Archive for the ‘Camping’ Category

Sleepover Themes

Next week is our Enrollment ceremony and, as you know, we’re Baking a Batch of Brownies. Since my typical post would be mostly redundant, I’m going to look ahead a couple of weeks to our Sleepover and what we’ll do.

About Themes:

  • I’m not against themes, but they are not my favourite thing.
  • They’re good to tie everything all together.
  • The Girls usually love them.
  • But you shouldn’t get too tied up in them – For camp, I recommend a general theme like “go camping” or “be outside”. You can go overboard on the planning around a theme and then feel disappointed when you don’t get to everything – or feel beholden to rush things along. The girls just want to play.

Sleepover Themes:

  • We’ve done Tent Camping inside. It is the best of camping – tents that you don’t have to hang to dry afterwards, a proper kitchen, flushing toilets and, best of all, NO BUGS or MUD.
  • Puppets – A nice chill crafty evening where the girls make stuff is a dream come true for me.
  • This year, they’ve chosen a Space Theme. Alberta Girl Guides Bright Ideas is always a good spot to start. As usual, Bright Ideas has us covered with a Space Camp plan.
  • Check out 5 things I learned organizing a sleepover for Sparks – the lessons translate well to Brownies too. (Although Brownies do not bring an adult – they’re bigger girls now)

What a typical Sleepover looks like (for our unit):

  • 6:30 Friday night arrival (after supper on a full tummy) – Big hug at the door and an arrival activity – colouring or game depending on your group.
  • 6:45 Program starts – we’ll draw on ideas based on the theme
  • Around 8:00-8:30 Program ends – Snack before bed and program closing. Also time to get their last questions answered.
  • 8:30-9 start setting up beds and getting into PJs. Encourage Library Voices (including Guiders). If you’re tired, you may go straight to bed.
  • 9:15-9:30 – Quiet Campfire with everyone in bed – no Aunt Huva’s Chickens here – we want On My Honour, and Taps.
  • 9:30 – Lights out but flashlights permitted. No more talking. A Guider reads a story. Girls may read their own book or listen to my story. But everyone is quiet.
  • 10PM hard stop lights out.
  • 6AM Saturday morning – girls will start waking up (actually, it’ll be the week after the time change, so probably 5AM with our luck). If Brown Owl isn’t up, you aren’t up. And don’t slam the bathroom door!!!
  • 6:30 – get up and get dressed. Pack up
  • 7:30 – Breakfast and final clean up. Instant oatmeal, yogurt and juice boxes.
  • 8:00 – Closing and everyone outside to play.
  • 8:30 Family pick up (our facility is needed by 9AM and the girls have their own activities like hockey and swimming to get to).

Anyway, I hope you have plans to get out with your Brownies this year. The Girls love it, and Guiders, you CAN do it.

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We struggle with going over the rules at camp… they’re really boring. So Snowy Owl made up a Camp Rules Mad Lib and she is willing to share. Customize it for your own rules or use ours. Write them out on big chart paper for presenting to the girls. And just call me Brown Cheetah. =) Mad Lib instructions.

For another rule option, look at our Brown Owl’s Rules game (played like Captain’s Coming).

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dr-seuss-clipart-dr_seussI’ve been writing this blog since January 2011 and it started as a way for our little group to keep track of the things we do year to year. We consult the blog often and walk the line between repeating the same things because they worked and introducing new things because they sound fun.

Camp is in a couple of weeks and we’re getting out of our comfort zone by introducing a THEME! I know that many of you already do themes, but we don’t. Our goal is to get our city kids out into the woods for walks, camp skills, and play time. A theme over and above that has been beyond our brains to accomplish and a packed schedule is too stressful.

But this year’s camp is over the April Fool’s day weekend and the element of silly that that brings is undeniable.

We’re going to go with the Dr. Seuss theme and now I’m looking at things like Girl Guide themed Mad Libs, and how to make Blue Spaghetti for Who Hash and Roast Beast Balls.

Oh my goodness…what have we done?

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There are lots of different names for this thing … ditty bag, dippy bag, dish bag, mess kit, dilly bag … it goes on and on. For us it is called a ditty bag and it is for dishes at camp.

