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Campout Program Activities

Hi all!
My name is Nicole and I work as the Child and Family Programs Coordinator at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.

During summer, we offer 6 "Campout at the Zoo" dates where families join us for activities, s'mores, and tent camping at the zoo. Since we are at a zoo, most of our activities focus on the animals who live at the zoo. We'd love to incorporate more traditional "camping" activities.

Does anyone have suggestions or recommendations for camping 101 activities or organizations? We're thinking along the lines of night hikes/star gazing, storytelling & music, leave no trace, camping safety, etc.

Thanks in advance!

3 Replies

that sounds like so much fun!

I like the idea of a night hike at the zoo!  fantastic!

Would it be possible to show how to, or let kids make a campfire?

Do you have much of a night sky?  Not sure how that resonates with kids, maybe pointing out the big dipper/north star, if you have good sky vis.

Boiling water in a Styrofoam cup goes over well with kids.

cooking hot dogs on sticks is always fun. kids love cooking anything over a campfire.

for a night hike, you can teach about the need to wait about 20-30 min after the lights dim, to allow the eyes to adjust to night vision..and the importance of keeping the noise down so you can 'listen' to the sounds of the night...and at a zoo - wow!


REI Member Since 1979

@nhodur Thanks for reaching out Nicole!

We agree with @Philreedshikes that this sounds like so much fun! There are so many fun camping activities for families to choose from, here are a couple more ideas:

  • A 'Map and Compass' scavenger hunt. This is a great way to introduce the basics of map and compass use to people. Odds are you've already got a map of your Zoo to use!
  • Deluxe s'mores. Every tried a s'more with peanut butter? Or a peanut butter cup instead of just plain chocolate? You can get really creative and fun with this option!
  • Hammocks are always a big hit with kids. There are lots of fun options out there and if you don't have trees you can also use a hammock stand instead!

We hope you have an amazing time! We also recommend posting your event over on our Local Happenings board under Chicago. Thanks for all your work to help people get outside!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

I do a lot of multi-family (anywhere from 8 - 25 families) camp outs. Our kiddos love to tell stories by the fire. Their favorite way to do this is to have one person start a story and pass it off to the next person. It’s always fun to see where the story goes. Everyone that wants to, participates, parents, teens, and little kids. We also love singing around the campfire. It helps that we already have a cannon of music in common, but lots of folk songs are simple enough to teach in a few minutes.