Pitch a Tent in the Backyard!

Experience the great outdoors with your children--without leaving home.

By FamilyTime


Pitching a tent in the backyard is a great way to introduce kids to the pleasures of camping. And for young children, it's just as exciting as the "real thing."

Make Camp
Make this a family affair. Bring everyone outside for the event--even the family dog. Turn off all phones; let voicemail do its job. You're not home! Leave cell phones turned off and in the house. No texting! And this goes for everyone!

Before the sun goes down, set up the tent. If you don't have one, fashion one with sheets or blankets. Use a fence or a clothesline to anchor the homemade tent and line the ground with a tarp.

Gather necessary supplies. Let the kids pack their own survival kits, with favorite stuffed animals, pillows, and snacks.

As well as sleeping bags or blanket rolls, you will need flashlights, extra sweaters, reading material and binoculars.

Campfire Supper
Plan to eat supper in the backyard. Set up the grill near the tent to serve as the campfire--or use a low-sitting hibachi.

Grill hot dogs or hamburgers, or make campfire stew: ground meat, onions, and canned tomatoes cooked in a skillet and then spooned over grilled hamburger rolls.

Bring along marshmallows for roasting. For a more adventuresome dessert, bring graham crackers and chocolate bars, too, to make s'mores.

Keep cold drinks in a cooler next to the tent.

Camp-Out Games
Plan a few games to play with the kids. They could collect leaves, twigs and small stones during a dusk nature walk. Sit around the campfire and play quiet games such as 20 Questions and Guess My Job.

When it gets dark, spread out a blanket for star gazing. Pass the binoculars around and try to identify a few constellations. Use a book on constellations, if you have one.

Listen for night sounds, like owls and the wind in the trees.

Campfire Stories and Songs
Try a few spooky stories told while the fire glows. Be sure the little ones are not too frightened! Encourage the kids to participate.

End the evening with a few songs. This will reassure the kids and relax them before bedtime.

Once everyone is tucked into their sleeping bags, read a story by flashlight. Or sing softly while the kids get drowsy and fall asleep.

The Open Door
The great thing about backyard camp-outs is that you can make a dash for the house should it rain, or if the little ones decide after a few hours that their own beds look pretty inviting!