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The Stay-at-Home orders many of us are dealing with may have messed up our backpacking and camping plans for this spring. But that doesn't mean we can't still have a camping experience right in our own back yards. Yeah, we know, you'd probably only do that if you have kids. But if you are a mom or dad - and most of us at Hyke & Byke are - backyard camping can turn feeling cooped up into a playful adventure for everyone.
Imagine sleeping under the stars with the kids, without going too far away from home. Wouldn’t that be fun? Plus, it could be a good practice run for when you and your family can actually go outdoors and camp in the wilderness. Think of it like a playful backpacking boot camp.
Whether you're a newbie camper or you've been roughing it for years, camping in the backyard is a blast. You get to immerse yourself and your kids in the outdoors without all the packing, planning and buying (and forgetting) equipment related to traditional camping (plus, having nearby access to a clean bathroom is a pretty big advantage).
So let's get ready to turn some frowns upside down and discover the joy of backyard camping. Don't forget to brush up on your survival skills.
Why Backyard Camping?
There are a lot of benefits of camping in your own backyard that are sure to convince you to choose this kind of adventure for your family as well.
Less hassle-planning a backyard camping adventure involves a lot less planning and coordination. You don't have to plan weeks in advance and worry about going to the camp or forgetting supplies.
Less prep time - Camping in your backyard is not time-consuming. It takes less time to prepare for your "trip" and get to your campground than to travel to a campground away from home.
Cheaper - As far as family finances are concerned, this is a cheaper option than your usual camping trip, as you do not have to buy all the additional travel supplies because you stay close to your home.
Less intimidating - Your kids will feel more secure being in your neighborhood than the unknown area and wildlife of a strange camping site.
A Great Test for Kids - This type of camping is a wonderful way to test first-time campers.
Three Tips for a Cozy Backyard Campsite
Setting up a cozy backyard campsite takes some teamwork. Here's how to do it.
- If you have a tent: treat your backyard like a real campsite. Set up your tent on a soft, flat surface to call home for the night. Everyone can pitch in, whether they spread the tarp first, or put the poles together. Make it comfy inside by lining the tent floor with bedrolls, yoga mats, or multiple layers of sleeping bags and cuddly comforters. But if you really need extra comfort, there is no harm in bringing out an air mattress for extra cushioning — it is not cheating to make everyone more comfortable.
- If you don't have a tent, you'll need to be more clever you can easily create a makeshift shelter by tying a rope or a clothesline between two trees and by hanging a large tarp, blanket, or canvas over the top. Make sure you have got a dry place to sleep by putting a waterproof tarp underneath as a makeshift footprint, then make it comfortable by layering a lot of blankets and cuddly pillows on top. Of course if insects are an issue, you'd probably want to head inside for bed time. Alternately, you could pick up one or two of ours.
- Make it magical: set the scene by placing lamps or stringing lights around the tent (it's the little things). They will light up your campground with a soft glow and maybe help everyone forget that they're still at home.
Cook Up Some Camp Chow
One of everyone's favorite parts about camping is getting together and eating around the fire.
If you have a fire pit, it is easy to roast hot dogs, toast marshmallows, and even cook meats and vegetables in foil.
If you do not have a fire pit, a small coal grill will work. You can even make pocket pies over the coals anytime tummies begin to grumble.
You do not need a campfire to eat like a camper, of course. You can pack sandwiches, trail mix, juice boxes, and desserts in your cooler to grab when you're ready.
Plan Some Games and Activities
Sometimes some of the most fascinating things in life are hidden in plain sight. Here are some activities you and the little ones can enjoy right around your home.
- Explore and identify - There are a lot of interesting and educational things that can be discovered around the yard. See what insects, plants, flowers, and trees are in the yard and how many you can name. An age-appropriate book on birds, insects, plants, or animals will certainly excite any little explorer. A magnifying glass or binoculars is sure to bring an element of fun to your adventure. You can always rely on your smartphone, and with apps like iNaturalist, identifying backyard life is literally a snap.
- Make a nature collage - It's a good idea to collect interesting and odd things in a bag or bucket during the exploration of the yard. When the exploration is over, break out some glue and construction paper. Use the glue to hold items on a the paper (or even cardboard from your last Amazon box). Use items to make different animals and creatures using additional supplies such as pipe cleaners, google eyes, pebbles, sticks, pine cones, and feathers. Save these creations to be displayed in the house after your "camping trip."
- Work on Scouting Skills - If you've got older kids and a Boy Scout handbook nearby, just pick a few merit badges you can work on in the yard for hours of useful learning. See also our post on survival skills.
- Organize a treasure hunt - You can hide some fun items around the yard while the kids are distracted and watch them run around and hunt for them. Heck, if you do it this weekend you can even make it an Easter egg hunt. Or if your kids are a little older, you can write out clues that they'll find one by one until they come to the buried treasure. A shovel, some Tupperware and some old sentimental trinkets will do for the final reveal.
- Play backyard bingo - Create or print out online bingo cards with an outdoor theme. Engage the family to travel or to look around the yard to find the objects on their cards. The first camper to find all the items on his card wins a prize. This camping activity can be adjusted for younger campers using pictures in place of or in addition to written words.
- Flashlight foraging - Somebody hides a little trinket or toy somewhere in the backyard, and then, when it gets dark, everyone goes hunting to find the item. The hider would need to give people a hint of where to look, but they're going to love scavenging to find the treasure.
- Campfire stories - What's a campfire without a story-telling gathering? Start with the spooky stories adorned with an eerie flashlight illuminating your face. Or tell the story in-the-round, where each person takes turns to build on the story as it goes. Classic.
- Stargazing - If it's a clear night, spread a big blanket, throw a few pillows down, and take a look at the stars together. You can bring along some pictures of constellations to search for, or use your imagination to dream make your own.
Make a Rule to Stay Outside
Make sure your backyard camping adventure feels like a real campout by putting in enough effort preparing so that you won't need to dash back inside the house every few minutes. Bring out everything you need to sleep overnight, such as a tent, sleeping bags, flashlights, books, stuffed animals, pillows, games, bug spray, charcoal, and a cooler packed with drinks and snacks.
Once you've got all your essentials, make a pact that everyone should go inside for bathroom breaks only. Most importantly, keep your electronics inside (unless you're using something for a social activity).
Spending quality time with your kids is important for so many reasons. Especially when the times get tough, putting in a little effort to delight the little ones (or heck, even yourself) with an unexpected silly back-yard adventure could be just what you all need to break up the doldrums.
With some proper planning, parents can ensure that they provide children with a fun-filled experience. When planning an amazing family bonding time, nothing can come close to the endless fun that children have when camping outdoors.