Going on vacation is great — until you realize how much work is involved. Ditch the planning, packing and paying this summer by taking a fantastic family camping getaway right in your own backyard. Camping is typically one of the best free things to do in the summer. Take the time to make a magical night for your kids by planning some fun family activities and unique treats to taste. Here's how:
Plan your activities
Think of a few outdoor activities that are fun for kids, such as making s'mores, family fun games, studying the stars and telling campfire stories. Here are a few more to add to your list:
• Create a list of items you might find in your backyard, like a pine cone, a leaf, an acorn or a bird feather.
• Give each kid a bag and see if they can collect all of the items on the list. The first one to gather all of the items in their bag gets to eat the first s'more tonight!
• Lay on your backs on the deck or a blanket in the yard and gaze up at the clouds.
• Imagine the clouds are people or animals having a conversation.
• Take turns creating the dialog and let your child's imagination grow along with their storytelling skills.
Make a solar oven
• Put your scientist caps on and convert sunlight into heat energy to cook s'mores without a fire.
Create leaf art
• Using leaves and stems from your yard, encourage your kids to tap into their artistic sides to bring animals to life using the different colors and shapes.
Build fairy houses
• Tell the kids you have some homeless fairies in your yard that need pretty new places to live.
• Use old plastic bottles, rocks, sticks, feathers and leaves to create these humble abodes.
• Don't forget to construct them in a secluded area of the yard so that the shy fairies have privacy.
Related: Glamping: Roughing It Has Become Refined
Prepare for Backyard Camping
If you've got plenty of activities to keep the kids occupied, you can start "camping" as early in the day as you'd like. However, we recommend starting in the late afternoon to avoid too much sun exposure. Make sure to avoid those backyard mosquitoes by clearing out mosquito breeding areas and using an EPA-approved mosquito repellent that contains DEET. You'll also want to leave enough time to set up the tent. What better way to simulate real camping than dozing in a tent under the stars? Use foam floor tiles to help pad the ground if you need an extra level of comfort.
Backyard Camping Checklist:
Don't Go Hungry: Backyard Camping Recipes & Snacks
Try out some "walking tacos" by adding cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and sour cream to a bag of chips! What could be more fun and easy than that?
• 1 tbsp. shredded Mexican cheese
• 1 chopped lettuce head
• 1 sliced tomato
• 1 bag (1 oz) nacho-flavored/ tortilla chips
Take ingredients, add to chip bag, and shake. That's it!
For dessert (in addition to s'mores, of course) cook up some campfire monkey bread. You can use your Dutch oven on the fire or in the kitchen if you don't mind cheating a bit.
Ingredients & Materials
• 1 can biscuit dough
• 1/2 cup brown sugar and cinnamon combined
• Equivalent 1 stick butter or margarine
• Lunch or sandwich zip-lock bag
1. Open the refrigerated biscuit dough and cut each one into small quarters
2. Take a sandwich bag and combine 1/2 cup of brown sugar and cinnamon. Place dough inside bag and shake to coat. Melt the butter and stir in brown sugar. Pour combined butter and sugar mix over dough.
3. Use your dutch oven
4. Place a layer of foil over your dutch oven. Bake on coals at an average temperature of 350-375 degrees for approximately 5-10 minutes.
5. Pulling the gooey, yummy morsels out bite by bite is an ideal activity for kids.
Don't forget to relax and have fun right along with your children. If they can't find the items in the scavenger hunt or the dessert doesn't turn out just right, that's okay. The greatest adventures don't always go perfectly according to plan, and they often make for the most interesting stories. What are some of your favorite fun things to do as a family?