Being the mom of two little ones under the age of 4. I never really thought I would find myself camping anytime soon. Don't get me wrong, I grew up camping with my family and have very fond memories of it. However, now that I am a mom of two kids it just seems like a whole lot of work. But when I saw the cute little toys from Chick-fil-a advertising for the Great American Backyard Campout, I have to say I was intrigued. Could I really do this? Could we go camping as a family and actually survive? The more I thought about it the more determined I was to make it happen. I'm here to tell you if we can do it you can too!
I'm not talking anything crazy like camping in the Grand Canyon or anything...just the backyard. It's the perfect setting to get your camping groove on, you are outside in a tent having fun making memories with your little ones, yet your bathroom is just steps away. It's the best of both worlds.
Even though most of my friends thought I was crazy I decided to plan a backyard camping adventure for my family. It would be me my husband, my 4 year old daughter, my one year old son and our Beagle Bailey. Our goal was to have everything set up outside just like we would at a campground. Our first mission was to set up camp. With two little ones underfoot this is probably the most challenging part. So I set up a few activities to keep my four year old and my one year old busy.
Bugs in a Jar
The first one was for her to find a few bugs to put in a jar so we could observe them. Kaitlyn hunted for different bugs that she was brave enough to scoop up. once she caught one she added some sticks and a leaf. This is a perfect activity to discuss habitats and animal needs with your little ones. ( after the tent is set up of course)
Camping Activity Pack
The second activity was an activity pack I created you can purchase one from my Teachers Pay Teachers store, just print and laminate at your local office copy store. There are all sorts of independent activities inside for your little one to do. From simple math practice to a nature scavenger hunt. She also had a great time collecting leaves and counting them. The best part is you just wipe away the marker and she can do the activities again.
Once the tent was all set up Kaitlyn and Callen were just dying to get inside, they couldn't wait to explore on the air mattress and play in the sleeping bags. Kaitlyn unpacked her books she brought and her flashlight and found a comfy spot on our bed to read to her brother.
A few things I found to be helpful while on our backyard adventure...
A large jug with lemonade sat on our table for our little ones to access when they were thirsty. We each had our own plastic cups with our name on them. This is a great way to keep the trash to a minimum. Its also a fun thing for the kids to do write their name and decorate their cup. If you want to get real creative bring some stickers for them to add to their cup.
Letting the kids go for a swim right before dinner. This is great for a couple of reasons. The kids have fun splashing around and playing in the pool and it cools them down and keeps them from being too hot at night. There are a lot of great campgrounds that have natural springs, lakes or rivers. So when you decide to take your camping adventure on the road look for a campsite that is close to a body of water, especially in the summer.
For dinner we kept it simple, we got the fire pit going. Earlier, we built a fire pit around an old stump in our backyard, we added two tiers of stacked stone from our local Home Depot for some added safety for our little ones.We stacked some wood to the sides to hold the grates from our grill. We opened a can of beans and put them in a cast iron pan. We added some hot dogs onto our hot dog cooking stick ( found that in the camping department at Wal-mart). Dinner was done in about 5 minutes...and it was yummy! getting the kids to help cook dinner took no effort at all. Kaitlyn couldn't wait to help roast the hot dogs!
What to do when the sun goes down is the biggest question of all. We stocked up on some fun glow in the dark items from Target...so when the sun went down it was time for some glow in the dark fun!
Glowing Fairy Dust
Our first project was a glow in the dark glitter jar...we have seen them all over pinterest but I wasn't sure if they would really work. We got a few glo-stick wands and carefully cut them open and poured them into a mason jar that was already coated with some glitter. We put the lid on and Kaitlyn shook it up...it sparkled and glowed on the table and lasted well into the night. We told her it was magic fairy dust! I didn't get a good picture at night but you can see a few different samples on our pinterest boards.
You can't have a camp out without some old fashioned s'mores! We sat around the fire telling spooky stories (toddler appropriate of course).
I was amazed at my daughter's creativity. Telling stories is a great pre-reading skill and helps tremendously with writing skills as well as reading comprehension down the road.
Before Bedtime fun
Our last activity we did right before bed, we turned down the lanterns and put out the fire and got our glow in the dark bubbles ready. I carefully mixed together the solution and stirred together. We were amazed at the bubbles they actually glowed in the dark. They were faint at first but as our eyes adjusted to the dark they got brighter...before we knew it there were splats all over the grass, a little on our clothes and even some on poor Bailey.
It's Lights out....well maybe
Bedtime went a lot better than expected, we put our one year old to sleep in his pack in play before we did s'mores. He was out like a light within a few minutes. The lull of the crickets and night noises were better than any sound machine. When we finished our glow in the dark fun we headed into the tent for the night. My daughter slept in her sleeping bag and we slept on an air mattress. We had the fan going ( I guess I really could never do primitive camping...I do like my electricity) and we were even a bit cold at night which is hard to believe. After all we are in Florida in the middle of the summer. I laid there in bed snuggled up in my blankets next to my daughter who was sound asleep in her sleeping bag, I listened to my son's rhythmic breathing in his pack n play. I listened to the crickets and the night noises. All in all our adventure had been a great success. We camped out, we cooked our own dinner via fire, we entertained ourselves and we put two kids to bed outside..we did it! I fell asleep with a sense of bliss at all we had done...and I woke up shortly after with a sore back. It felt like I was laying on bricks. My kids are still asleep, and I can't move without feeling sore. I turn to try to get a little more comfortable but nothing helps, I am physically on the floor their is no air left in my "air" mattress. All of my noise wakes the baby who I quickly try to stop from crying so he doesn't wake up the entire neighborhood. He goes from crying to hysterically giggling and crawling all over our deflated air mattress. I take a moment to assess the situation...it's 5 in the morning, My husband and I are literally on the ground, the baby is awake and I know the sun is going to be rising sooner than I would like. So I did what any rational mom would do. I woke up my snoring husband and we carried those babies into the house, one still asleep and one still giggling and carrying on. I put them in their beds and pulled down their room darkening shades. I crawled into my comfy bed and snoozed off to dreamland...after all that is the single most beneficial thing to camping in your backyard... if things go wrong, your bed is just steps away. My kids slept in till a little past nine and when they woke up we went back outside to finish our adventure. We made our own campfire breakfast, swam in the pool and enjoyed one very gorgeous Father's Day.
We had a lot of fun making breakfast in the morning. We used the fire pit and our iron skillet to cook up some bacon and even some pancakes. We used the shake and pour kind. Just add water and pour onto the hot pan. They were literally the best pancakes I think I have ever had! We served some fruit with it.
It was so nice to sit outside among the cool morning breeze, unplugged from the TV, phone and computer just enjoying the moment. My daughter says to us, " Mommy I want to camp for 5 days, I love camping this is the best time ever!". So that about sums it up it was a great success! Even though we didn't technically spend the entire night in the tent, we made a lot of memories together and had a whole lot of fun. There is always next time!
I hope you and your family are inspired to take part in the Great American Backyard Campout Saturday, June 23rd. It's a great way to get your kids to connect with nature, have a great time making memories with family and learn a thing or two. We would love to see pictures of you and your family camping, please send us some at email@example.com and we will feature them on our website.
If you are in the Tallahassee area and would like to join us for our Lil Sprouts Camping Activity day please RSVP on facebook It will be held June 23rd from 4:30 - 6.