Ah, camping. Crickets chirping, stars twinkling, the smell of a crackling campfire in the air. Sounds perfectly simple, right? Well add a small child or two into the mix and that simplicity is sure to go right out the zipper window. As much as I like camping and want my kids to enjoy it, too, I just think they’re too young for the experience to be fun… for any of us. However, a friend recently told me about the time she and her family went camping in their own backyard and I was intrigued. The adventure of a campout with all the conveniences of home? Now that sounded like something I could handle with two small children!
I waited for the weather to cool down a little bit and then I started planning. And by planning I mean I picked up hot dogs and ingredients for s’mores at the grocery store, then sent my husband out for firewood. We set up camp while the kids were napping one Saturday afternoon — and that’s when the fun began.
I had a feeling that the tent itself would be a huge hit, and boy was I ever right. Running around hearing the tarp crinkling under their feet, and zipping and unzipping the door approximately 387 times, my kids were entertained for at least 30 minutes. That’s my kind of toy!
We did our best to recreate the traditional camping experience, one way being that we brought out some of our favorite yard games. My 3-year-old became the world’s greatest Cornhole player (from one foot away) and my youngest got really good at dodging bean bags.
And you know what’s great? No one cried, whined or complained the entire time we camped. They were just happy to be outside
eating mulch exploring the backyard.
Had we decided to do the real-deal camping experience, preparing and packing food would’ve taken tons of precious time. Instead, I was able to walk inside and get everything I needed from my kitchen and drag my daughter in for a potty break at the same time. (Something tells me that a campground bathroom, filled with Daddy Longlegs and strange silver toilets, would not have been an easy sell to my 3 year old!)
It’s true — no backyard campout would be complete without the ooey-gooey goodness of s’mores. With wire hangers for sticks, we roasted marshmallows until they were perfectly golden brown and ready to be devoured. At that moment, with the stars shining above us and a quiet over the neighborhood, I almost forgot that we were only 15 feet from our house.
Knowing that our little one would do much better in his crib, I took one for the team (because that’s just who I am) and I slept inside in my comfy bed. Another benefit of backyard camping if you ask me! Meanwhile, my husband and daughter ended the night in the tent with a movie on the iPad…and sweet dreams about all the fun we’d had that day.
So don’t let the thought of camping with kids scare you. Instead, grab your sleeping bags, pitch a tent, and enjoy the great outdoors… in the comfort of your own backyard!