A long standing tradition in the 4th grade at my school is a 3-day, 2-night science field trip to learn about the ecosystems of barrier islands in South Carolina. For many students, it is their first time away from home without their parents.
We stay in cabins and eat in a dining hall, so we don’t expect the students to pitch a tent or cook meals over an open fire. However, the children do need to be able to eat family style at a table of 12, and they have to make their own bed. Whether a child is attending a sleepaway camp or just a sleepover at a friend’s house, there are a few handy life skills that are good to know by about age 10.
Children should be able to roll a sleeping bag and get it back into a stuff sack or tied into the roll. Even if kids don’t ever attend a campout, they might need to use a sleeping bag on a sleepover at a friend’s house and will need to be able to put the sleeping bag away.
Kids need to know how to make a bed. I think hospital corners would be aiming a little high, but it is helpful to know how to get a fitted sheet around the edges of a mattress and pull blankets up straight.
Have the ability to fold clothing and pack a bag in a semi-organized fashion. Folding clothing does not have to be the perfect fold in thirds around a shirt board, but kids should be able to get a shirt or pants folded in half, socks together, and have an idea about layering items in their bag.
Many families have activities after school that run through dinner time, and it can be difficult to sit together at the dinner table. When you do have family meals, remind kids that they should pass food to everyone at the table. Don’t serve yourself and then set the dish right in front of you forgetting to offer food to other people.
Leave enough food in the dish, so everyone gets a first helping.
Practice asking to have salt and pepper, ketchup, or seconds on an item passed rather than standing up and reaching across others at the table.
Show kids how to wipe a counter or table. Push the sponge (or cloth) in one direction, so all the food crumbs stay in front of the sponge rather than wiping in a rapid circular motion. The circular motion smears dropped food all over the eating space grossing out the potentially OCD adult sitting nearby.
My son, Mr. Star Wars, still needs occasional help washing his hair to get it clean and rinsed well. Most days, he can wash it by himself, but I do a deep clean every few weeks. Help your child practice washing hair on his own and understand all the pieces and parts that are supposed to be washed in the shower. Part of our 4th grade trip is a visit to the pluff mud pit. Several students needed a second turn in the shower after this particular activity.
Learn how to get and use Kleenex when needed.
Let kids apply their own sunblock every once in awhile. The sunblock sticks work well on faces for inexperienced sunblock appliers. Using a mirror while applying sunblock helps too.
What are other good skills kids need to have when they are away from home? One skill I learned at camp is how useful a poncho can be for many things besides rainy weather– like bug protection, sun protection, mud protection…
Well, you had to know this day was coming. Miss Priss asked for an American Girl birthday party, and TheRoomMom complied. We have attended a few AG birthday parties recently, and we needed a new spin to the theme. I was already working on the American Girl camping supplies, so we opted for a backyard American Girl campout birthday (sleepover NOT included– I did recognize my limits on this one).
I know it is popular to use Paperless Post or Evites right now, but I really like paper party invitations delivered via snail mail. There were several fun camping party choices on Etsy. I ordered through a store called Memories Too. The store owner e-mailed a JPG file to me after about 4 business days. I had one edit, which she turned around in a few hours. I uploaded the image to FedEx Office and had the invitation printed in color on white cardstock. I found plain pink envelopes at a local paper store.
The invitation asked guests to bring a doll or stuffed friend with them to the party, so they would have a camping buddy.
When guests arrived, they received a doll sleeping bag that had a name tag with a number. We grouped the guests based on the tag numbers on the sleeping bags and rotated the party guests through three stations. That kept all of the guests spread out for most of the party and gave everyone something to do until it was time for cake.
Station 1— We set up 3 camping tents in the backyard. This group played in the tents with the dolls and the sleeping bags. TheRoomDad monitored this area and provided some monster invasions from time to time.