  • The bag should be a cloth or net bag (or small reusable fabric grocery bag) with a drawstring or handle to hang it up with. Not too big – about the size of a folded tea towel like mine in the photo (any bigger and it drags on the floor). No plastic grocery bags – they keep the water in.
  • Inside you’ll put MARKED dishes and cutlery. Put the camper’s name on everything with labels, nail polish, sharpie markers, tape, or whatever you can do to make your stuff identifiable.
  • Dishes and cutlery should be plastic or metal. No glass please.
  • At camp, your camper will loop the drawstring over her arm, wash her dishes, then put the wet dishes in the bag to drip dry. We use a bit of bleach in the dishwater… the bag might fade or get some bleach blotches.



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Our unit is going camping soon and as part of the communications home to parents I found myself creating this illustrated explanation of how WE (the 119th Ottawa Brownies) would like bags to be waterproofed. I emphasize the WE part… other units may (almost certainly) have other instructions and ways of doing things.

Setting the stage: This is a residential camp (in a heated building) with bunks and mattresses provided. We want bags to be waterproofed so that they make it from the parking lot to the building (500 meters) on the way in, and so that they can be placed outside in whatever the weather to wait for parents on the way out of camp while we close the building on Sunday.


  • All items must be marked with the Camper’s name.
  • Make sure your camper packs her own stuff. One of the first things we do at camp is to say “please find your flashlight”. Girls who packed their own bags will know where to find it. Also, girls should be able to identify their own stuff too.
  • We allow clear recycling bags for waterproofing. Anything we can’t see through might be mistaken for garbage and you don’t want that.
  • Soft sided bags are important – we need things to be able to fit (squish) underneath a bunk. No hard sided suitcases or laundry baskets please.
  • In Girl Guides (and older years) girls may be asked to prepare a tarped rolled bedroll. This is too much for our residential Brownie camp. We’d prefer to spend the time outside playing over rolling up 20 bedrolls on Sunday.

Option One – Big Zip Bags.  I like this for my bedroll. 

BrownOwlWPBedroll BrownOwlWPBedroll2

Option Two – Line a Duffle Bag with a clear plastic bag. Put the clothes in the clear bag and make sure it is sealed tight. Zip the duffle bag over top. The outer bag may get a little wet, but the stuff inside will be nice and dry.


Option Three – Dry Bag – only if you have one. They’re about $20-$40 per bag – Available at Canadian tire and other camping stores.

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And there you go. Preparing to go to camp shouldn’t be expensive. Just ask questions, see what you can sub in or borrow, and do your best. Wishing you a dry camp.  =)

NEXT – look for Brown Owl Cara’s Ditty bag



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We’ve had a bit of a crisis in sleepovers here in Ottawa.  There are two local museums that run wonderful sleepover programs…but unfortunately, one of them has been forced to close (only temporarily, but probably into early 2015) because of a mould problem. EDIT – Nov 2014 – they’ve decided to renovate and the museum will reopen sometime in 2017.

aviation sleepover

Gathering at the Aviation Museum in 2012. Sorry for the fuzzy photo, but it allows me to give you a taste without showing kid’s faces. =)

As you look into sleepovers, think about why you’re planning one. Of course, you want to provide an educational and enjoyable experience for the girls, but the biggest benefit of a sleepover is for the everyone to get to know each other in a new environment for a longer time. The girls (some of whom have never slept away) can try an overnight. And the Guiders have a chance to watch the girls and see who may need a little more prep before you take them on a two night sleepaway camp. We also try to look for a sleepover location that is close to home (just in case someone needs to abandon ship).

With that in mind…here are some sleepover ideas (if you add your ideas in the comments, I’ll edit them into this list later).

