There are plenty of camping enthusiasts out there – the lack of vacancies in popular state parks throughout the summer is proof of that – but for many families, camping is quickly becoming a dying art. Parents are busier than ever, kids are more interested in electronics than nature, and many people have simply lost interest in the great outdoors.
To help revive the tradition of camping for kids who don’t get outside as much these days, the National Wildlife Federation organizes an annual Great American Backyard Campout to encourage parents to teach their kids the joys of camping. Coming up June 25, the national backyard campout is also a great way to introduce young children to camping before taking them on an extended trip.
While the kids may protest at first about being dragged away from the TV, you can make backyard camping an exciting adventure by planning some fun activities to keep them busy throughout the night. Here are some ideas for ensuring your Great American Backyard Campout leaves your kids with pleasant memories rather than frustration and boredom.
Bring Plenty of Light
Aside from your campfire, you’ll want to have lots of light on hand to keep everyone comfortable and entertained. LED lanterns are ideal for lighting up the tent and banishing any nighttime fears. Consider giving each family member an LED headlamp, as well – kids love having their own flashlight to use, and it will help with any middle-of-the-night bathroom runs.
Make Shadow Puppets
Even today’s blasé, high-tech kids are often fascinated by the ability to cast animal shapes on a tent wall using nothing more than your hands and an LED lantern. You can find plenty of online videos and instructions for making shadow puppets – be sure to practice a few before the big campout. And keep in mind that shadow puppets work best with a bright light and a white surface, so turn your LED lantern to its brightest setting and tack up a sheet if your tent has dark walls.
Have a Flashlight Treasure Hunt
Hide a prize in your backyard, such as the ingredients for s’mores in a plastic bag. Give each child an LED headlamp, and set them loose to find the hidden treasure. You can help younger kids along with “hot” and “cold” hints.
Teach Hunting Knife Safety
A true outdoorsman knows that no camping trip is complete without bringing along a hunting knife. For older kids, a backyard campout is a safe, controlled environment in which to learn about hunting knife safety. Bring out your hunting knife and give your child a few lessons in how to hold, carry and pass it safely.
[Photo by: Kristin Johnson]