Love camping? Hate camping? Whether you are a camping aficionado or think that you absolutely hate sleeping in the great outdoors, you can still have fun camping in your own backyard with your kids. (Yes, even parents who hate sleeping outside can make backyard camping a pleasurable, comfortable family bonding experience).
This summer, with social distancing still going on due to COVID-19, backyard camping for families has become much more popular than ever. You can enjoy quality time with your family in your own backyard, safely enjoying the outdoors together, while camping and relishing nature. The following are some tips for having the ultimate great time camping with your kids in your backyard.
Treat Your Backyard Camping Like a “Real” Camping Trip
Don’t say to your kids, in a boring, dull tone of voice, “We are just camping in the backyard.” Instead, tell them enthusiastically, “We are going camping!” Have them help you gather the equipment you would normally need when you are going “out” camping (away from the house).
Get your tent, outdoor chairs, sleeping bags, and anything else that you might need. (You don’t want to be going into the house to get stuff during your camping trip or it won’t seem like a “real” camping trip to your kids).
Build a Real, Family Friendly Campsite
Make a list, before you trek out to the backyard, of everything you will need for backyard camping. Tents, sleeping bags, bug spray, food, beverages, clothing, medication if anyone in the family takes it regularly, over-the-counter medication in case you have any mild aches or pains, a small first-aid kit, clothing, blankets, chairs, toys, books, etc.
Everyone should feel free to add things they want to bring to the list (with the exception of electronics, which we will discuss below). Let your kids help decide where you will set everything up, and this will help them to feel like they are a part of the entire experience.
Have All Meals in Your Backyard (Including Cooking and Eating)
It’s not really camping if you’re going in and out of the kitchen in your house, cooking and/or bringing food out, is it? Bring all of the food, beverages, and utensils that you will need outside with you before your backyard camping experience begins. Set up an outdoor stove and cook everything outdoors.
Think of serving camp-friendly foods, like hot dogs roasted on a stick over a fire, marshmallows or s’mores, as well as plates, napkins, bowls and utensils so that everyone can dig in once the food is ready!
Here are some ideas for fun camp food you can make together with kids:
Eggs on the grill
This can be a fun camp breakfast the next morning and is super easy to make. Simply preheat your camp grill, coat a muffin pan with cooking spray, and crack an egg into each hole of the muffin pan. Put the pan on the hot grill and heat it for about two minutes, or until the eggs are done to your family’s liking.
This is a change from the traditional camp food, s’mores. Use 20 oatmeal cookies, five one-ounce squares of white chocolate, a milk chocolate bar, and miniature marshmallows. Melt the white chocolate in a double boiler over a campfire.Spread the melted white chocolate over the bottoms of the cookies. Put one piece of the milk chocolate bar onto the white chocolate side of the cookie, and put marshmallows on top of the milk chocolate. Top with the other cookie, and you’ve got a chocolate-marshmallow sandwich. Toast your cookie sandwich over a campfire, using tongs, until the chocolate and marshmallow has melted, for about three minutes. Yum!
If you’re tired of the traditional hot dog on a stick camp dinner, try these healthier and more delicious shish kebabs instead. You can pre-make them and freeze them, then bring them out when ready to cook over a fire. Check out the easy recipe here.
Everyone Must Unplug — Accept No Excuses!!
When you have a camping experience in your backyard, it should mimic camping experiences that you would have anywhere else. This includes unplugging from electronics.
Make sure that everyone leaves all of their electronics, including phones, iPads, tablets, laptops and video games, in the house, and don’t let anyone sneak any electronics into the backyard. Electronics are just an unnecessary distraction that everyone can do without for at least one night while your family enjoys this special bonding time.
Plan Fun Backyard Camping Games with kids
Before your backyard camping excursion, plan some fun camping games and other activities to keep you and your family busy. These could include anything that you think your family will enjoy. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Hold a nature scavenger hunt. Before heading to the backyard, make up a list of things that everyone needs to find in your backyard area (ideas include something colorful, a pinecone, something soft, a leaf, a nut, a flower). Print copies of the list and give to everyone when ready to start the hunt. The first person to collect all of the items on the scavenger hunt list wins!
- Charades by the campfire. Use the light of your campfire to view everyone as you play a traditional game of charades. Before going outdoors, write ideas for people to act out on slips of paper and place them in a hat (ideas should be phrases that players can act out). Whoever guesses correctly goes next. Remember to keep the ideas age-appropriate and easy enough for kids to act out and figure out, too.
- Build a story. This is a creative game for everyone in the family, in which one person starts a story and the next person adds on to that story. This can be a fun and memorable experience for all ages.
- Would you rather? Play a game of “Would you rather?” asking each other silly and thought-provoking questions. Ideas include: Would you rather eat a cockroach or never eat pizza again? Would you rather meet a friendly alien here on Earth or visit another planet but never be able to return home? Keep your age group in mind when coming up with questions – the last thing you want to happen is to make anyone cry when you’re trying to have fun!
- Pass the water. This game is great for a hot day or evening. Get enough cups so that everyone has one. Everyone stands in a line, behind each other. The first player starts with a full cup of water, and dumps the water behind him/her over his or her head, without looking, into the next player’s cup. As the process moves down the line, people will inevitably get wet, so be sure to bring out a change of clothing for everyone first if you choose to play this fun game with your family!
- Sing around the campfire. Even if your family is not musically inclined, you can have fun singing simple camp songs around the fire. You can even make your own instruments using spoons and pots, or if you have a guitar or harmonica, bring it out!
- Catch fireflies. Get some Mason jars and poke small holes in the lids. After dark, when the fireflies start to appear, each person should try to catch a few. Make sure to let them go after you are finished! More information on catching fireflies as an educational activity can be found here.
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