Camping is a great way to spend time with the family. But sometimes, driving 2 hours to set up a tent just doesn't work out. Fortunately, you can have an adventure at home! There are a ton of easy backyard camping tips.
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Easy Backyard Camping Adventure
When you go backyard camping, you're close to the bathroom, kitchen, and (most importantly) a dry bed if it starts to rain. Here's how to enjoy your night under the stars with the family:
1. Gear Up First
The store is a tempting source of gear. And, if you don't already have a firepit, you may want to get one before you start the camp-out.
But before you head out for equipment, take stock of what you already have. Camping in your yard doesn't require much. All you really need is an inexpensive popup tent (or make your own), sleeping bags, and flashlights for the kids. The kids can fill their backpacks with sleepover stuff.
You'll also want to plan for food, such as hot dogs, s'mores, and maybe even popcorn. Camping food is the best. There's something wonderful about the taste of a hot dog that's been roasted over a fire.
2. Take a Hike
Option 1: walk out your back door and set up in the yard.
Option 2: take a leisurely walk around your neighborhood and explore streets you've never been down. You can leave the tent at home, but the kids might love strapping their backpacks on for your "hike." Pull out your compass (or smartphone) and get out there. Birdwatch, check out plants you don't recognize, and just enjoy being outside for a while.
Which sounds like more fun to you? Do it! Either way, you'll need time to pitch your tent before the sun sets.
3. Set Up Camp
The time you spend doing this is well worth it. Setting your tent up and spreading out the sleeping bags is worth doing now, before you're ready to sleep. Let your whole family take part by placing their own pillows (and stuffed animals).
You're also ready to start the grill or fire pit so you can eat that great camping food.
4. Have Some Fun
Keep the fun rolling with a scavenger hunt. You can make a list of things to find and split up to search. Things big, small, natural, and man-made all count.
Another way to get the kids involved is by turning over a few rocks to see who lives under them. Bugs are icky (and super cool). You can take the opportunity to teach your kids about how amazing bugs are – and how to be careful with them by letting them go about their important business.
When the sun sets, the fun really starts. If you're in a rural area, you may even be able to spot constellations! There are plenty of resources (try NASA.gov for starters) to help you figure out which constellation you're looking at. Get the kids involved by having them spot constellations or groupings of stars.
5. Grab Some Grub
There's only one rule for your backyard camping meal: no electronic devices. no TV, no phone, no tablets, no headphones. Whether you eat indoors or out is up to you. Do whatever you feel like your family will enjoy most to keep it a good experience.
No matter where you eat, talking together will make the most memories. Ask questions like, "what's your favorite thing we did so far?" Or, "what do you want to do after we eat?" If you're a singing family, you can even yodel out some campfire songs.
6. Spin Some Stories
After dinner, it's time for s'mores – and stories. Let's be honest: this is the part your kids have been looking forward to the most. S'mores are the best thing ever. You can roast them in the kitchen or over your backyard campfire.
While everyone's getting sticky, go ahead and tell some spooky stories (for older kids). Younger kids will probably enjoy goofier "spooky" stories. Visit your local library for a great selection. You can even make up a story together, taking turns telling one part at a time.
7. Sleep … Or Don't
You're camping. But you're also in your own backyard. Let the kids stay awake as long as they want to – or give them a curfew. But if there's a curfew, you might want them to sleep in their own beds. A tent is a slumber party, and slumber parties are fun. They'll get tired at some point.
Your goal is to make backyard camping an adventure! In the morning, as you eat your eggs and bacon (campfire cooking, again!), you want your kids to ask if they can do it again.