  • The Canada Aviation and Space Museum is open for business and has a top notch program. Try holding a Brownie Opening in the Hall of Honour (so fun!). You need to provide your own evening snack (granola bars) and morning breakfast (easily accomplished with muffins, an apple and a juice box).  And you get to sleep under an airplane! Cost works out to be around $25 per girl (if you have 25-30 girls and 5-6 leaders. Any more or less will increase the price – we had fewer girls so our cost was around $35 per girl). We slept under the Helicopters (it was dark enough to sleep, but there’s a small and well-lit washroom nearby) and it was great.
  • The Canada Science and Technology Museum is currently closed (Sept 23, 2014).  When they are open, they run a marvelous sleepover program.  We like their puzzle hunt program especially – it is very active, interesting, and good for tiring the girls out so they’re ready for bed.  Bonus is that there is a cafeteria and they provide coffee to adults in the morning with a breakfast of cereal and fruit.  And you get to sleep between trains.  Read this though to make sure you sleep in the right spot. Cost is around $38 per girl (includes breakfast only option).
  • Church Basements and community centres are great potential sleepover spaces, if you can book them.
    • PJ party...Have girls arrive at 7:00 in their PJs (bring sleeping bag stuff, toothbrush, etc), sing songs, watch a movie or do a spa/manicure night, introduce your teddy bear/sleep friend, play some games, go to bed by 9:30 or 10. Up by 7:30-8AM.  Breakfast and out by 9:30 or 10.  Done.
    • Drive in Movie – get boxes, have them decorate them like cars, watch a movie with popcorn, go to bed.  Up for breakfast.
    • Superhero Sparks Sleepover – themed evening with a cape to decorate.
    • My favourite is to have them put up a campsite inside!  Borrow some tents, teach them how to put up a dome tent.  Let them set up their beds.  Play some wide games like you’re outside. Do a candle (or flashlight) campfire. Done! They’ll love it.  (And you don’t have to dry out tents in your garage for days!)
  • Cosmic Adventures is an option. I know of groups that went and who loved it. “You can sleep anywhere… just not at the top or bottom of a slide.” Most Ottawa kids have been to Cosmic and it is a popular spot for kid’s birthday parties.  Cost is around $40 per child.
  • Funhaven is also an option (I honestly don’t know much about it, but found group sleepover info so included it here). It is also a hot spot for kid’s birthday parties so your kids may have already been there.
  • I’ve heard unconfirmed rumors that Skyzone and Laser Quest have sleepover options.

Please add to this list. What other ideas are out there?

Previous Sleepover Posts:

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Today’s Parent (June 9, 2014) had a fantastic article from a parent’s perspective about preparing your child for sleepover camp.  It is especially neat because this is a Guiding family with a Spark and a Brownie.  Thanks Snowy Owl for finding it.

Since we’re talking about camp preparation… the 64th Guides wrote a great article about why girls should help pack for camp.

And this is a nifty clip art from http://www.mormonshare.com/sites/default/files/handouts/cg_camp-2.jpg 

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I posted this photo of today’s Spark camp breakfast on my personal Facebook page and a bunch of people (mostly Guiders) asked for the recipe.  That made me think that you’d like it too. Breakfast on the second day of our camps is usually muffins, fruit and any leftovers from the day before (like cheese and breakfast sausage).

2014-05-04 07.54.29As you probably know already, we are real-food converts … that is Hawk Owl Jen’s influence. At camp, one Guider is camp cook (usually Hawk Owl) but this could be done by whoever.  They are really about the same amount of work. You can make them the night before, or that morning.  Depending on time. They are really yummy!!!!  Serve a whole one first round, and halves for seconds.

Pumpkin Chip Muffins  For 24 muffins (From Guider Carolyn, 59th Ottawa Sparks)

  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 can (16 oz) pumpkin
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups semi-sweet choc chips – I use minis

Beat eggs, sugar, pumpkin and oil together in a large bowl until smooth. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt; add to pumpkin mixture. Mix well.

Fold in chocolate chips. Fill greased or paper lined muffin tins 3/4 full. Bake at 400 F for 16-20 minutes or until muffins are done. Cool in pan for 10 minutes.


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Snowy Owl and I usually drive home together on Sunday after camp. We use the time to talk about our weekend, how things went, and what we’d do differently next time. This time our conversation turned to how different our recent camps have been compared to when we started (I’ve done 14 camps and Snowy Owl has done 9). We decided that if we could tell our first-time-camp-Guider selves anything it would be to stop scheduling things so rigidly.

When we started running camps we scheduled every minute…I think we were afraid of having a blank space. But there was no way we could keep to the schedule (everything ran longer than we thought – and we either had to cut stuff off, or let it go and make the next thing late). It stressed us out when we were running behind (which was always).

Now, we plan things, we don’t schedule them. Before you stop reading, this is what I mean:

  • The main things need to be in there… breakfast, lunch, dinner, and anything that needs to be done before something else (example: we need to make bread before 2:30 on Saturday so that there’s time to bake it by dinnertime).
  • Everything else should be on the list of things to do with a general idea of when you’d like to do them, and how long you think those things will take.
  • And remember that the kids won’t completely lose their minds if your next activity is “go play”. I bet your Brownies will be thrilled with some free time.

