia Cross

    What a great idea! This would be perfect for a cold or rainy day! Obviously, you are a pro at wrangeling the kiddos :)

  • Holly Chessman

    Thanks Georgia!

  • Alyssa Karant

    Love your article! I like how detailed you are, and the pictures are great! We used to make tents as kids, 4 of us also. Now it’s just my son and I, he’s 15 months. I think he would really love making a tent, he already moves the dining room chairs around! He already likes smores too! Of course I’ll have to make them. It’s supposed to rain all day, we might just “camp out” in the living room!

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    I found that bar stools work wonders and I used phone books to anchor down the sheets. Here you see the kiddies about to roll out sleeping bags

  • Holly Chessman

    Thanks for the update!

  • Holly Chessman

    Sounds great! I also have many memories of making tents out of various items as a kid. I am the middle of 5 kids so we always had plenty of playmates!

  • Holly Chessman

    That is very cool – I like how you’ve got the multiple layers going on too. Did they sleep in the tent?

  • Holly Chessman

    That’s a great idea! I’ve never tried that before. I’m sure the kids will love hearing their stories played back and I will love having a lasting memory.

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Not yet, but they want to tonight :)

  • KirstenNelson

    We are going to have to try this one! And everything won’t smell like campfire smoke when we’re done! Hooray! Thanks, Holly. :)

  • Holly Chessman

    Awesome! We made one across my girls’ beds last night (they share a room with beds fairly close together). Now I have discovered the secret to getting them to stay in their bedrooms for a longer period of time in the mornings. :)

  • Holly Chessman

    You’re very welcome! Hope you all have a blast – let me know how it goes!

  • Matt Sailor

    Great advice on putting together the tent. If you had enough room what do you think about putting up a regular tent without the stakes?
    I am not sure how it matches up safety-wise, but when I was a kid we used to sometimes roast marshmallows on the stove – and it was an electric stove, mom just put it on high and it got them nicely golden brown.

  • Holly Chessman

    Great suggestions! We’ve used a small pop-up tent that was meant to be used as a beach shelter and I’m sure you could use a small regular tent if you had the space. But I think my kids have more fun when they make their own. The process of creating it becomes part of the adventure!
    Good idea on using the stove. The safety issue is the biggest factor for me in that scenario. I don’t like having the kids all crowd around the stove because there isn’t enough room for them all to fit and I wouldn’t want them bumping into one another as they vie for a good position (it’s a problem when you’ve got four kids in action!). If you try that option, it might be easier if you only have one person toasting marshmallows at a time. Also, make sure you are confident your kids really understand how hot a stovetop can get.
    One other thing – if you use a stove top, you’d want to use longer skewers than the ones I suggested (probably real ones with heat-resistant handles).

  • drh

    I love your ideas. We’re actually going to be taking our grandkids to the mountains this summer, but because of wildfire fears there’s no campfires allowed. Your tea candles idea will save the day–we can make our s’mores in our dining room without fear of burning down any forests. Thanks!

  • Holly Chessman

    Great! That’s thinking out of the box (or out of the house, as the case may be)! Hope you have a wonderful time.

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  • Lise

    Now to borrow some kids so that I can do this myself!

  • Holly Chessman

    No reason you can’t crowdsource a story or eat s’mores with or without kids! :)

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Ok, kids have gone nuts and created their own little rooms. Notice they used chip bag clamps to hold everything in place.

    I came home from work and they did this all on their own!

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  • Holly Chessman

    This is SO AWESOME!!!!!

  • Ness

    This is a great idea for me as I have a two year old and my partner works nights so outdoor camping would not be a safe option. I am so glad I found this page :) Thank you for all the effort you have gone too to give other people ideas on fun and cheap ways we can bond with our little ones. It’s truly special.

  • E.G.A.F

    i have done the food part and it is really fun.

  • RK in Denver

    One neat trick is to tie or rubber-band yardsticks across the top of the chair backs to support the tent ‘roof’. Takes just a few seconds to do it.

  • sky123

    I liked it to

  • http://starlajimenez.blogspot.com Starla Jimenez

    Great, fun ideas!

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  • Ariella morin

    I’m 9 years old and I would love to go camping outside but my mom and dad wouldn’t let me so I put up a tent in the living Room and camped out with my sisters this article really helped thanks holly



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