Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Campfire Stories

What's better than camping as a kid? The smell of the fire, eating totally different food, s'mores, sleeping bags, and walking a quarter of a mile to use the bathroom--it's the BEST! (Please note: As an adult, I hate camping and always will).

Last week, I channeled everything I loved about camping as a child and did a program called Campfire Stories! 

I had the lights out as the kids came in the room, and I told them all to sit around the fire with me. They were totally intrigued by this! Why was this thing there? What was it made out of? What is hot? Once they were totally sure it wasn't real fire, they couldn't stop touching it--just because they could!

While seated nicely around the fire, I conducted a camping-themed storytime. First I read Curious George Goes Camping by Margret and H.A. Rey, which may have been a little too long. For this very reason, it was my first time doing a Curious George book in storytime, but I think it at least partially worked. Also, who even cared what I was reading with that AWESOME FIRE in the middle of the circle?

After Curious George, I introduced my childhood favorite camp song: Down By the Bay. I just loved this one in pre-school. I made a simple Down By the Bay felt board (using photo copies from this Raffi book) many years ago and I used the pieces from it as we sang. Have you ever seen a whale with a polka dot tale?

Last, I read Scare a Bear by Kathy-jo Wargin, which again, I think just couldn't compete with the fire! What can ya do?

Then it was (finally) s'mores time:

I used marshmallow fluff instead of marshmallows so the s'more would stay together without having to deal with any kind of cooking. It worked well and the kids were definitely not shy about taking seconds and thirds. And there were a lot of marshmallow fluffy faces by the end of the program.

Last, we did our craft. I'm always very self-conscious when I do just an Oriental Trading craft. I'm afraid it makes me look lazy but this one was really cute and actually fun to do:

It can be found here, from Oriental Trading. It's actually a little complicated! First you have to spread a glue/water mixture (not included) over the clear, fire-shaped "belly" of the thing. Then you place squares of tissue paper wherever you want over the mixture. If the squares come up the edges, you have to cut them neatly(ish) once they're kind of dry enough. Then you glue on the ribbon for hanging and the included foam outline. And last, you add the other foam pieces, the logs and rocks, on top. It's an effort! Here are a couple of samples:

What worked least: I searched really hard for good, camping-themed books and even still, I wasn't wild about my selection. And it seems the kids weren't either. The books were ok, but I could see that as I read, all the kids wanted to do was play with the fire. And some did. 

What worked best: The fire! Hands down! Apparently, the secret to a successful program is a fake fire.


  1. Hey Laura, I did outdoor campfire storytime last Wednesday! https://www.facebook.com/SayvilleLibrary/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1194511480570273

    Here are some suggestions for easy camping books that worked really well with my group. Maisy Goes Camping by Lucy Cousins, Duck Tents by Lynne Berry, Pirates Aren't Afraid of the Dark by Maudie Powell-Tuck, Camping in Green by Christianne C. Jones, and In the Woods by Elizabeth Spurr, which was a really simple board book that I used first to get everyone settled down. I had When Daddy Took Us Camping by Julie Brillhart put aside as well, but the kids started to get antsy, so I skipped it.

    Hope this helps! Looks like an awesome program! I may borrow some of your ideas if I do this again!

    1. Wow, you did a ton!! I looked at Duck Tents but wasn't a huge fan, but I'll check the others out if I ever need camping books again (maybe next summer?). Thank you so much for sharing.

    2. Also I'm so jealous of your outdoor space.

    3. Well I didn't have a cool s'mores bar set up for them, so besides my fake campfire and marshmallows, I had to do something! Books was pretty much my only option (I was too dumb to think of doing songs sung at camp like you did!) We usually show a book-based movie after storytime. (Weston Woods, Live Oak Media, etc.) I didn't have an outdoor movie screen, so after the stories, I brought them back into our program room which had already been dimmed, and showed them "Stars, Stars, Stars" which is slightly over their heads, but the way it's filmed and narrated makes it feel like a visit to the planetarium. I loved that part. Then I sent them off with star stickers affixed to their PJs.

    4. I've never heard of "Stars, Stars, Stars," but I have to say, as a kid, I was OBSESSED with the planetarium, so I'm sure it was awesome.

  2. We do something similar at our library called Spooky Stories Round the Campfire, where we tell not-too-spooky stories around our fake campfire. It's a fun program for October, when it's too yucky to be outside and you long for those warm summer nights! :)

  3. Oh, and I just realized you have my blog on your sidebar under colleagues, thanks so much, that's awesome! Would you mind updating it to my new blog address? http://raincitylibrarian.wordpress.com

    Thanks so much!! :)

    1. Oh! Of courseeee. Halloween time is a great time to re-use the fire. And I updated your link :)