creative backyard camping
Sometimes the most relaxing and memorable campouts can be in your own backyard. Follow these tips for creating a fun and festive outdoor adventure without leaving home.
The great thing about backyard camping is you can reduce the amount of gear you’d typically take for a trip to the local campground. But, try to bring enough things out to your backyard camp site to limit trips into the house. That way, it will feel more like a true camping experience.
The backyard basics:
* Tent. Find a level spot in the backyard to pitch your tent. Or, make the sleep out an adventure by constructing a homemade tepee for the kids (see Julie B’s Tip on how to build your own tepee).
* Sleeping bags (or blankets) and pillows.
* Table. If you don’t have a picnic table, bring a patio table or even a folding card table to your camp site for food preparation.
* Insect repellent and citronella candles.
* Flashlights. Bring at least two if the kids are sleeping in a separate tent or tepee.
* Portable fire pit or chiminea; dry firewood or twigs. A campfire is essential to the experience. Include a grill if you can’t cook easily (or safely) with your portable fire pit or chiminea. Let the kids gather sticks and twigs for you to use to start the fire, just like they do at their favorite campground.
Start with campground favorites like hot dogs, baked beans and marshmallows. Heat an open can of beans on the side of your campfire just like you’re “roughing it,” and use grilling forks or sharpened sticks the kids can use to toast hot dogs over an open flame. Make sure the forks or sticks are long enough to keep them a safe distance from the open flames, and exercise caution when placing food on sharp forks or sticks.
For dessert, toast marshmallows to use in the following smores recipe.
1 box graham crackers
1 bag marshmallows
1 bag chocolate chips
(Note: add a little peanut butter to the crackers for an added treat)
Toast your marshmallow over a campfire with a long stick until it is soft and gooey. Carefully place on one cracker (caution: gooey marshmallows can burn skin and mouth); sprinkle chocolate chips onto the marshmallow to taste. Complete the sandwich with the second cracker and enjoy!
Consider these ideas to add fun and even learning to your great backyard campout.
* Be a Botanist. Encourage your kids to discover the amazing diversity of plant life in their own backyard. Challenge them to collect leaves from at least a dozen different trees and shrubs. Help them identify each species, and put the leaves in a scrapbook.
* Be an Astronomer. Extinguish the candles and shut off the flashlights after dark, and look for constellations in the night sky. The next day, get on the computer and identify what you saw. Check out astronomy web sites for kids that identify constellations and explain what planets and constellations are most visible in the sky this month.
* Be a Storyteller. Stories told around the campfire can stay with us for a lifetime. Use encyclopedias or search the web to research your region’s early inhabitants before your campout. Then, tell your children a story around the fire about the history of their neighborhood.
* Be a Singer. Campfire songs can be just as fun and memorable as stories, so pick a favorite and start a family sing-along. Just do it early enough as not to wake up the neighbors!
How to Make Your Own Tepee
Turn your backyard campout into a big adventure by making a homemade tepee.
Four wooden poles (minimum; at least 6’ in length) such as gardening stakes
Several old sheets
Rope, masking tape, thumbtacks
Plastic sheeting, tarp or large garbage bags
Screen or mesh
1) Space poles in a circular pattern (at least 6’ in circumference) on a flat spot.
2) Balancing them upright, tie poles together where they meet with rope or masking tape.
3) Wrap old sheets around the poles to form the tepee “skin.” Tie, tape, thumbtack or even staple the sheets to the poles, working from top to bottom. Overlap two sheets at the bottom to form an entrance flap.
4) Keep out insects by filling in openings at the bottom with extra blankets, sheets or old towels.
5) Place old piece of screen or mesh over the opening at the top where the poles meet.
6) Use plastic tarp, sheeting or large garbage bags to make a moisture-proof floor.
7) If you don’t care about the sheets, let the kids decorate their tepee with water colors or permanent markers.