A last minute work assignment or pouring rain dampening your upcoming family camping trip? Dangerously high temperatures keeping your kids inside — as though last winter’s Polar vortex has simply reincarnated into this summer’s steamy scorcher? These fun and exciting ideas for exciting living room and kids’ room tents or canopies using a lot more than standard blankets or sheets will make you forget about the great outdoors (at least temporarily). And who knows — you may just want to leave it all up for next winter!
First, who says indoor tents are limited by the number of blankets you can throw over a table? Creative camping is limited by your imagination — nothing else. Tents, teepees, tarpaulin towers, and canopies can be assembled in a reasonable amount of time and often without complicated methods, leaving more time for family fun.
For the Soucy family of Greensboro, North Carolina, with baby number three due in a few weeks, mom Kristie and dad Steve didn’t feel comfortable going camping this summer — far away from civilization as was the objective each year.
“We always go to the Smokies for a week in July,” Kristie says of the family’s favorite mountain range and vacation trip. In fact twins Brandon and Luke, who are turning 8, have always celebrated their birthday over charbroiled wieners and double s’mores.
Without a big yard in which to spread out (theirs is overtaken by a pool and deck for family barbecues), this year the Soucy’s decided not to deprive the twins of their vacation fun and in fact to recreate their camping adventure in their living room, with Steve and the boys in charge of building a tent — or two!
For Brandon and Luke, a teepee was in definite demand. Steve started out with PVC pipes obtained at the local home store and, given the dimensions of their living room, and the fact that the parents’ tent would be next to it, he decided about 6 inches would be a manageable width. Using a PVC pipe cutter, pipes were cut and assembled to reach 8 feet tall, joined with t-joints. Holes were drilled at the top and the pipes secured with twine. Kristie finished the teepee by cutting and gluing fabric panels (old sheets) onto the pipes, making a door with a flap, and the twins decorated by painting symbols of animals, the sun and moon, a river, trees, and the prairie.
For the parents’ tent, a simple clothesline was tied to opposite valances in the living room. Kristie stitched together two old tablecloths and slung them over the top, stretching out the bottom and securing with books so it wouldn’t close in on them. Easy and fast.
“There are dozens of tent tutorials online,” Kristie explains, adding she and Steve perused a number of them before making a decision and even simplifying what they found. “Many use a quilting or embroidery hoop at the top, or bamboo poles or other wooden stakes, but whatever you do, making it a family activity from the get-go is half the fun.”
For a campfire, the Soucy’s substituted their backyard grill and honored the twins’ birthday tradition of wieners and double s’mores. To make it a true vacation, the family enacted a no-TV/no technology rule for the week — same as they do in the mountains — choosing instead to participate in family games outside their living room tents and going fishing at the local lake.
“It was a stretch sometimes and took some discipline not to turn to the cell phone, or get on the computer, but the tents added to the authenticity and kept us in the spirit,” says Steve.
As for Kristie, living room camping felt enough like a vacation — especially when they turned out the lights and told ghost stories by flashlight, she recalls. “And it’s never too early to introduce our soon-to-be baby to the great outdoors — indoors!”