This weekend marks the official start of summer. The kids are out of school and it’s time to start finding creative ways to keep them entertained. June is National Camping Month so many families pack up their cars and campers, head out to campgrounds, and enjoy the great outdoors. If camping is something that you’ve had on your radar but haven’t yet taken the plunge because of time commitments or a limited budget, why not consider escaping to your own backyard campsite to get your feet wet?
Camping is a great way to escape computers, phones, and TV’s, get some fresh air, and teach kids a different way of doing things. Plus, you avoid what is sure to be an extremely crowded season in the campgrounds. Backyard camping is also economical and with proper planning, you’ll even forget you’re at home as you sleep under the stars. To make sure your at-home getaway feels authentic, here are eight things you’ll want to include in your plans to ensure success.
- Have rules. These should be followed by adults and children alike and should include things like no electronics – put them in a non-accessible place in the house, limited access to the amenities in the house (ie: you can only go in to use the bathroom), and full participation from everyone which includes set-up and tear-down. Camping can be a great adventure and quite educational if everyone is 100% in.
- Put safety measures in place. Although camping in your backyard is a much more controlled environment than trekking out into the wilderness, safety should still be your #1 priority. Have a way to extinguish the campfire, make sure the area is free of things someone could trip over in the dark, employ proper lighting –including nightlights and flashlights, have bug spray readily available, and check the area for poisonous plants.
- Create a campsite. If you don’t have tents, there’s no need to spend a lot of money to buy them. Create makeshift shelters with sheets, blankets, or tarps. Make sure to keep the kids involved in the building process so they will have the satisfying feeling of accomplishment and pride in what they have created.
- Set up sleep accommodations. The shelter is ready and it’s time to set up sleeping arrangements and even though there are no comfy beds, you can still be comfortable sleeping outdoors by using air mattresses, yoga mats, or cots. Keep in mind that you don’t have the luxury of a climate-controlled home, so also plan for cool nights and dewy mornings with extra blankets, cozy socks, and warm pajamas. Here are some of our favorite camp themed pj’s.
- Build your campfire spot. Have the whole family gather sticks for kindling to get your fire going and make sure you have bigger hardwood logs on hand to keep it roaring. If an in-ground fire pit is not an option you can buy a portable fire pit that will serve the purpose. Also note: It’s important to know the burning regulations in your area beforehand to make sure you aren’t breaking any rules.
- Plan your menu. For each day you camp, you’ll want breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, and snacks. You can look online for all kinds of yummy campfire recipes, but if you want to stay the traditional route think foil pack meals, roasted hot dogs, campfire pies, and of course S’mores. Eggs and bacon are easy to do with a cast iron pan and one-pot meals can easily be heated over your open flame. Don’t forget a cooler to keep everything from spoiling. Remember, you’re not really at home, so the fridge isn’t an option.
7. Keep everyone entertained. Make a list of fun activities to partake in once you put your pajamas on and gather around the campfire. You can tell stories (ghost stories if age appropriate), sing songs, or play campfire games. This is when your family will really bond and have quality time together. It’s also when so many memories are made so make sure to take pictures!
- Observe the nature around you. Camping is all about taking in the beauty that Mother Nature has given us. During the day, participate in bird watching (a bird book can be a fantastic reference guide), have a nature scavenger hunt, or learn about the foliage that grows right in your own backyard. At night you can identify star constellations or listen to wildlife sounds and try to figure out what they are.
Whether you camp for one night or a whole weekend, having happy campers is the ultimate goal. We hope these pointers will make for fond family memories you’ll treasure for years to come!