I have always loved camping of any kind. However once I had kids, the idea of camping was downright terrifying. Every possibly parenting scenario runs through my mind when I think about taking young kids camping. Not to mention that they need SO. MUCH. STUFF. Just writing this I feel a panic attack coming on. What about our room darkening curtains? Will we all survive the night without the curtains? Absolutely. Do I want to deal with a toddler that stayed up two hours late and woke two hours early because it was too light in a tent? Nope. And the nap? Forget it. What happens if the baby just won’t sleep? Oh my goodness, what if the baby just screams all night? Seriously, what if? How much fun will hiking be the next day when the baby kept everyone up all night? What if it’s a 200 yard walk to the bathrooms? What if there are only pit toilets and the potty-training 2-year-old refuses to sit down? These things are not the end of of the world, but they might just ruin your trip.
Two years ago, a friend suggested that we all visit a close-to-home camp ground for one night with our group of five families. To me, taking eleven kids under age four tent camping sounded like a form of torture on par with water-boarding. I quickly suggested our back yard instead. Little ones could go to sleep at a reasonable hour in the house after enjoying the campfire and other camping activities. Older kids could sleep in a tents in the yard and camp. If someone wasn’t sleeping they could come inside or flee to comfort of their own homes five minutes away. We all had so much fun that it’s an annual event now. I’m sure that this will turn into a real trip when our kids are older. For now, though, this is perfect for us.
It turns out that I am not alone with my love for backyard camping. Many organizations like park districts, charities, schools, and groups like the National Wildlife Federation arrange backyard (or local) campouts. Some are put together just for fun, and some are organized to raise funds or awareness for various causes.
Check out the links below to find an organized campout near you.
- Campout at the Family Aquatic Center (Vernon Hills) June 28th
- Maplewood Park Family Campout (Deerfield) July 12th
- Camping Under The Stars at Pedersen Park (Antioch) July 12th
- Willow Stream Park Camping Under The Stars (Buffalo Grove) August 1st
Do you know of any others? Please let us know so that we can share with our readers.
You don’t have to sign up for an organized event though. Pitch a tent under the stars on your own little patch of green and enjoy the great outdoors. Teach your kids about camping now. When they don’t need so much stuff and sleep isn’t an issue, then you’ll be ready (and excited) to try the real thing. Even if you belong to a family of seasoned campers, backyard camping can be a fun experience, and a new way to appreciate the area that you live in. Take a look at our Little Campers board on Pinterest for games, recipes, and other ideas to make your backyard campout just as great (maybe better) than the real thing.
Here are some ideas to make your backyard camping experience a great one:
- Create a s’mores bar like Martie Knows Parties
- Go on a nature scavenger hunt from Fun at Home with Kids
- Cook a campfire dinner with recipes from Marking My Territory, just like you would if you were roughing it!
- Gather up real camping gear to make it feel more authentic
- Resist the temptation to access the house any more than necessary
Has your family ever camped out in the backyard? What are some of your tips?