Getting into the spirit of summer doesn’t require months of planning or have to cost a small fortune. Memories can be made in the comfort of your home and camping can be done right in your backyard (or living room)!
Have the kids help with the planning and let them choose some fun activities. A great way to commit to the idea of camping, while still at home, is to limit or eliminate the use of technology devices. I’m not talking about roughing it and not using indoor plumbing, but make a rule (one that all members of the family can abide by) that phones/TVs/iPads/etc. are not to be used during the campout.
If you have a tent or can borrow one, great, but if not that’s ok too. You can either make one by laying a tarp or something waterproof on the ground then hang sheets around using rope, trees or even chairs/furniture if needed. The tarp will help to keep everything dry from the dew in the morning. Another idea would be to not use a tent and sleep out under the stars. Just be sure to use bug repellant and check the weather forecast to make sure you won’t get rained out.
If outdoor camping is not your thing, that’s ok! Build a tent in your living room or basement and have everyone sleep there together. Regardless of where you set up your campsite, be sure to include everyone as you set up. Even though you may only be steps away from your bedrooms, have everyone pack an overnight bag with pajamas, a change of clothes, bathing suit (if necessary) and a few toys. Don’t forget to pack sleeping bags, pillows, extra blankets, flashlights, lanterns, bug spray, sunscreen, snacks and drinks!
What’s camping without a campfire? You can build a small campfire outside to sit around and roast marshmallows as a gooey late night snack. You could also use the campfire to cook dinner or breakfast, which will surely impress the kids! You’ll find lots of campfire recipes online if needed or just cook some hot dogs on sticks. No need to be fancy! Be sure to closely monitor the fire, especially if you have small children. Here are some great campfire safety tips.
If a campfire is not possible, you could always use candles, lanterns and flashlights set closely together to resemble a fire. Just circle your chairs around and you’ll feel like you’re sitting around a warm campfire.
Sitting around the campfire (real or pretend) after dark to look at the stars is a way to wind everyone down and explore another dimension of the world around you. You could look for constellations, shooting stars or just calmly sit and gaze. Check out these tips for stargazing with kids. This would also be a great time to have everyone share their favorite part of the day or to tell stories. Just be sure not to make them too scary if you have little ones listening that may be easily frightened.
This might be a great night to allow the kids to stay up past their bedtime, too!
The purpose of the backyard campout is to be together as a family and experience something new. You can also make it a bigger event and have every child invite a friend to join in the campout or invite some other families to join you as well. If you decide on a larger campout, get together with the others to create a plan — who’s bringing what, where is everyone sleeping, what activities do you want to plan, etc. Involve the kids in planning too!
Take the next step:
- Check out these fun variations on relay races at your campout.
- Split splat! Try this activity at your next picnic or campfire.
- Try these healthy campfire food ideas, including a healthier alternative to the campfire classic s’mores treat!
Jessica Doletzky, CCLS, CTRS, is the Hospital OutReach Coordinator for North Star Reach, a camp that provides life-changing camp experiences for children with serious health challenges and their families. Jessica began supporting North Star Reach in 2008 as a volunteer working with their Camp on the Move Program. In 2014 she was hired to develop the Hospital OutReach Program, which brings the magic of camp to kids in the hospital. Before joining North Star Reach, Jessica worked as a Child Life Specialist/Recreational Therapist at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, primarily with the Pediatric Hematology and Oncology team and also spent many years working with YMCA day camps. Jessica loves being able to combine her passion for working with children and families in hospital settings along with the transformational experiences that camp is able to provide. She is excited that North Star Reach will be opening their new camp facility (located in Pinckney, MI.) in the summer of 2016 and looks forward to working with more campers and families through OutReach.
Camp Little Victors is the virtual summer camp program from C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Each week, for six weeks, participants receive an email full of ideas and activities to help keep families busy, happy and healthy all summer long. Learn more and sign up.
University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is consistently ranked one of the best hospitals in the country. It was nationally ranked in all ten pediatric specialties in U.S. News Media Group’s “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals,” and among the 10 best children’s hospitals in the nation by Parents Magazine. In December 2011, the hospital opened our new 12-story, state-of-the-art facility offering cutting-edge specialty services for newborns, children and women.