You don’t have to venture far from home to enjoy a night under the stars.
For young children and their parents, a backyard campout can incorporate all the elements of a wooded retreat — and give kids a positive experience that might inspire future excursions in the wild. It also allows families to enjoy quality time without distractions from digital devices.
See our printable checklist (click below or download a PDF here) to gather the necessary supplies.
Ready to camp? Here’s how to get started:
Prepare the campsite
Find a flat, even surface in your backyard to pitch a tent. Consider using yoga or foam fitness mats for extra padding beneath sleeping bags. Make sure there’s a clear, well-lit path to the house for late-night bathroom trips. “Camping” for a few hours in the afternoon? Build a fort out of old blankets and pillows.
Pack plentiful provisions
Adults might assist with classic camp treats such as s’mores (simple to assemble with a microwave steps away!) to keep stomachs from rumbling. But kids can help prepare nature-themed goodies such as custom trail mix, fruit-and-celery “insects” and banana oat bites. Don’t forget bottled water or a canteen to stay hydrated.
Enjoy games and diversions
Once you’ve set up camp, enjoy group games such as Simon Says; Mother, May I; and Duck, Duck Goose. Work together to explore the natural elements of your backyard using our scavenger hunt checklist. Lay down to gaze at the sky when darkness sets in; see if your children can identify constellations in the stars.
Unwind (and unplug) together
Keep the focus on the fun of camping; leave phones and tablets indoors if you can. Snuggle into your sleeping bags, switch on a flashlight and enjoy a book together (check out summer reading recommendations and related discussion questions). A flashlight might also be used to make shadow puppets.
Keep campers comfortable
A new sleeping arrangement can be strange or even scary for children — especially in an outdoor setting. Remind young adventurers that nerves and new noises are normal and that you’re safe inside the tent. Encourage them to stick it out the entire night, but head inside if inclement weather dampens the fun.
A backyard campout is a great way to have fun with your children outdoors. Try these other ideas to get kids outside: