A Campsite for City Kids

  • Learning
Alexandra Gerba, Pre-kindergarten Teacher

We city dwellers are always on the go. Even little Manhattanites have busy schedules packed with sports, activities, play dates and errands.

So, over in the purple room, we decided we needed an escape from the hustle and bustle of NYC. And what better way to relax than to connect with nature? (Or play that feels like nature, at least).

Enjoying the indoor campsite

In the Purple room, the pre-K Penguins and Seals decided to turn our uninspiring dramatic play corner into a full working campsite – a close getaway that would feel quiet and cozy. To prepare, we had many conversations about what a campsite would need, and what people do when camping. The children were not short on ideas. They immediately generated a list of things we would need:

* there should be owls

* and bears!

* we need sticks to roast marshmallows

* and sausages!

* and s'mores!

* we need a campfire

* and a tent

* there should be logs to sit on around the campfire

* it needs to be nighttime

* we will need sleeping bags

* and there should be stars and a moon

* camps have animals and dirt

* and a lake with fish

* we need popcorn!

So over the next two weeks, with countless trips to the Possibilities Place and material donations from Penguin and Seals families, a tiny nook in our classroom took on a new life. We crafted a fire pit from paper towel rolls and tissue paper, a tent from an old piece of fabric and a spare zipper, and an oak tree from brown craft paper. There was lots of work to be done, but finally, our campsite was complete. On the day the camp opened, the excitement was electric. Donning authentic flannel shirts, carrying winter pillowcases for sleeping bags, and armed with a s'mores kit created from cardboard rectangles (graham crackers), white pompoms (marshmallows) and small brown carpet swatches (chocolate), the adventures began. Phrases such as, “Hot cocoa anyone?” “Get the lantern – it’s dark!” and, “I think I hear a bear!” were heard throughout play centers.

Sleepover at the campsite!
Roasting marshmallows over the camp fire
Enjoying the campsite

When asked to reflect upon their first experience playing in the camp, the Penguins and Seals were thoughtful. “It really makes me feel good. I like the stars and the clothes,” shared one child. “‘I like it because it looks like night, but we still need a few more things – more nature,” shared another. “It reminds me of Oregon because it’s so quiet,” shared a third.

Campsite sleepover
Getting warm by the "fire"
Getting cozy while camping

And so with that, our classroom grew a tiny new oasis – a space to get away, look up at the black night sky, and pretend the only thing to hear are crickets chirping and the faint howl of a wolf. It may not be real life nature, but with a little imagination, and the right lighting, it feels pretty darn close.

Roasting marshmallows over the camp fire
Camping supplies
Camping supplies
Camping supplies
The campsite!


  • Early Learning Center
  • Pre-K
  • Pre-Kindergarten