Summer is about to come to an end but we were determined to get one more summer tradition checked off our list before school starts this week. Before we had children, my husband and I went on a summer camping trip every year and we wanted to pass that tradition on to our children. As you can imagine, camping with children would be much more challenging than camping by ourselves, so we have found an easier way to get the best of both worlds by camping in the backyard!
First and foremost, we don’t set our expectations too high. We understand that children have a low tolerance for change and acknowledge that they have a low attention span. We know that at any time we may need to pack up and head indoors. Therefore we try not to set up too much on the agenda. And even though we don’t try to expect too much, we do have to plan out as many details as possible for a smooth experience!
Our goal is small, measurable, and achievable. Our goal is to be outside for 24 hours. Before our time starts, we bring out everything we need so our trips inside are non existent or minimal at best. If we forget something we try to rely on what we have and survive without it if possible. We try to only come inside to use the bathroom. But if you have a young toddler, I also suggest you bring your training potty outside for any emergency trips or for the middle of the night!
Our 24 hour experience starts after dinner. We kick off the night by roasting s’mores on the fire pit together. Once we are done, we play one or two board games, read a book or two under the lantern, say our prayers, and tuck the children in! Yes, we even brought the baby with us this year. We safely set up the dock-a-tot in the tent and had the monitor plugged into a nearby outlet hooked up to an extension cord so we could monitor the temperature to make sure it didn’t get too hot or too cold. Plus since my husband and I were able to plan some adult time once the kids were in bed, we could be outside the tent and still see everything that was happening inside the tent!
My husband and I love to play cards and watch a movie. We try to limit the use of electronics while we are camping, since we wouldn’t typically have Wi-Fi in a real camping environment, but in this case, we made an exception to watch a movie together on the iPad. You can either do this outside the tent with chairs and a table or in the tent with headphones and a split jack.
We made sure to bring a lot of water and also food that would be low maintenance. Breakfast consisted of bananas and muffins. Nothing had to be refrigerated or cooked! We did bring out our cooler so we could have cold snacks like berries, cheese sticks, hummus, and yogurt but also brought other room temperature snacks like pretzels and crackers. For lunch I made caprese salad and sandwiches. Since we were spending so much time outside, I wanted to use the fresh basil from our garden for the salad. These lunch choices were both very easy, quick meals that required no cooking.
We mostly spent the day playing in the backyard and swimming in the pool. Although these aren’t necessarily camping activities, the point was to stay outdoors in the backyard. I have to admit, the only way my son would take his nap was to come inside where it was cooler and darker, so I did bring him inside to sleep safely and comfortably in his crib, but was only inside at a minimum. We also spent time playing. We packed puzzles, books, board games, crayons, paper, art supplies, and an assortment of toys so both of our children wouldn’t get bored. The sandbox was also a big hit! And did I mention we listened to a lot of music? We may have even had an impromptu dance party!
Before coming inside, we had an early dinner outside. We had packed some hot dogs in the cooler and grilled them on the barbeque with some beans, coleslaw, corn, and potato salad. We don’t play when it comes to a good ol’ fashioned end of summer BBQ! Just don’t forget the utensils, paper towels, wet wipes, can opener, plates, and cups! And also make sure you have a camping high chair for the baby!
This experimental camping trip was such a fun bonding experience for all of us. We took time out of our busy schedules and mundane routines to mix it up and have fun without costing us any money (except for the food but that came out of our normal weekly food budget). We barely used any electronic devices and found ways to have fun outside by exploring things we don’t normally choose to play with and do!
What are your favorite summer traditions with your family?