The American youth are at an incredible risk. This is due in large part to the growing divide between their everyday lives and the natural world.
Children today spend an average of 6 hours each day in front of the computer and TV but less than 4 minutes a day in unstructured outdoor play. (Chesapeake Bay Foundation)
If you want above average kids it’s as simple as starting out back!
Look For Reasons to Camp at Home
I woke up early on a cool morning in late July. This is rare in Richmond, Virginia. The humidity had gone on vacation and left us with weather that was perfect for camping. Summer camping can be brutal but there is something about the rattle of all those summer bugs and the occasional night when it drops to the mid 60’s.
Leashing my two pitbulls and heading out for a walk before the sun even started climbing the horizon I thought about pitching the tent for myself and the boys. My older son and I had to forfeit our last camping outing because we brought along Lola, my pit-bulldog mix, who was panting and soaking the tent. We underestimated the heat.
That said, the camping bug was alive and well in him. I have been camping with him out back since he was about two years old. For a while, it was a failed effort and he would wake up in the night terrified; we would head up the steps and back into the house. This is one of the benefits of staking your tent in the backyard for your child’s first camping trips.
I want to tell you all about camping in the backyard and why it’s something you should start doing. This is particularly true of those new parents or new adventurers out there. It is so important that you have a trial run and get everyone used to sleeping on the ground in a tent before doing it on the side of a mountain that is three hours from home.
How Can an Adventurer Enjoy Backyard Camping?
There are very few people who find relaxation in a backyard camping trip. We are too close to home, the bills, the worries and most importantly the WIFI! Still, you can learn a lot about your setup from a decent backyard camp session.
It’s important that you first be honest with yourself about what you are doing. You are camping out back for the benefit of your children. You are also taking the first steps in really introducing your kids to the fun that is possible in a tent and at a campsite. This is priceless fun away from t.v. and video games.
While this may not be as exciting as a summit or a spectacular waterfall I can promise you it’s a situation that will pay dividends in the future. Consider the following stats that were dug up by Wilderness Adventure at Eagle Landing.
- Almost 50% of children aged 8-16 years watch 3-5 hours of television a day. These kids who watch the most hours of television have the highest incidence of obesity. (Word on Health, “Childhood Obesity on the Rise”: Torgan, Carol, June 2002)
- Increased study of science and nature, especially in the very young, has proved in studies extremely beneficial for cognitive functioning, reduced symptoms of attention deficit disorder, increased self-discipline, and emotional well being. (Chesapeake Bay Foundation)
10 Ways to Make Kids Fall in Love with Backyard Camping
Get wild with cooking
Make campfire foods that you wouldn’t dare carry into the woods. Your house is right there so you can get daring. Who is up for a lobster bake by right inside the campfire! Test out new recipes for your next camping trip.
Go crazy with bushcraft
While you may think bushcraft is only for the crazy survivalists like your author, I got some news for you. Kids go crazy over things like making fire with a fire plow or bow drill, creating a tinder bundle or even fashioning simple tools by cracking and chipping rocks. Look into it!
Let them stay up
Without the clocks staring at you from every wall it’s easy to just unwind and let nature take its course on your kids. If they want to be up late, let them. It just works out to you getting to sleep in.
Show them the stars
Though it may sound crazy, kids don’t see the stars much anymore. They are often rushed from one building to the next and by time the stars are out it’s bedtime. Introduce them to the stars and all that is above them. Find some easy constellations or download an app that will point you in their direction.
Just sit in silence
So rarely are we afforded silence in our world. For most of us, it has to come as a conscious effort. For children growing up in this kind of electronic, screen filled world they cannot even comprehend the importance of silence. Some even hate it. You can change that.
Bring the pets
While some campgrounds and backwoods trips may be more hassle with a pet, your backyard is the perfect spot to have a pet join you. They will be comfortable, you will be comfortable and your kids will love snuggling up with their pet in the tent.
Invite your neighbors or friends
Don’t underestimate the power of community. It’s a lost strength of the human race. Invite your kid’s friends over to “camp out” as well.
