By Catherine L Pittman © 2009
The sounds of summer are in the air! Bees buzzing merrily from flower-to-flower, crickets playing their “tiny strings,” and fireflies lighting up a dark night, for those living where fireflies can be seen. It is also time for camping.
Some of my best memories as a kid are from camping trips in the mountains of Utah. You have never seen so many stars as when you get to the high mountains where there are no city lights. Even today our family still makes a camping in fishing trip with the entire family and new generation in our new life in Oregon. Sometimes, though, my parents could not obtain enough time off for our favorite pastime or we simply couldn’t wait for that big annual camping trip. So my sisters and I would set-up my dad’s old canvas teepee in our own backyard and have a campout with the family dog.
Backyard camping is a great activity if your children have never been camping, particularly if you are not sure how your kids will enjoy it. It is the perfect way to introduce camping and spend a fun night or weekend with the kids, yet still be close to home and all its amenities.
When you hold a backyard camp night or weekend, get your children involved in setting up the little “camp.” Have them help set-up the tent by fetching things for you, and put them in charge of gathering their sleeping bags, flashlights and anything else they need or want in their tent, such as that favorite stuffed sleeping buddy. Since most city homes cannot have an open fire pit, set up the grill and cook some hotdogs or hamburgers, baked potatoes and introduce them to real s’mores for desert. Don’t forget to put aluminum foil over the grate to keep the melting marshmallow from dripping onto the grill!
While you can just sleep on the open ground if you don’t have a tent, you and your kids will wake up wet or damp from the morning dew, and they may announce they don’t like camping because of this. So if you don’t have a tent, visit your local good will or find a used tent through Craig’s List or Ebay. You’ll eventually want a tent if your family does any real camping. Don’t forget to leave a crack open on the tent’s window and door for good ventilation to keep the inside of the tent dry from condensation.
Safety is, of course, the biggest factor when camping, even when you are camping in your backyard. While backyard camping eliminates any concerns about wild animals, safety is still a concern. Having a fenced in yard eliminates the worry of bothering the neighbors. Including the family dog in your backyard campout helps put some of the worry for safety to rest as well. Parents of young children should always plan on sleeping in the tent with them. For older children, putting the old baby monitor or two way radios to use if you intend on letting them sleep outside without any adults is a wise idea, though you should still check on them to ensure they are alright and following any rules you laid out. A motion sensor light near gates is also a handy tool to have.
Backyard camping is also the perfect time to turn off the television, radio and video games--- make it a “no electronics allowed” experience. Hold a sing-a-long, story time, tell family tales, play board or card games by lantern light or just sit and talk instead. It’s a great time to tell your kids your favorite camping or fishing memories. Inside your tent you can do shadow puppets with your hands and have fun guessing what the shadow is. Our family use to play Yatzee and scrabble by lantern light when we camped in the mountains. You’ll soon find your kids have great imaginations in creating their own new stories.
Most of all, backyard camping is a wonderful way to spend quality time with your children, particularly if you just can’t get away for a real camping trip. So have fun making memories for your kids!
About the Author
Catherine resides in Oregon and is the owner, songwriter and main vocalist for children's music production company, Pitter Patter Productions. The company specializes in original award-winning music for children from newborn through kindergarten. Our children's music is available on CD or download at www.pitterpatterproductions.com, and is also available for download at: CD Baby, Amazon.com, and iTunes.