Campfire
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10 camp experiences to recreate at the cottage

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If you went to camp as a child (or even if you just watched Meatballs a lot), you know that a summer spent making lanyards in the company of a bunch of kids, supervised by only-slightly-older teenagers, is a classic childhood experience.

If you didn’t go to camp—or if you really miss those long summer days of swimming, hiking, and fraught social intrigue— we’ve got some ways to recreate the experience at the cottage.

The upside to reliving camp as an adult? This time you’ll actually know what’s in the “Chef’s Surprise” at dinner.

1. Diving contest

Find a safe spot (one that you know is deep enough), then go to town inventing crazy, wacky dives. Get bonus points on your triple-forward-half-pike bellyflop by screaming something profound as you hit the water (we’d suggest “I regret nothing”).

2. Campfire singalong

Break out that beater guitar and let the family join in with saucepan drums, your fourth-grader’s recorder, and the family ukulele for an old-fashioned campfire singalong (maybe warn your neighbours first). For a great (and extensive) selection of familiar songs old and new, check out Rise Up Singing and Rise Again—you won’t need any other music for your campfire.

3. Craft night

Recreate that leather bracelet you made when you were 12, make a beaded lanyard, or break out the white tees and do some good, old-fashioned tie-dye. For a more environmentally focused craft, put together a bird feeder or bat house, then paint it with funky designs in nontoxic paint.

4. Capture the flag

Gather your family and neighbours (the more, the merrier), pick teams (bonus points for wacky names and cheers), find a flag, and then strategize the heck out of guarding and capturing it. Spend as long as you can playing, then invite everyone over for a potluck barbecue and campfire. A perfect camp experience—minus the drafty cabins at the end of the day.

5. Cottage raids

It’s 2016, so the old-fashioned panty raid probably isn’t appropriate—but that doesn’t mean you can’t sneak into your neighbour’s house and steal his beloved “Life is better at the beach” t-shirt. (Do we need to specify that you should only do this with neighbours you know really well?) Run it up your flagpole or tie it to a stick and mount it on your raft, then demand a ransom to get it back. If your neighbours don’t have a sense of humour (or if they keep their cottage locked), raid your family’s clothes instead.

6. Outdoor movies

Outdoor movies are easier to set up than you think, especially if you have a big deck or a large lawn. You can go as low-key as hanging a sheet between two poles, or go a little fancier and build your own outdoor movie screen. You’ll need a projector that is rated at or above 2,000 lumens (meaning you won’t have to wait until full dark to start the movie) and some speakers—plus comfy chairs, sleeping bags and, oh yes, popcorn.

7. Swimming games

There’s nothing better than thrashing around in the water to tire everyone out—and who doesn’t love it when the kids go to bed early? If you can set up goals, consider playing water polo. Marco Polo is always a classic—and if you want things to get really ridiculous, slather Vaseline all over a watermelon, pitch it in the lake and award a prize to the first person who manages to pick it up and get it back to shore. Again, stating the obvious: make sure everyone can swim or is wearing a lifejacket for these activities!

8. Scavenger hunt

An infinitely customizable activity for teams of different ages and abilities, a scavenger hunt can include natural items (a rock that looks like something! Something that can hold water!), items that start with each letter in the alphabet, or experiential (videotape or photograph these items, which can include skipping stones, hiking up a hill or crossing a creek without getting wet feet).

9. Sleep under the stars

Pack up your sleeping bags, your best fire-building know-how and a pack of hot dogs and have an old-fashioned camp-out. Make a shelter out of branches and moss, build a fire, then sleep under the stars. You can do this close to home, especially if you have little kids, or you can hike your way somewhere and really experience sleeping rough. Just don’t forget the bug spray.

10. Stargazing

If you have access to a network signal, download a stargazing app and let it tell you what you’re looking at—otherwise, print out a star map for your area, lie down away from any bright lights, and let the wonder of the universe sweep you away. To help you look, here are some stargazing opportunities you’ll be able to see this August.

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