Give them duties
Camping is a wonderful time to give children duties. Let them use hammers and drive stakes. Have them carry the lantern or chem lights. Your kids will love the responsibility of their camping duties.
Observe the Wildlife
Even in the urbanest areas, there is wildlife. One of my favorite things to do is watch birds when I am camping. Even watching the movements and actions of a simple squirrel through binoculars can be an exciting time.
If you are a creative parent or guardian you could create an elaborate scenario where the kids are camping to hide from an enemy or maybe they are early settlers who are beginning a new civilization. Allow yours and your children’s minds to run wild with this idea. Bring toys and DIY costumes to add effect.
Experimenting with New Gear
Who says you need a tent? In your backyard, in the suburbs maybe you opt to sleep under the stars. Don’t forget about mosquitoes. You can get very unconventional in the back yard. This is a luxury not often afforded to the outdoor adventurer because of things like wildlife. You are very vulnerable to animals if you are just hanging out on the forest floor.
Weather is no longer an issue either. You can risk an overnight storm and know that home is just a few steps away.
If you have new equipment or new family tent that needs a test run there is no better place than the backyard. Failure is null and void in the backyard environment. The hammock, the new single person tent, the ultralight sleeping pad can all be tested without the consequences of losing a full night’s sleep if things
You could also take on the challenge of building a shelter. This will require some wood and cordage from your property but it’s a wonderful thing to do with kids. Learn about some basic shelters that can be made from trees, leaves, and paracord. These will project camps will be something your kids will never forget.
The ugly truth about spending the night in shelters like a lean-to is that it kinda sucks. They are drafty, wet and cold for the most part. Having the escape pod close by will make it more of an experiment and less of an inescapable nightmare.
Don’t Forget about the Games
Would you believe there is a board game called CAMP. Its is one of the best ways to get your kids to learn about the wild and we play it all the time. Its great in the tent or outside on a nice flat stump.
Search for some wild edibles with your kids. You can get yourself a nice field guide to bring along and have a ball looking for berries and roots.
Bring some light up pump rockets along with you. These little slingshot rockets are awesome in the evening.
If you don’t wanna get fancy or if you are on a low budget just bring out the backyard games that you usually play. The corn hole boards rarely make it on a real camping trip but they are no problem if the tent is pitched in your backyard.
Backyard Camping Will Create Healthy and Happy Kids
Backyard Camping is the perfect segway to a lifetime of camping and adventure. It will be more important than ever to introduce your children to the outdoors. We are on the first floor of this skyscraper of personal technology. It will become more invasive, more appealing and exponentially harder to escape.
When life gets hard your child will cleave to this tech to receive that precious dopamine rush and deal with the stress of life. As early as possible, you must give them options outside of the screen. Even in the backyard, they will find balance. The time away from the machines will allow them to reset.
As a parent, it is your duty to get them outside. You must peel them away from it all and leave them out in a tent by themselves to figure it all out! Haha. Backyard camping also won’t hurt your cred with other kids. Just be prepared to take some heat from other parents as not everyone is delighted to spend their weekends sleeping on an inflatable mattress in the woods.
Backyard Camping Step by Step
- Funny enough, even in your backyard you need to choose a campsite properly. We still have trees and hazards in our backyard just like anywhere in the woods. Pay attention to these
- Look for your most dry, level area to set up your tent.
- I prefer a location out of the way of your grass growth. This is important if you are going to build a fire.
- Using some large stones, bricks or by digging a hole you can create a fire pit for your campfire. Burning laws differ all over so check to make sure you aren’t breaking any laws. If you want to get wild try building a Dakota Fire Hole.
- Hang a hammock or add other camping gear to your site. You may even want to set up some backyard games.
- Citronella torches are an easy addition to a backyard campsite as well. They also keep the mosquitoes at bay.
- Finally, you need kids and dogs.
Backyard camping can help eliminate fears of camping out in the dark. If your children show concerns with the outdoors or fears about doing the things you love, you must take them into the backyard and introduce them to all the fun they could be having.
Whether they are 3 or 13 children may have serious reservations about spending the night in a dark tent in the woods. They may also feel like it’s not exciting enough. Use this article to show them all of the fun that can be had, even in a backyard!