Monday, September 20, 2010

How to Host a Backyard Camp Out

Over Labor Day weekend, we finally took the kids camping – in our own backyard. And just to make it a little more enjoyable, we invited some friends along.

The event was a huge hit with the kids, so I thought I’d share some pointers should you want to host your own camp out in the future (and I highly recommend you do).

Put up the tents early.
We opted to put up our tents the day before the camp out to air them out and let the kids explore and adjust. Turns out this was a good idea for a couple of reasons.

First, the kids loved playing in and around the tents. And second, one of the two tents we set up was borrowed, meaning it took way longer than it should have to put up.


Establish some ground rules.
We made it very clear to the kids that once we proclaimed that the camp out had begun, no one could go back in the house unless they needed to use the bathroom.

That means you need to pack everything you’ll use (including food) just as you would if you’d gone camping elsewhere.


Not only does this help create a feeling of authenticity for the kids, it also gives you a sense of what’s involved in prepping for a camping adventure away from home.

Make the most of your surroundings.
Consider ways to take advantage of what your home has to offer as a “campsite.”


We cooked dinner on our barbecue, put trash in our trashcans, brought out our portable fire pit for a campfire and s’mores, and used the bathroom when we needed to.

Get busy after dark.
What made this experience extra-special for our kids is that they’re rarely outdoors at night. Getting to be outside after dark was thrill enough. Add to that the fun glow sticks our friends brought and they were in heaven.

We adults wanted more. Like a campfire and s’mores, which the kids certainly didn’t mind.


After we finished eating, we went for a flashlight walk through our neighborhood. More tree climbing and spider web hunting ensued. It’s no wonder the kids had very little trouble falling asleep.

Keep it simple – and fun.
The kids didn’t really need much in the way of entertainment. They climbed a tree, played with glow sticks and flashlights, and read stories to each other in the tent we set up just for them. (The little explorer stayed with mom and dad.)


Between the tents, s’mores, campfire, flashlight walk and sleeping outdoors, the kids had plenty of fun. We considered our little backyard camp out a success.

Reality check: Truth be told, mom and dad were pretty exhausted by the whole experience. The big explorer must have been, too, because he had a complete meltdown at breakfast the following morning.

We also realized that while camping out, the little explorer needs constant attention for his own safety (he managed to take a sip from dad’s wine cup when I turned my back on him at one point!).

All this was good information to learn. We might not be ready to book a night at the campgrounds just yet. But it’s not far off. For now, the backyard suits us all just fine.

12 comments:

  1. Oooh, trying camping out in the backyard first is a great idea! Definitely putting glowsticks on my packing list for this weekend. And: keep the wine out of reach. Got it. :)

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  2. These are really great tips. A great idea to do a "practice run" in your own backyard.

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  3. I grew up in an area that gets incredibly hot and rarely rains in the summer (when it does, it's huge thunderstorms, plenty of warning) so we spent plenty of August nights sleeping outdoors with no tent. It was a great way to learn the stars.

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  4. I love this - what a great, safe, and relatively low-stress way to introduce camping to your kids. I'm such a fan of playing tourist in your own backyard!

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  5. @Arrows Sent Forth: Good luck & have fun this weekend - can't wait to hear how it goes! :)

    @Jane: Thanks - it's also a great activity to help encourage friends to spend time outdoors.

    @Mary: Sounds lovely. I long to see the stars here in L.A.!

    @Mara: Thanks for stopping by! You're right - it IS fun to play tourist right in your own backyard (or city).

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  6. We did a trial run in our backyard this summer, and had a blast...but I'll freely admit, my husband & I were exhausted by the next morning, as well! I was freaking out about the fire pit, afraid my son would dart too close.

    I love your suggestions to set up the tent the day before (Shane was a bit nervous at first about going into the tent to sleep) and the flashlight walk through your neighborhood. We'll have to try those next time!

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  7. @Crystal: Glad to hear I'm not the only one who was thoroughly exhausted by our camping test run! :) Promise a night time walk with glow sticks or flashlights won't be nearly as tiring!

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  8. That is cool that you guys did a campfire! We have one of those little propane firepit things that works pretty good, but it's not the same as a real campfire.

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  9. @Roy: Yeah, there's just something entrancing about the fire & the warmth ...

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  10. What a great idea! Totally going to try this in our backyard before making a camping adventure elsewhere. Love the flashlight walk at night, too. ~Julie

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  11. Ummm..... hate to rain on the 'outdoor' parade, but a couple of things are wrong with the cute camp fire picture.

    1. It has been placed WAY too close to the tent

    2. It appears to have construction debris for fuel (some lumber is chemically treated could emit dangerous fumes - I definitely wouldn't want to eat anything cooked over this kind of open flame)

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for pointing out some seriously potential dangers. I think your points just go to show how important a "dry run" at camping can be before heading off into more far away places.

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