To demonstrate, here’s what we planned for our recent camp:

  • Tie Dye T-shirts (45 minutes – should be outside – prep by soaking the shirts for a bit before the craft)  Girls brought a cotton shirt or pillow slip from home.  We used a Tulip Kit from Walmart.
  • Glass Jar tea light holders (45 minutes – need clear glue, tissue paper squares, paint brushes). They need to be dry by bedtime for candle campfire.2014-04-11 23.57.10
  • Go for a long walk
  • Make a film canister first aid kit– if prepped, it should take 10 minutes.
  • Make bread for dinner (by 2:30pm Saturday). Hawk Owl uses this Simple Bread Recipe.
  • Campfire skills and Match lighting skills (before lunch so there’s a fire ready for marshmallows – 30 minutes)
  • Play Mancala (30 minutes)
  • Marshmallows around the fire (30 minutes)
  • Origami. Buy paper and get a bunch of reference books from the Library. Be on hand to help, but let them try it.

This is what happened at camp…

Friday (there isn’t a lot of spontaneity available for Friday – arrive, set up, mug up, bed):

5:30ish – Guider Arrival – Cook makes soup. Guiders get the gear in, set up their beds, put up posters, have a think on Patrol Groups, and get settled.

6:30ish – Guiders please EAT. I’m an idiot if I haven’t had food. We have home made soup on the menu for mug up – and the Cook makes it early for us Guiders to eat. It is awesome. If soup is intimidating or not practical, go with make your own subs.

7:00 Girls arrive (actually, our first girls started arriving at 6:30…we need to have a talk about not having girls arrive before we’re ready).

Girls please set up your beds. Pick a bunk. Put your stuff where you want it. Say goodbye to your parents.

7:40 Camp Opening – We use songs as transitions. We did our usual opening – then went over the rules of camp – where are the emergency exits? Wear shoes at all times (but not in bed).

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Announce Patrols. Make Patrol Banner (big sheets of paper – we had Poppies, Bluebells and Daisies this time)

8:00 Put your stuff on to go for a walk outside. Pause outside and be silent. What do you hear? (birds, geese, other camps). What don’t you hear? (traffic, horns, car alarms). Go for a walk – play a short game. (Cook stays behind and preps mug up – enjoys some quiet).

8:30 Return to cabin. Put your stuff away. Mug Up – Soup with Cheese and bread. Sing first Thank You – Shaun’s Grace (Non Denominational).

8:50 Guiders will wash dishes – Girls get ready for bed. Find your Flashlight. Make sure it is at the foot of your bed. Join us for a candle camp fire. Camps with young girls should always pack tea lights and matches. An outdoor camp fire sounds so romantic – but it isn’t practical. Dimming the lights around a pie plate of candles sets the mood – gets them ready to sleep – and then we sing some quiet songs (I’m not interested in riling them up – we did old traditional ones – Tall Trees, Black Socks, Barges and On My Honour, then Brownie Closing (Oh hear us now).

9:30 – in to bed with a Guider reading a really long story to them. We hit the library the week before and get some books for the girls to read – and some for us to read as bedtime stories. You want a long one that knocks most of the girls out for the night. Girls may read their own books with their flashlights, they can listen to my story, or they can fall asleep. No talking to each other. See the Bedtime Strategies for big groups part of this Sleepover Post.

10:15 – It took about 45 minutes for them all to fall asleep – but they all went. I’ll walk quietly around the room to prevent any talking. Walking around also gives you a chance to answer questions of anyone who is a little scared.

Then – Guiders go to bed.


Girls will be awake early. But we tell them that they may not get up until 7AM. Read quietly. Will likely need to be enforced by Guiders.

7AM – Open curtains, turn on lights, turn on the coffee for Guiders. Good morning!

Get dressed and tidy your space.

Meal prep patrol is on duty – cutting fruit, etc. (This time I saw a chance to occupy the rest of the girls and I set them up to make film canister first aid kits).

8AM – Breakfast – We did a poll and our girls want pancakes. We tried egg sandwiches last year and they were fine – but they want pancakes. I bet your girls will want them too. We serve milk at breakfast. Water is always available. We don’t serve juice.

8:45 – Cleanup begins. Washing dishes in patrols. Housekeeping and Kitchen duties (which they complain about, but secretly love). Meal prep patrol had free time, so I worked with them to make the First Aid kits that the other girls made before breakfast.
2014-04-11 21.57.40

9:15 – start getting ready to go outside. We went for a walk. It was a gorgeous day. We always seem to be blessed with sunshine and warm temperatures when we go to camp. I’m not going to ask why, but I am thankful (even though at this camp I slipped off a small footbridge into a big pile of muddy leaves – I’m fine, but apparently have a flair for the dramatic)

2014-04-11 22.08.52

Walk till 10:30. Back to camp to teach about starting a campfire. We use the “Fire Master” model.  Fire Master controls everything around the fire – “Fire Master, may I cook a marshmallow?” The idea is to control traffic around the fire and it is best to have one person in control of that – at Brownie level, FM is a Guider.

