Camping Dramatic Play Center Ideas To Help You Branch Out

My family camps at Lake McConaughy every year since the 80s. It’s tradition for us even though it’s not what most people think of when they hear the word camping. Big Mac is beach camping with swimming and sandcastles rather than hiking and forests. So when I set this camping dramatic play center up for my little ones, it was definitely different than what we’re used to. But whether you’re used to beach camping, forest camping, or no camping at all, it’s still such a fun dramatic play center for summer. Here are some engaging camping dramatic play center ideas that will help you branch out – without ever leaving the comfort of your classroom!

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Summer Lesson Plans

Summer Weekly Lesson Plans for Preschool

Camping dramatic play

Ideas for Setting Up

The excitement of a new adventure makes setting up camp easy. The chairs slowly unfold, and the buckets come out. As the sun fades, firewood is gathered to build a campfire that will ignite the night with memorable conversations.


Hopefully your camping dramatic play center will unfold just as easily. 


Set the ambiance with a camping backdrop (my new fave for dramatic play) and a grass rug. Then, add in chairs and a tent. You can use a small camping tent or a canvas one like me. 


Let me just stop to tell you about my dreams for this tent. I can see it transforming into a house, a castle, a barn, an animal shelter, a voting booth, and more. Its versatility and fantastic price are a win for me.

Then, add in the wooden campground banner and signs. The one on the cardboard tube post makes me giddy; plus, it points to the four main areas of the campground (campsites, fishing pond, hiking, and picnic area), which you can read more about below.


Making S'mores

Camping Dramatic Play Center Ideas

We all know it isn’t camping without a campfire. What are you going to do when it gets dark? Just stare into the darkness?!? The fire lures out those silly moments, vulnerable conversations, and perhaps some alien philosophy that plain darkness just can’t do.


So start with large river rocks, stack up some logs (or cardboard tubes), and add red, orange, and yellow tissue paper to get your pretend firepit going.


And what goes perfectly with a campfire? S’mores. 


So hang up the “How to Make S’mores” poster with simple, visual instructions and set out the graham crackers (cardboard squares), chocolate (stiff brown felt cut into squares), and marshmallows (stiff white felt). 


Tip: If you sew two pieces of wavy white circles together and leave a one-inch opening, your kiddos will be able to insert a mallow stick. Trust me, it’s worth the time it takes to add to the experience!


Fishing Pond

Pretend Campground

Next, we have our fishing pond, complete with a blue felt pond and more river rocks. Just tape four large pieces of blue stiff felt together, cut the edges to make it wavy, and you’re ready to throw a line in!

Add these printable fish (laminated for durability) with paper clips on their mouths for your little ones to fish out using magnetic poles. And yes, the fish are all different sizes, so your preschoolers can measure their catch of the day! Just have them hold it up to the printable chart to measure their length before tossing that fish back into the pond.


Camping Dramatic Play Center Ideas


Once your campsite is set up, that exploration itch gets going. And no, it’s not poison ivy (hopefully). 


That means it’s time for a hike. Use the hiking checklist to pack your backpack with water, a map, a flashlight, a compass, and a hat. And don’t forget the bug spray!


All of the items come with printable labels, making it easy for you to bring your camping dramatic play center to life!


The kids can hike around the classroom or even go on a Hiking Hunt with binoculars, which you can check out in our summer literacy centers!


Picnic area

Pretend Campground

Toddlers can be picky when it comes to food. I know. I wasn’t beanpole thin because I ate whatever my mom made. Nope.


And when I was four years old, my mom tried everything to make me a special sandwich. She tried smooth peanut butter, crunchy peanut butter, marshmallow fluff, and peanut butter and jelly, but nothing would do. I wanted my sandwich the special way Grandma had made it at the lake. 


In desperation, my mom asked how to make this “special sandwich.” Come to find out, it was special because she had dropped the bread in the sand at the lake and didn’t want to remake it – a literal sandwich. Oh, grandma.


And your toddlers can make their sandwiches just as special in the picnic area.

Start with the checkered placemats that already include printed plates, drinks, and silverware, making setup and cleanup easier than figuring out Grandma’s special ingredients. Then, add a picnic basket and a felt sandwich set, and you are donezo!



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Are you excited to set up your own campground with some of these camping dramatic play center ideas? It’s such a fun and easy way to get kids active and engaged in pretend play. With just a few simple supplies, you can create a fantastic space for kids to explore, imagine, and make memories. We can’t wait to hear about the adventures your little ones have at their very own campground!

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