I’m amazed time and time again by how much my kids LOVE backyard camp outs. To kids who are 2 and 5, simply setting up a tent in the backyard and sleeping in it is a great adventure. If you have a backyard that isn’t quite suitable for overnight camping, you might want to consider setting up a small tent and pretending to camp out for the night.
My older daughter was beyond herself with excitement when we camped out the last time, which was surprising to me since we go into our forest almost every day. To kids and adults, there is something special about sleeping under the trees to the sound of frogs singing and coyotes yipping that helps connect you to the earth and embrace your true self.
Another benefit that surprises me is how much exercise I get every time I do this. It’s a small hike from our house to our designated fire circle and campsite, but I need to carry down a lot of gear for a proper, two night camp out. So, the last time I did this, I walked back and forth probably 10 times carrying a cooler of food, cooking pots, sleeping bags, tent, and water. Then, I carried 2 dozen rocks to build up our fire circle, logs to sit on, and firewood to start our fire. I realized this was more fun and just as much exercise as I normally get from going to the gym. Plus, I was spending time with my kids!
After eating a dinner the kids loved helping to prepare, I quickly made up a story about an owl who was waking up that very moment in the forest and would soon be hunting for food. My older daughter’s eyes grew big and she excitedly asked me what the owl would do next.
I couldn’t believe it! Telling a simple story in the woods over a camp fire also made her enjoy my stories more. Normally, she barely reacts to my real-life stories of near-death experiences or where I was close enough to touch wild beaver kits or deer.
Immediately after the story, my older daughter said, “I’m tired. I want to go to bed now.” This too is unusual for her. We hadn’t adjusted well to daylight savings time and camping out corrected our circadian rhythm. The next morning, by the time we cooked pancakes over the fire and headed back up to the house, it was only 8:30! I realized it might be easier to camp out there every night and make it to preschool on time.