Look no further than the yard for a great camping experience!

Camping is not only a great way to get in touch with nature, but can also be a mini-vacation or bonding experience for members of the family to spend time together. But for those with tight schedules, requiring you to reserve and travel to a campsite. 

Families with little time or a tight budget turn any old weekend into a fun camping experience by simply pitching a tent in your own backyard! All it takes is a little planning for activities and meals, and a little bit of enthusiasm. Here’s some tips on making a great camping experience in your yard, from noon to nightfall.

Daytime Activities

Get things off to a fun start with some activities! The first thing you should do as a family is pitch your tent while the sun is still up. One this is complete, you can move on to various games. A scavenger hunt can be a lot of fun, with children hunting the yard for hidden goods planted by you. If you don’t want to go through the trouble of hiding things and writing clues, consider making a simple checklist of things found in nature (certain flowers, leaves, bugs and more) that can be found in your yard.

You can also use whatever’s lying around in the yard–as well as some classic backyard toys–to make an obstacle course. Have some friendly competition as each member of the family races under the picnic table, around chairs or over the hose. Remember to be safe with this activity!

For a classic camping experience, take your child on a nature trail through your local park after the tent is set up at home. This requires little prep work–just a simple walk or drive to the park, with enough time to explore before sundown–but gives the optimal feel of a camping trip. Don’t fret about the park not being your backyard; after a nice walk, you can return to the yard and get on with more activities below.

Snacks!

What are your family’s favorite meals to put on the grill? Make your meals outside, just as you would at a camp site. If you have a fire pit, try roasting some hot dogs or–a classic–marshmallows for some delicious s’mores.

Snack food can be a lot of fun to have on a camping journey. But why not take this as an opportunity for deliciously healthy treats? When kids get the munchies before and after dinner, try things like trail mix, or apple slices topped with a slice of cheese and just a dab of caramel sauce. 

After-Dark Fun

Break out the lanterns and flashlights! Playing outside in the dark is a lot of fun, and parental supervision while confining activities to the family yard keeps things safe. Engage in some flashlight tag or nighttime hide-and-seek. 

Another possibility is to set up a backyard movie theater experience. This might be considered cheating, since this setup would require electronics, but it’s definitely a fun use of outdoor family time. 

But how to keep entertained when everyone is tired? Tell spooky stories, or gaze at the stars! Stargazing can be an enlightening and educational experience for children and adults alike, not only by pointing out constellations, but also by telling the old myths about the characters found in the stars in the sky. 

Added Tips

  • You don’t need a lot of equipment for backyard camping: just your average family-sized tent, some sleeping bags and a few flashlights.
  • You can never go wrong with bringing a few books for a bedtime story or two
  • Depending on what you eat or what activities you set up, have your children help clean up. Cleaning up is more fun as a family, and you will teach them to leave a campsite cleaner than it was before they have arrived.
  • If you have the space, have your children invite a friend or two to partake in the camping experience!
  • You may be at home, but for the optimal camping experience, do not allow cell phones, iPods or other electronics.
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