Snack is fruit. We had apples and bananas. Girls to eat them when they were hungry.2014-04-11 23.17.05-2

How to lay a fire demo with Starry Owl… Then each of the Guiders had a box of matches and we showed the girls how to light a match. They were reminded that just because you can, doesn’t mean that you are allowed to light matches. Always ask for permission (and I emailed parents to let them know that their daughter had a new skill).

11:15 – Starry Owl stayed outside to supervise (play with) the fire. Everyone else in to the cabin. We did the Glass Jar tea light holders then girls had some independent time before lunch.

12:15 – Lunch – Grilled cheese on tortillas (kind of like a just-cheese quesadilla) with ketchup for dipping, and cut up veg with hummus.

12:45 – Cleanup then quiet time. In your own beds. No talking. Get a book. Nap if you need to.

1:45 ish – Rise and Shine – Split the group in half. One group did Origami and the other made bread. Then Swap.2014-04-12 05.49.38

2:45 – Outside for marshmallows and Tie Dye

Starry Owl is Fire Master. Everyone was sitting around the fire and we had small groups come to a prepared table to do their Tie Dye. Some were eating Marshmallows.  Some were (supposed to be) watching the fire.

3:45 – Wide Game in the field – I don’t know what they played, but they took the chickens. And the girls liked it.

5:00 Back to the cabin for dinner prep and independent activities. As I said before, we pick up a stack of books from the library for girls to read if they want. There are always colouring books, and lots of blank paper with markers and pencils etc.

6:00 – Dinner – Hawk Owl made shepherd’s pie. So yummy. With the buns the girls made and salad. Milk available to drink.

6:45 cleanup.

7:15 We were all drooping and nobody wanted to go outside, so we all got into our PJs.

8:30 – Brush your teeth and find your flashlight. Candle Campfire with the girls’ candle holders.2014-04-12 08.44.10

9:15 – in to bed. Read on your own for a bit. Story time (same rules as Friday night). The second night they’re usually out much easier. And so are we.


Wake up when you wake up – nobody out of bed before 7. Our girls were still asleep at 7:30. We opened curtains at 7:45. Bliss.

Get up and get dressed. Start packing.

8:30 – Breakfast. Pumpkin muffins with fruit and any leftovers that are suitable for breakfast (like breakfast sausage and cheese)

9:00 – Major Housekeeping operations by girls. Wipe down beds. Sweep. Clean sinks and toilets.

9:30 – Bags go outside on the deck. Then I showed them how to play Mancala. Because this needed so little supervision, the Guiders jumped into action and we packed up our stuff. Cars and all.

10:15 – Get dressed and go outside. One last wide game with Starry Owl. Guiders do final cleanup and pack out.

10:45 – Camp Closing – I like Onion and Two Apples (we go around the circle and each girl can say something they didn’t like and two things they really liked. It is helpful for us – and it helps them remember the weekend). Pass out crests. Sing our Closing. Parents can take girls away as they arrive.

11:15 everything was done. We actually drove away from the campsite and passed some of our campers walking back to the parking lot on the way out. So funny.

Here are the Guiders. Brown Owl Cara, Starry Owl Chan, Snowy Owl Christine, and Hawk Owl Jen.

2014-04-11 22.25.45


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Mancala is a game of sowing seeds or stones around a board.  The goal is to clear the board and get the most seeds in your store. We tried it at camp for some quiet time and the girls were completely enthralled.  We had to stop them after about 25 minutes. 

Girls play in pairs so for each pair you’ll need:

  • 1 egg carton
  • 2 stores or wells (we used coffee filters, but cereal bowls or cups would work)
  • 48 beads, stones, seeds or marbles (the bigger the better – easier to pick up.  Colour doesn’t matter).

Set up: Put four beads in each egg cup and put a well on each end.  We pre-set the first game.  The girls took it from there.

2014-04-12 22.07.28

How to play (the internet explains it better than I can):

Explaining it to Brownies:

Some of the girls already knew the game so I played with one of them to demonstrate.  Then we distributed boards and let them go.  It was so successful that we have kept our beads and egg cartons for a “just in case we run out of stuff” moment at regular meetings.

Who can play:

The game is rated for ages six and up.  I think Sparks might struggle, but it should be fun for older girls starting at Brownies but on up to Guides, Pathfinders and Rangers.

2014-04-12 22.07.39

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