It is a truth universally acknowledged that every outdoor-loving parent in the world dreams of the first time they can take their kids camping. However, the big national parks may not be the safest backdrop for a toddler-friendly vacation. Plus, if you want them to feel comfortable around nature, your best bet may be to ease them into it slowly.
So why not choose some fun activities that are closer to home? Camping in your backyard can serve as training for the real deal or spice up a long weekend where you didn’t get to book the tickets in time. Plus, you’ll have a clean bathroom at hand!
So what are some fun things to do camping in your backyard? The answer is as wide as your imagination and includes pillow forts, a crash course in camp cooking, horror stories, a scavenger hunt, or even the chance to build their first bug-repelling bombs.
Fun things to do in a backyard campout
There are many ways in which you can prepare the smaller members of the family for a proper wilderness experience, without feeling boring for older kids. We have chosen things that are equally fun and educational.
Most of us think of building a pillow fort as a strictly indoor activity. However, they are a great opportunity to teach kids the basics concepts behind tent-making and on-the-go constructions. After all, while they may not be able to care about “structural integrity”, they will be eager to explore all the different layouts for their sleeping bag and hidden treasure stash.
After you’ve finished creating a mini-labyrinth, you can always spend the night in your brand new cave, playing board games or going through some snacks.
Camp cooking crash course
If you have a smaller group that is old enough to understand the dangers of fire, try making your snacks instead! A backyard campsite can help you teach them some basic survival cooking that will keep everyone fed on future camping trips.
Try building a small BBQ and show them how to tell if your hamburgers are cooked, followed by melted marshmallows in graham crackers. Alternatively, you can also build a more rustic fire pit and experiment with hot dogs on a stick.
Once you already have a fire pit going, there’s no reason to steer clear from some spooky storytelling. Kids love this just as much as adults: after all, telling tall tales around a fire is a tradition as old as humankind itself. Having the scents and textures from nature within grasp will bring the old stories back to life, and feel closer than ever.
Shadow plays, or shadow theatre, are another ancestral tradition that can provide an unmatched opportunity to nurture family bonds and have a grand time.
Hold a flashlight against one of your tent’s walls. Then, using your fingers, glow sticks, and even stuffed animals, create an entire backdrop of moving shadows and tell a story with them. By teaching your kids how to make animal shadow puppets, you will also be stimulating their fine motor skills and their imagination.
A quick scavenger hunt provides a physical and a mental challenge while driving us to the next level thanks to our dormant competitive spirits.
This activity will require some preparation, however. You will have to design a few logical clues a few days in advance and find good hiding places for them. On the other hand, the final prize or treasure chest doesn’t have to be very expensive – it can be camping gear for the real trip!
You can also use a scavenger hunt as an excuse to encourage leaf-picking or to collect beautiful specimens to do some nature rubbings on a different day. If it gets very late and the hunt is still going on, just turn it into an impromptu game of flashlight tag!
Making safe alternatives for bug bombs
Making homemade bug repellents will nurture your child’s inner naturalist, and can turn your backyard campout into a practical botany lesson.
This can be done using normal kitchen herbs or supplemented by your garden pickings. Try out any of these basic recipes:
- For natural fly traps: mix an inch of apple cider vinegar, a tablespoon of sugar, and a few drops of fruit-scented dish soap. Put this mixture on a shallow bowl, and cover it with plastic wrap. Then, poke a few holes in it!
- For ant bait: mix some Diatomaceous earth (DE) with honey and water. Soak some cotton balls in this mixture and place them in the corners of your camping area.
- To keep mosquitos away from your bonfire: wrap bundles of lavender, basil and citronella leaves, and hang them around the fire.
Backyard camping is a great way to enjoy great outdoor activities while remaining close to a clean bathroom. If your kids are too small to be taken to the real wilderness, these activities will help teach them valuable survival skills, and prepare them for what to expect on future camping trips.
If you also want to ensure your kids spend time in the yard, Monday through Friday, try out these 5 must-haves to make your backyard more enticing.