Simple Summer Fun
Camping in the yard gets kids excited for a new experience while gradually acclimating them to sleeping somewhere other than their bed. When families camp in the year together, kids get to experience the feeling of camping in an environment that feels safe and familiar with people they’re used to.
It’s also a creative, fun, easy, and affordable way to have a family bonding experience and feel like you’re getting a change of scenery without having to commit to planning travel and accommodations. It’s the perfect stay-cation for busy families with limited time and resources! Not to mention, if you live in the suburbs like we do, you’re less likely to encounter ferocious bears and mountain lions, though you might see the occasional deer or fox!
Unless you’re lucky enough to live in a rural, wooded area near streams and ponds, be sure to plan plenty of outdoor activities you can do right in your own yard, like games of catch and Frisbee, to make up for the lack of fly fishing and hiking.
Here are some ideas to make your backyard camping trip a memorable, no fuss experience:
Set up a tent in the yard and fill it with your child’s familiar comforts, like a sleeping bag they’ve used before or an air mattress covered with their own bedding and favorite blanket
Make sure you have a lantern and/or flashlight inside the tent, along with books to read before going to sleep
If you have a firepit or a safe way to build a bonfire, then great! Roast hot dogs and marshmallows for an authentic campfire experience. Don’t forget to pack the skewers so nobody burns their fingers!
Bonus points for chocolate bars and graham crackers to make s’mores
If you don’t have a safe way to build a fire in your yard, setting tiki torches around the perimeter of your camping area (or even LED candles) improves the atmosphere nicely so that your kids aren’t terrified in the pitch dark. Even stringing lights from a tree would work!
Bonus points for sparklers!
Pack a cooler with anything you’d normally want with you: water and beverages, snacks, sandwiches… try to avoid returning inside the house as much as possible
Bonus points for real canteens!
Depending how much you want to get the experience of “roughing it,” returning inside to get ready for bed is optional: everyone can brush their teeth outside with bottled water and travel-size toothpaste and toothbrushes!
If you live in a busy or high-traffic neighborhood where the normal sounds would detract from your experience, bring a white noise machine inside your tent, or download a smartphone app that plays nature sounds like streams, waterfalls, and rainfall
Pack a bag with antibacterial hand wipes, paper towels, napkins, paper plates, plastic cups, and plastic utensils to truly replicate the al fresco experience
Have a bathroom-only rule for going in the house and explain to the kids that most campgrounds have a separate toilet facility that’s usually not immediately adjacent to your camp site (they might get a kick out of that if they’ve never been camping)!
Be sure to think of fun games to play (identifying constellations and making up stories about them), campfire stories to tell, or shadow puppet figures for flashlight fun
Don’t forget to pack some kind of wetness protection in case the excitement of sleeping somewhere “new” causes your child to wet the bed (er, sleeping bag). Pack an extra change of pajamas too, just in case.
Ready for Anything
Camping in the yard is sure to be an experience your kids will never forget, and it’s a great way to prepare them for an actual camping trip – whether with the family, a summer camp, or a friend’s family. After camping at home, your kids will feel ready for the wild!