Before the frost and school begins, plan a fun kid camping activity right in your backyard. Invite some friends and neighbors to the backyard campout. A small group of kids, 6 to 8 school-age children, is recommended. Borrow several tents, at least one per 2-3 children (unless you have a large family size tent!), or set up flat sheets over a clothesline to make a tent.
Have the kids make tent-shaped announcements, which include information such as:
- Date of the backyard campout
- Time to show up
- What to bring such as: sleeping bag, pillow, p.j.’s, toothbrush
- Time to be picked up the next morning
- Chaperone information
When the kids show up for the kid camping activity, plan a barbecue with hot dogs roasted on a stick, chips, vegetable sticks and dip, and nutritious drinks. Make cupcakes decorated with shredded coconut (dyed with green food coloring for “grass”) and paper “tents” on top. Put the child’s name on each “tent”.
Before it gets dark, go over safety tips, where to locate the bathroom during the night, and even a place they can come inside to sleep if they need to. Issue each camper a flashlight or litestick. Have bug spray and a first aid kit available.
After it gets dark, play flashlight tag and finger shadow games. Gather the group into a circle (or semi-circle) and place a camping lantern in the center. Turn the light down low and tell “scary camp stories”. Or play a storytelling game where the guest of honor (the child whose backyard is being used) begins a “tall tale” and each person around the circle has to add to the story until it ends back with the guest of honor. With a small group, it might be fun to go around the group several times before ending the story.
If the night is clear with no clouds, have everyone lay on their backs and look up into the night sky. Who can find the North Star, Polaris? Who can locate the Big Dipper and Little Dipper? Look up the constellations in the summer sky for your area. See if they can locate any of them.
In the morning before the campers go home, serve breakfast and have everyone “pack up”. If you want to send home little party favors, a whistle, a compass, and a litestick are popular with kids.