Backyard camping for youth

Camping is great fun for youth and easy when in your own backyard. Keep it simple for a fun, summer activity.

Camping in the backyard is a fun and simple summer activity for youth. Photo: makelessnoise, Flickr Creative Commons

Camping in the backyard is a fun and simple summer activity for youth. Photo: makelessnoise, Flickr Creative Commons

Summer is camping season, bringing thousands of families to Michigan’s outdoors. There are many popular places to camp including state parks, national forests, national parks county and private campgrounds. These are not always accessible, convenient or affordable. With young children, camping in your backyard is a great alternative. It is close to home, a great introduction, non-threatening and fun!

Backyard camping is simple and doesn’t require a lot of preparation or equipment. A tent and sleeping bag is really all that is needed, but other items will enhance the experience. Blankets can replace a sleeping bag. Sleeping under the stars is an awesome experience, but too often mosquitos will necessitate the use of a tent. Other items make a backyard campout more enjoyable such as a flashlight, pillow, ground pad and insect repellent. Too many items take away the simplicity and add clutter. Keep it simple.

Young children will need camping activities to keep them busy. Books take on a whole new perspective when read with a lantern or flashlight inside a tent. Try some books about the outdoors or adventures in the wild. Star gazing can be very enjoyable on a clear night, provided there is enough darkness away from city lights. Try being silent and listen to the sounds of the night. Singing songs, cards games and storytelling will add to the excitement of a backyard campout. Let youth decide what activities they would like to do and have them organize them.

A campfire will greatly enhance any camping experience. As with all fires, make sure it is contained and allowed in your neighborhood. Keep the fire small and always have an adult near to tend the fire and ensure it is safe. Cooking and making s’mores are great ways to enjoy a campfire and an experience that all youth should have.

Any camping trip would not be complete without food, and backyard camping is no exception. Most food can be made indoors and brought out to the camp site. Simple items such as hot dogs, sandwiches and pizza seem to taste better when outdoors. Some foods can be prepared at the campsite to add to the experience. Keep some snacks on hand such as fruit, nuts and popcorn to curb those late night urges.

Start your camping experience with youth by taking small steps to introduce them to camping in a way that is fun and non-threatening. Keep it simple. Youth will want to repeat the experience and someday venture out to a larger camping experience to see the many great places Michigan has to offer. Michigan State University Extension’s 4-H Youth Development offers the Outdoor Adventure Challenge program as a means to get youth active in the outdoors. To get involved, contact me at 906-774-0363 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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