Tips For Backyard Camping With Kids
Giving your kids a sense of wonder and excitement about camping and the great outdoors when they’re still young is key to developing a lifetime love of nature. But sometimes it’s hard enough to get them out the door for school in the morning, let alone into the woods for an extended weekend.
The solution? Backyard camping. It’s a great way to break out the gear and let them fall in love with camping without needing weeks of preparation (or extra batteries for the nightlight).
Let Them Help With the Tent
Setting up the tent might feel like a matter of routine for you, and goodness knows you’ll get it done faster if you do it yourself, but that’s not what this is about. Kids love building things, they love new experiences, and they love helping. Setting up the tent will combine all that, and seeing it all ready to go will make them all the more excited for their backyard campout.
Build a Fire
Two things really make camping feel like camping: a tent (which you have) and a fire. It might take a bit of extra work, and depending on what you have available, a bit of creativity, but a campfire is going to make all the difference to your backyard cookout.
Let the kids help with this too. They can sort and stack firewood and kindling, help place the tinder and kindling, and learn about fire safety and how to start a campfire.
If you don’t have one already, you can buy a fire ring or a fire bowl at most lawn and garden stores for less than $50.
Have a “Real Camp Meal”
If you’re a seasoned car or RV camper, you can probably make anything on a camp stove that you can make in your home kitchen. It’s a skill that comes in handy, but it’s not what this is about.
This is about hot dogs. Get some roasting sticks, get some pre-cooked hotdogs (make sure to have extras if some get burnt) and let the kids have their own cookout. If you want to have a little fun with it, check out the Fire Buggz Roasting Sticks. With a flick of the wrist, you can roast both sides of a hotdog or marshmallow, and kids love them.
If dietary restrictions or other concerns mean that’s not an option, still try something that can be cooked over an open fire, and have the kids help as much as possible.
Let’s be honest here; on some level, this was mostly an excuse to make S’ mores. You know it, the kids know it, why try to hide it?
If you were able to have a campfire, let them toast their own marshmallows. Although you may want to run a few flaming marshmallow drills first to make sure that a flying, burning lump of molten sugar doesn’t ruin someone’s night.
If not, you can improvise using a grill, or toast them in the oven beforehand and bring them out for the kids to assemble themselves.
Make Bedtime As Much Like Camping As Possible (Within Reason)
Make sure you have the sleeping areas all set up beforehand with sleeping bags, stuffed animals, blankets, and any other comforts the kids will want. If you have any little ones who need a nightlight, decide if you’re going to provide them with a battery-powered light, or whether they’ll be comfortable with the porch light left on.
The point is to be able to make one run to empty out and brush your teeth, and then bundle into the tent, much like you would on a real camping trip.
Remember, this is for the kids. You’re trying to get them excited and introduce them to all the fun things that camping can be. It might be unreasonable to bring every single stuffed with on a real camping trip, but what’s the harm if you’re 15 feet from your back door? You won’t be able to leave the yard light on in the woods, but maybe that’s what needs to happen for camping to not be terrifying.
Alternatively, if your kids typically have a bedtime, sometimes the excitement of camping out will keep them awake longer than usual. Do this on a weekend so they can stay up late if that’s the case. If you usually don’t have sugar before bed, make an exception so they can have S’mores.
Finally, sometimes it’s just not going to happen. Your little ones might be too overwhelmed and need to spend the night in their own bed. That’s fine; you can try again. You want this to be fun and get them excited for the real thing, not impress on them that it’s scary and inflexible.
Backyard camping can be a fun tradition in its own right or the start of something even bigger and more exciting. Think about what made camping exciting for you when you were young, and do everything you can to create that in your own backyard.