When I was a little girl, I loved heading out into the forest in search of adventure with my father. We would go exploring so much that I still have a large chest of unique keepsakes like arrowheads, pinecones, skipping stones (those smooth rocks you can bounce across the surface of the water) and pressed leaves.

Now that I have daughters of my own, I can’t wait to share my love of the outdoors with them. My oldest is definitely mature enough to handle sleeping under the stars, but I’m a little hesitant about camping with my youngest child just yet. So, my husband and I got to talking, and we decided on a happy medium – camping in the backyard!

If you’re interested in having such an adventure with your own little ones, here are some tips we used while planning our night of outdoor fun.

Pack for Adventure!

boys backpacksEven though you’ll only be a few steps away from your backdoor, half the fun of camping is feeling like you’re roughing it in the wilderness. Because of this, Parents.com recommends helping your kids pack all the essentials so it seems like you’re isolated from the comforts of civilization. Luckily, we had a tent and sleeping bags of our own, so we only had to gather some basic adventure supplies like flashlights, a compass, a change of clothes, personalized throws, batteries, water canteens and binoculars for a realistic night of camping.

Backyard Fun and Games

After the girls helped us set up the tent (sure it took a little longer, but this camping trip is for them, after all!), we decided to play some outdoor games in the backyard before dark. My husband and I introduced the children to games we played when we were young, like Red Light, Green Light and TV Tag (shout your favorite TV show before getting tagged!), we also consulted Parenting.com for some unique twists on Hide And Go Seek. We loved playing Ghost in the Graveyard, a spooky variation where one person is designated the ghost and hides somewhere in the yard. Once the rest of the group spots the ghost and one person yells, “Ghost in the Graveyard,” everyone has to run back to base before being tagged – a great game for incorporating flashlights in the dark.

Around the Campfire

camp fireOnce it had gotten a little too late to keep playing, we settled down for a flame-cooked dinner around the campfire. We followed classic cookout advice from Livestrong.com and roasted hot dogs on wooden sticks over the open flames – the best way to eat hot dogs, in my opinion. Afterward, we shifted to making s’mores while my husband told one of his signature spooky camping stories (not actually that spooky, but the kids loved it!) I could tell the little ones were getting about ready for bed, so we gazed up at the stars from our sleeping bags for a bit before moving into the warmth of the tent.

All in all, camping in the backyard was a great way to get the kids ready for a true forest adventure down the road.

Want to share your own family adventures with camping? Have a few classic games that can make the outdoors that much more fun? Leave a comment on our Facebook or Twitter pages to spread the word about the joys of camping in the summertime.