Family Camping Ideas

My kids have been asking off and on for over a year to go camping.... in a tent!

If you don't really know me my idea of roughing it is staying in a hotel without a pool.  I love amenities and the more the better so this was not something I was totally on board with.  But being the good parent I try to be I decided to give camping a try this year.

 Knowing my low tolerance for the outdoors we camped in our backyard; a nice compromise.   

I do remember camping as a kid and I didn't totally hate it.  I remember campgrounds as being lots of fun and I hoped that if backyard camping went well maybe we could branch out and try a night or two at some local campgrounds.

We bought a big tent (though really it wasn't big enough) and pitched it in the yard.  My husband and kids spent a few days building us a fire pit on the beach and I spent a week or so stocking up on supplies like glow sticks, sparklers, and the like.

After our night I realized camping is a lot of WORK!  While fun, it is not my idea of a vacation. 

Maybe if I look at it as an adventure and not a vacation I'd be willing to try it again but I think for now we'll stick to the backyard.  We would've had quite a few problems if we were trying "real" camping. 
Yesterday morning I went around gathering kids' clothes, sleeping bags, pillows and the like.  I packed coolers with what I hoped would be most of the food we needed.  My hope was to pretend it was a real camp- out and not use anything in the house other than our 1/2 bath in the basement... but that just didn't work.  I think we were in and out of the house at least a dozen times and honestly we would've been running to a store or a restaurant if we had been out in the woods.

Never having camped as an adult I had no idea what we'd need or how people manage to transport everything they do need from home to site.

But we had fun anyway and that's what's important. 

 Our camping trip started before dinner and the kids got right to having fun and took turns water bottle bowling while we helped set up my sisters tent (her and my nephew joined us for the night).  We made some fun marshmallow shooters that you can find the instructions for here.  They liked them and after trying to shoot one or two started filling the cups with handfuls of mini marshmallows and shot huge bunches of them out.  They were a bit disappointed that they didn't shoot real far but they still chased each other around the house having a war with them.  They pulled really hard on the balloons and pulled them right off the ends of the cup a few times and soon lost interest.

After that the kids went swimming.  My two youngest tried to bring the shooters into the water and see what would happen if they added water to the shooters along with the marshmallows.  But that didn't really work at all. 

For supper we cooked burgers and hot dogs on the grill and I made corn on the cob and squash casserole on the stove/ in the oven.  After dinner the kids went back in the water and swam until it started getting dark.  They fed the ducks and had jumping contests.  We started a fire in the pit and put on sweatshirts and still the kids swam.  They even tried to put out the fire a few times.  And being boys they thought it was funny to try "peeing" on it with the water shooters.  It cracked us up.  All the adults were laughing so much just listening to the kids and their antics.

Once it was evening and cooler we called them out to dry off and get dressed then we played with sparklers.  This is the first time my kids have ever used sparklers and, not knowing if they'd be afraid, we made sparkler shields using solo cups.... come to find out no one really wanted to use them.  They had no fear and they practiced writing in the air with them.  Using two sparklers at once, lighting one using another pre- lit one.  They discovered that sparklers made a cool hissing noise when you put them in water; "because of the heat from the sparklers and the cold water!"  They also learned that if you put the sparklers into the sand they went out a bit and would start to sparkle again if you didn't leave them in the sand to long.   They loved it!

After the sparklers our fire pit was ready for us to roast s'mores.  The kids all searched for sticks and then roasted marshmallows.  Mostly they caught on fire and burnt but we all ate them anyway.

 After the kids were sufficiently sugared up I brought out the glow sticks.  We tried to make glowing bubbles like the ones shown here.  I had a small bottle of bubble solution and we cut open two glow sticks and poured them in.  If I had bothered to read the whole article I would have read that while the bottle glowed brightly the bubbles really didn't glow at all... and that was just what we discovered as well.

 I had bought TONS of glow sticks, bracelets, necklaces, etc. after seeing the way my kids took to them at the 4th of July and they played for a long time with them.  We added a glow bracelet to each of the bowling bottles for glow in the dark bowling.  Then they used glowing necklaces to try and ring the bottles, but mostly they spun them around making chains and whips and at one point even connected all 30+ glow sticks into one long chain that they had to cooperatively move around or else it would break into pieces.   They tried making jump ropes, having ninja battles, putting on a light show, and just using their imagination.

They gathered in the tent with their flashlights and read a Henry and Mudge camping book to each other. 

Then we sat around the fire looking at the stars.  We pointed out the little dipper and the North Star.  I was so proud when Alec remembered that the stars are suns that are far away.  My nephew remembered that Harriet Tubman used the North Star during the underground railroad when we talked about how sailors and other people used the stars for navigation at night.

By then it was 10:30 and well past time for bed.  The kids climbed into the tents and after much giggling and whispering (and meowing and clawing by our cat!) we fell asleep.


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