Providing opportunities for adventure and learning is part of being a parent. But finding time or money for overnight trips or museum visits can be tough. Fortunately, though, there’s a whole world waiting right in your backyard!
A backyard camping experience can be an amazing experience for children. It gives them a sense of being on their own and roughing it while they also have the security of being only yards away from their house – and you. It also presents many learning experiences that they can benefit from.
Why Camp in Your Backyard
So why bother sending your kids camping in the yard? There are lots of great reasons!
It’s different. Especially when school vacations roll around, you’re probably looking for new ideas of how to keep the children occupied. And those couple months in summer can be hard to fill with new ideas.
It’s close. That may be obvious, but arranging a trip to a campground can be tough. It means loading up the car and driving, often for several hours.
It’s good preparation for a “real” camping trip. If you’re planning to have a camping experience soon, it might be intimidating to some children. Backyard camping can be a good way to introduce them to sleeping in a tent, hearing nature’s sounds, and having to take a longer walk to the bathroom!
It’s a learning experience. Your backyard is full of opportunities for a child (or maybe even for yourself) to learn. From plants to insects to stars, your children can deepen their knowledge of the world around them.
Of course, there are advantages for you, too.
It can let you get work done inside the house. Need to paint or fix a leak in the kids’ room? When they sleep in the yard, you’ll have the time and room needed to get the work done.
It’s less expensive than most other activities. You don’t have to pay for gas or plane tickets. There’s no admission charge. Yes, you’ll need supplies, but most of these can be used over and over.
What You’ll Need
So what will you need to create an enjoyable experience? It can be pretty simple.
- Tent. Tents come in different styles and sizes. They’re usually marked according to how many persons they’ll sleep and how high they are. If you hope this will become an annual event, be sure to buy one that’s large enough for your kids when they’re a bit bigger. Of course, you still have to take into account how much yard space you have.
- A tarp. If you live in an area where there’s not a lot of ground moisture or morning dew, you can get by without this. But if your yard is wet, a tarp will help keep the bottom of the tent dry.
- Sleeping Bags. These will make it more comfortable to sleep on the ground. And most of the time it does cool off enough that they’ll be needed for extra warmth.
- Flashlights (with fresh batteries). You probably want one light per person so that those late-night bathroom trips are easier.
- Bug repellent
- Food and cooking supplies. Will dinner and breakfast be part of the experience? For a more immersive experience, pack everything and plan to prepare it at the campsite. If your locality allows a fire, you can introduce your children (if they’re old enough) to starting a fire and fire safety.
- Snacks – because, well, kids.
Some Great Activities for a Backyard Camping Adventure
Fun activities are key to making the outing a success. They can also be learning experiences with a fun element added.
One of the best activities is the most basic: involving the children in setting up the campsite. Of course, this starts with planning and “packing” for the trip.
Teach them to pick a good spot for the tent where it will be on level ground and won’t be likely to face water running off from a slope. Invite them to help set up the campfire, if you’ll have one. They can also participate in cooking and cleanup.
For example, you could plan a “scavenger hunt” for different types of plants or insects. The items don’t have to be gathered up; it’s enough that they find them and point them out to you. You could find pictures in a field guide (or online) and ask the children to find them in the yard.
A neighborhood hike expands the possibilities, too. There is more to be found, of course, and it also provides exercise.
There are, of course, many outdoor games for small or larger groups that can be enjoyed, too.
Toasting marshmallows and making ‘smores are time-honored camping traditions, too. And ghost stories around the campfire can be fantastic, too, if your child has the right temperament for it.
What to do about technology can be a difficult situation to address. We like to “rough it” and have the kids do the same. That means no cell phones, no tablets, no other internet access. However, even if you’re not prepared to go to that extreme, it’s still a good time to focus on the world around them, rather than on the screen. And of course, you can always make the screen part of the learning experience. They could snap photos of bugs and plants and identify them with an image search. They could also record the sounds they hear around them and try to identify them later.
These are just a few simple ideas, and you can come up with many more. Once out in the wide expanse of the yard, the possibilities are enormous!
A backyard camping trip can be an exciting break from the normal routine. It can give your children a fresh perspective and help them learn about the world that’s so close at hand but so overlooked. It can also provide you with an inexpensive way to keep them entertained and even let you have the space needed to get some interior projects done. Putting the “trip” together does take some planning and supplies, but it can be a fantastic opportunity for a night or two of diversion!