Station 2— This group searched for small twigs in the yard then used the twigs to make small bug jars and marshmallows on a stick. I had a table with the supplies as well as my regular babysitter to run this station. My sitter showed everyone how to set up the bug jars, make the fake marshmallows, and she monitored supplies. For full bug jar and marshmallow instructions, visit the American Girl Camping Post.
Station 3— This group made a doll sized campfire. I ran this station, and it was set up in a similar way to the bug jar area. For full campfire instructions, visit the American Girl Camping Post.
Each guest had a paper plate with her name on it. When the child finished a craft, she put her item on the paper plate. We set the plates to the side, so parents could easily carry the crafts to the trash can at their home home at the end of the party.
Miss Priss wanted chocolate! We ordered a mini chocolate fudge cake from the grocery store. I call these “smash cakes” and see this mini size at first birthday parties a lot. We put candles on the cake and sang, but we did not cut the smash cake. Instead, guests ate mini brownie bites that had been decorated with pink and white flowers.
Keeping with the doll theme, I tried to do all mini or bite sized food. After we sang, the kids went through a buffet line and picked up the little snacks and brownie bites. It was all finger food, so it eliminated a need for any forks or spoons.
Pigs-in-a-blanket— Basically, a mini hot dog. I used 3 rolls of Pillsbury Crescent Rolls and 2 packages of Lit’l Smokies, which yields about 60 pigs. I cut each crescent roll into 3 triangles and then wrap a triangle around a Lit’l Smokie. I follow the baking instructions on the Pillsbury Crescent Roll package.
Dill Dip— This is Miss Priss’ favorite snack, and one of my signature recipes. I purchased 1-oz plastic shot glasses at the party store and put a dollop of dill dip at the bottom of the cup. We stacked mini carrot sticks, mini celery sticks, and mini red pepper slices in the cups, so they were ready to serve. Click here for the Dill Dip and Chex Mix Recipes.
Chex Mix— We saw mini pink popcorn boxes at our independent party store, but I also considered using Wilton mini cake boxes from Michael’s Crafts to hold the snack mix. I did a variation of one of my Chex Mix recipes. This version has popcorn. Click here for the Dill Dip and Chex Mix Recipes.
S’More on a Stick— We used brightly colored cocktail sticks and stabbed marshmallows. I melted semi-sweet chocolate chips and plain Hershey milk chocolate bars in a double boiler. I crushed graham crackers and placed the crumbs in a flat bowl. I dipped the marshmallow in the melted chocolate, and Miss Priss rolled the chocolate end of the marshmallow in the graham cracker. I must say, these were delicious and much safer than having 17 six and seven year olds standing around a fire pit.
The Party Favors
Guests took home the bug jar and campfire crafts. They also took home the doll sleeping bag. If you have a sewing machine, the sleeping bags are easy to make. However, had I known I would need 17 doll sleeping bags, I might have rethought my decision to have these as party favors. For full doll sleeping bag instructions, visit the American Girl Camping Post.
I am exhausted and am considering canceling Halloween. Anyone with me?
Miss Priss ran out of sleeping space for her American Girls, so I offered to make some sleeping bags. Well, if you make an American Girl a sleeping bag, she will need a campfire to go with it. If you have a campfire, you will want to toast marshmallows. If you toast marshmallows, bugs might show up for a snack. If bugs show up, you will need a bug jar…
Cut one piece of 30″ x 21″ cotton and one piece of 30″ x 21″ fleece.
Pin the two pieces of fabric together. The cotton should have the wrong side facing out.
Sew the two pieces of fabric together about 3/8″ from the edge. Leave an opening along one long side.
Turn the fabric right side out through the opening. Push the corners out with a finger, so they are square. Fold the fabric in half.
Cut a piece of ribbon about 30″ and fold the ribbon in half. Insert the folded end of the ribbon into the fabric opening and secure the ribbon with a pin.
Pin the fabric along the edge that has the ribbon and halfway up the open side.
Sew the edge with the ribbon and the partial side together.
Campfire and Toasting Marshmallows
tissue paper in fire colors cut into small squares (2″ x 2″?)