Updated: Sep 11
I truly love backyard campouts, not as a replacement for "real" camping, but as an additional activity to make lifetime family memories. It is a great introduction to camping for kids who haven't been before, especially if they have never slept away from their cozy bed. You also may find out how your kids deal with dirt, bugs, weather conditions etc. Backyard camping is also a lot less prep, and having all your household supplies and the bathroom nearby is awesome.
My youngest wanted to have a backyard campout for his 7th birthday, and I was happy to oblige. These are the activities we participated in on this special day.
GLOW IN THE DARK ROCKS
After breakfast, we painted rocks with glow in the dark paint. We painted them early so they had time to dry, and sit in the sun to "charge." The kids enjoyed decorating their rocks and really liked setting them around the tent at night as they glowed. We did our rocks indoors because the weather was still a little cool, but it is a good outdoor activity.
You can have the kids gather up their own rocks if you have some in your yard and just purchase glow in the dark paint. Or, you can purchase a kit. My kids happened to have received a kit as Christmas gift and it was the perfect time to use it!
PITCH THE TENT
The next thing we did was teach the kids how to put the tent up. For backyard campouts we use a 5 person tent that easy to put together. The size of your tent will depend on how many people are sleeping the tent. Tents are really a great investment. The tent we used, we bought 10 years ago! We've only used it about 6-7 times but it is in great condition, and it cost less than $50. You can show the kids a video beforehand, so they can get an idea of what is going to happen. Likewise, they can also practice unrolling and unrolling a sleeping bag, and blowing up an air mattress.
MAKING A FIRE SNACK
Another skill that is beneficial for kids to learn is how to build a campfire and all the safety rules that go along with that. I remembered that as child in Girl Scout camp, we learned how to make a fire with snacks. So, in the afternoon we had a fire snack.
Crushed Life Cereal or Coconut Flakes
Build a fire ring. In a campground, this would probably mean clearing the area and setting rocks around in a circle to contain the fire into that area. For our snack, we will put whoppers around the edge of the plate to make a circle of stones. You could also use candy rocks, grey jelly beans, mini marshmallows, Cheerios . . . anything you have to represent the rocks.
Place large logs (the pretzel sticks) in a A shape. There are other shapes that can be made with the logs, but this is the easiest for kids to make. If you want to challenge yourself to set the logs into a cone, or tee-pee shape. This is the fuel of the fire.
Next, place the kindling in the space inside the A. This will be the small pretzel sticks, which represent small sticks of wood.
Sprinkle in the Tinder. We used crushed up Life Cereal. This represents, leaves and dry grass. This is what you will light your fire with.
Finally, add your fire. You can use any type of red or orange candy. Hot Tamales, candy corn, or jelly beans make excellent choices. We used red, orange and yellow mini M&Ms.
My family does not play charades nearly enough! My kids were laughing the entire time. They love when mom and dad participate in games, especially when we look silly doing it.
I planned on making my own charades cards but time got away from me. I ended up using these that I found at glamperlife.com. It actually worked out well because after I printed them out, I turned them over when I cut out all the cards. That way I didn't know what the cards said so I could play fairly.
GRILLING DINNER + S'MORES
Teaching kids to cook is not just an important camping skill but a life skill. For our campout we cooked burgers, but hot dogs are also a camp favorite. Check out this video of my boys grilling hot dogs and making special s'mores a few weeks ago. Like and Subscribe to show your support!
Finally, once it gets dark, its story time. We have done a lot of different things to make campfire stories special. Last year we read spooky Scooby-Doo stories on the tablet. This year we got a special book. When the boys woke up and went to the breakfast table they got to see new sleeping bags, a lantern and a book on the table. This was a unique Shine-A-Light book from Usborne. They waited all day until it got dark, and then excitedly took their book into the tent. As they shined the light behind the page, you can see "hidden pictures." We chose a dinosaur book because my kids are little paleontologists, but there are other cool books as well. I don't sell Usborne books, but if you are interested in checking these out, here is a link to a seller who I have purchased from. https://n10401.myubam.com I also ordered a Lift-the-Flap book for my 2 year old as well which I really liked.