Giving your children a sense of surprise and excitement about camping and the great outdoors when they are young is critical to instilling a lifelong love of nature in them.
But getting kids out the door for school in the morning, let alone into the woods for an extended weekend, can be difficult at times.
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What is the solution? Back yard camping! It's a terrific way to pull out the gear and get them excited about camping without requiring weeks of planning (or extra batteries for the nightlight).
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Allow Them To Help Set The Tent Up
Setting up the tent may feel like second nature to you, and you'll get it done faster if you do it yourself, but that's not the point.
Children enjoy making things, having new experiences, and helping others. All of that will be combined when they set up the tent, and seeing everything all ready to go will get them even more thrilled for their backyard campout.
Make A Campfire
A tent plus a fire truly make camping feel like camping. It may need some extra effort and, depending on what you have available, some imagination, but a campfire will make or break your outdoor picnic.
Allow the children to help you with this as well. They can sort and stack firewood and kindling, help with tinder and kindling placement, and learn about fire safety and how to make a campfire.
If you don't already have one, a fire ring or a fire bowl may be purchased for less than $50 at most lawn and garden stores.
Enjoy A "Real Camping Meal"
If you're a seasoned car or RV camper, you can probably take whatever you can in your home kitchen and cook it on a camp stove. It's a useful talent, but it's not what this is about.
It's all about hot dogs in this case. Get some roasting sticks and pre-cooked hotdogs (so you have spares in case they burn) and let the kids have their own barbecue.
Check out the Fire Buggz Roasting Sticks if you want to have some fun with it. You can cook both sides of a hotdog or a marshmallow with a flick of the wrist, and youngsters adore them.
If that isn't a possibility due to dietary restrictions or other considerations, try something that can be cooked over an open fire, and have the kids help as much as possible.
Let's be honest: this was largely an excuse to make S' mores on some level. Why try to hide it when you and the kids are both aware of it?
Allow children to toast their own marshmallows if you have a bonfire. However, you may want to practice a few flaming marshmallow drills first to ensure that a soaring, burning lump of molten sugar does not ruin someone's night.
If not, you may adapt by grilling them or toasting them in the oven ahead of time and bringing them out for the kids to assemble themselves.
Make Bedtime As Similar To Camping As Possible
Make sure the sleeping places are prepared ahead of time with sleeping bags, stuffed animals, blankets, and any other comforts the kids may require.
If you have any small children who require a nightlight, consider whether you'll provide them with a battery-powered light or whether they'll be content with the porch light left on.
The goal is to be able to make one run to empty your bladder and clean your teeth, then snuggle into your tent, just like you would on a genuine camping vacation.
Keep in mind that this is for the children. You're trying to get them enthused about camping and show them how much fun it can be.
It might seem absurd to carry every single stuffed animal on a true camping vacation, but what's the damage if you're only 15 feet from your back door?
In the woods, you won't be able to leave the yard light on, but maybe that's what's required for camping to be less terrible.
Alternatively, if your children usually have a bedtime, the excitement of camping out may keep them awake for longer than normal.
Do it on a weekend so they can stay up late if necessary. Make an exception if you normally don't have sweets before bed so they can have S'mores.
Finally, there are situations when nothing can be done. Your children may be overstimulated and require a night in their own bed. That's okay. Just try again later.
You want this to be entertaining and make them eager for the actual thing, not to impress them with how scary and rigid it is.
Backyard camping with kids can be a pleasant ritual in and of itself or it can be the start of something bigger and more thrilling.
Consider what made camping thrilling for you as a child and do everything you can to recreate that experience in your own backyard.