It's the time of year when the weather is warm and the kids are out of school, you really want to make the most of your family time, and what better way than camping out…in your own backyard!
Camping doesn't have to be an enormous undertaking with tons of equipment and long drives to the middle of nowhere. Even if camping isn't your thing, it's easy and oh-so-fun for the kids when you're only a short stroll away from your own bathroom.
Most large retail stores carry inexpensive pop-up tents that can be assembled in minutes. Add an air mattress if sleeping on the ground is too rough for you, and you're ready to go. Here are some other ways to maximize the family fun:
- If you don't have an outdoor firepit, you can safely and easily make one with an inexpensive 15 gallon metal washtub from a home improvement store. Lay down a foundation of sand or dirt (and be sure your pit will be far enough away from trees, shrubs and of course, the house) and set the tub down in it (best if it's buried at least halfway). Then lay four bricks in the bottom to weigh it down (these will also elevate the logs to increase airflow) and then build your fire on top of the bricks. Be sure to have a hose at the ready for extinguishing the fire at bedtime.
- Don't forget to tell some stories! They don't have to be ghost stories, either. I play a game with my kids called "The Best," where we talk about the best burger we ever had or the best beach we ever visited or the best road trip we ever took. You're revisiting memories, and that's a wonderful thing for everyone.
- Can't have a fire? Make pan s'mores! Just lay down a layer of chocolate (or chocolate chips) in a baking pan, cover with a layer of marshmallows, and bake until the marshmallows brown. Break graham crackers into segments for dipping and serve it warm! Make sure you've got paper towels and wet wipes handy – they're messy but so good!
- Buy an inexpensive telescope and look up at the stars. You can download constellation maps here for reference.
- A glowstick inside of a water bottle makes a great fire-safe lantern for use inside the tent, and if you're going through technology withdrawal, you can always bring a laptop or a tablet in the tent and watch a movie on it, snuggled in your sleeping bags.
Summertime is family fun time, and a backyard campout is a great way to bond without a lot of fuss – give it a try and build some wonderful memories!