The days may feel like they are dragging, but look on the bright side, they are actually getting longer – as in more daylight and warmer! So, if you’re running out of ways to keep your family entertained indoors, then it’s a great time to move outside. A backyard campout kills a lot of birds with one stone. You get the kids out of the house and entertained (and no screens!), you can test out your camping gear and make sure it’s ready for the season, and you can test your skills and teach your kids new ones in the privacy of your backyard – judgment free from other campers if you don’t quite remember how to set up that tent.
Here in Colorado we’ve had a nice sustained temperature spike, so it seemed like the perfect time to dust off the tent and spend a night of “practice camping” outside with our one and three-year-old. Here are a few tips based on how our adventure went.
1. Set up the tent in the morning.
The novelty of having a tent set up in the backyard was exceptional entertainment. The kids played in it ALL day. Get your bedding and camp gear set up and organized from the start – the kids enjoyed clipping items to the Gear Line throughout the day, and we used it to hang up our wet clothes after a run through the sprinkler. We had snacks in the tent, we read books, we set up our air mattresses, we jumped around on the air mattresses (yes, that’s plural…see tip #2).
2. There are no limits on comfort.
With backpacking, you’re limited by weight, with car camping, you’re limited by trunk space, but with backyard camping it’s no holds barred – load that tent up with all the good cushy stuff. Especially if your kids are new to camping or haven’t done much, you want to give them the best shot at a good/warm/fun night’s sleep. We have a behemoth car camping tent, so I loaded in two large air mattresses, a Pack N Play, and let the kids drag out all their favorite blankets and big stuffed animals to make it cozy. I was also hoping for a half-decent night’s sleep.
3. Take this opportunity to show them the ropes.
Have your kids help set up and take down the tent and teach them how to properly and safely build a fire (I grew up building fires log-cabin style, but now more often go for the teepee – to each their own). Also, include some of the basic camp rules like washing dishes right away and no shoes or food in the tent (the latter rule we broke of course, but that’s the nice thing about backyard camping – it’s a lot less likely a bear is going to come sniffing for snacks). You can plan a little “nature walk” around the house too. We managed to find two garter snakes and a baby bunny. You never know what you’ll find when you slow down and look a little closer!
4. Light up the night for added fun.
If your kids are younger, sleeping in new places can be unsettling, even if it’s just the backyard. Having lots of lights can make it feel safer and more fun. In true Nite Ize style, each of the kids had their own BugLit Micro Flashlights, and everyone’s drinks had SlapLit LED Drink Wraps (which turned out to be the perfect night light and an easy way to track down water bottles in the middle of the night too)!
Just before bed, we loaded them up with chocolate and marshmallows by the fire (because it’s not really camping if there aren’t s’mores), climbed into the tent, and read books by headlamp, hoping that everyone would go right to sleep.
5. Don’t set your expectations too high.
Maybe don’t go into this expecting beautiful Instagram-worthy family camping photos and the greatest night of sleep ever. If your kids are anything like mine, by the end of the night it may resemble something more like Lord of the Flies, and it could be that no one actually sleeps the whole night outside. I knew that the chance of all four of us waking up in the tent the next morning were slim. I was pleasantly surprised however, when I woke up around 7AM to my three-year-old grinning ear-to-ear and so proud of himself for sleeping outside the whole night. That was easily the best morning news I’ve gotten in months.
The last few months have left us all adapting to new norms. We hope you are all staying safe and healthy and are finding your silver linings in the current situation. If you have tips for our community on staying sane at home, please leave them in the comments section below – added bonus if they include Nite Ize products!