Change your dramatic play center into a Campsite! It is a fun theme to develop any time during the school year. Insects, night sky/stars, plants and forest animals are other themes you can easily integrate with camping.
The photo above of our campsite is from the END of our four week theme. To keep students interested, I add something new to the campsite each week. It does not look like this when when start, I promise.
The first week we spent three days creating props, adding basic camping props I bought, putting up the text with the kids and making our mural. The second week I added bird watching props and hiking props (maps, bugs spray, sunscreen, plastic bugs, bug catchers, and binoculars). During the third week, I added the fishing props (pond, boat, fishing pole, worms, and fish). During the fourth week, I added flashlights and lanterns.
My students make as many things as possible in the dramatic play center. This is great for two reasons. The first is that they are the ones creating, developing fine motor skills and writing! And let me tell you a little secret: if students are in charge of the center, they will be more invested in their play and they will take better care of the props. The second reason is that I don’t have to go to the store and spend a ton of money on props! Adding murals to the wall or decorations really make the theme come to life. It is also great because the parents see it and know what we are learning about when they walk in the room.
I believe crafts are different than open ended art. We do a mixture of crafts and open ended art in my classroom. During small group, students had the choice of making a skunk or a raccoon. The next day for small group students had the choice of making an owl or a bird. It took two small groups to make these amazing forest creatures.
Once the campsite was open, students LOVED having picnics. Setting up the picnic blanket and dishes was a great way for my little learners to develop one-to-one correspondence. Each picnic goer gets one plate, one cup and one set of silverware. The picnic blanket is from the Dollar Tree. I cut it in half because it was so big.
You can’t go camping without a fire. Students could “build” their fire, roast marshmallows and tell stories by the fire. We made the rocks by balling up black paper and putting tape around it. The logs and sticks were from the woods.
When you think of a campfire, you think of smores! I laminated brown paper and cut it into squares for the graham crackers. The marshmallows and chocolate was made from Model Magic. I found a real graham cracker box and marshmallow bag to add environmental print.
One of my students wanted to make hot dogs using tissue paper! I have some of my students for two years and they get used to creating props. They help me think of ways to make various props we need. I just love when they take charge, tell me what they need and create the props.
Time to go fishing! The box is the boat, and I made a pond out of blue paper. I laminated it and taped it to the floor. The poles are wood rods from the craft store. I glued plastic string and a magnet to it. The plastic string doesn’t tangle as easily as normal string.
You can embed so many learning opportunities into fishing. Students can count the fish, measure how big they are and sort them by color or size. One little learner also made a rule that if a fish was smaller than two squares you had to throw it back!
Don’t feed the bears! I add signs anywhere I can. My pre-k friends write the words on the signs. We made the cave by covering a table with black paper. Students explored the cave, pretended there was a bear living in it and had picnics in the cave.
How cute are these two! Just imagine their conversation about the birds. Students build tons of themed vocabulary during pretend play when they have conversations with their peers.
Small clipboards are a staple in my all my centers. They are drawing and writing about the animals they see in the forest.
Look at this team work! Students took turns putting pretend bug spray on each other. Don’t worry; the bottle is empty.
Save time and grab my Camping Dramatic Play set from my store. It has tons of printables, patterns, directions, even more classroom photographs, tips and ticks, prop lists, a parent letter and more.
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