Camping at Home


Camping can be a fun activity that leaves your family with lasting memories.

But if you are unsure whether your kids (or you) can survive the great outdoors, you may want to pitch a tent in the backyard — or even the family room — first.

“Do whatever is easiest,” said Sam Dean, a freelance photographer from Vinton. “If someone hasn’t camped much themselves, then starting at home might be the best route so that systems and equipment can be managed in a less demanding environment.”

Dean can attest that his first camping venture with his then two-year-old son did not go exactly as planned. Fortunately, the pair was set up in the family’s backyard.

“Colter wanted to know where Mom was. When I told him she was staying in the house, he promptly insisted I unzip the tent and then he marched back to the house,” Dean recalled.

That was the end of the duo’s first campout.

Fortunately, Colter’s experiences with camping have improved with age. When he was three years old, the Deans successfully camped overnight in a Virginia state park. The family spent 11 nights in the woods last summer, including several short backpacking trips. Five-year-old Colter carried his own pack.

Dean said the most important thing to remember is to make it fun and comfortable for kids. Bring foods that can be roasted over a campfire, such as hot dogs and marshmallows. Pack your child’s standard favorite foods too. Ditch the electronic devices, and explore nature together.

Here are some activities you may want try if choose opt for stay-at-home camping:

A campfire will bring your backyard camping trip to life. A fire pit is perfect for the deck or backyard. It will set the ambience, while providing a source of heat to roast marshmallows. No camping trip is complete with s’mores!
If you really want to rough it, use the fire to cook dinner. But if your picky eaters prefer pizza or chicken nuggets, don’t make meal time difficult. You will be within walking distance from your home’s fully equipped kitchen.

If you are stuck indoors, let kids craft a faux campfire using an empty cereal box covered in brown paper with a paper towel tube in the center. Red, yellow, and orange construction paper can be used to create the flames.

Search the net for campfire song lyrics that can be printer, or download an album of songs, such as “Drew’s Famous Kids Camp Songs” from iTunes ($9.99). A family singalong of classics, including “Home on the Range” or “Camptown Races” would be an excuse to break the ban on electronic devices. Otherwise, turn off your smartphone and make sure the kids stash the iPods and Nintendo DS, as well.

Give the kids flashlights for games, such as tag, and for telling stories.

Stargazing is something that may appeal to all ages. So what, if you cannot pick out Ursa Major or . If it is a clear night, spread out a blanket and gaze into the open air. Enjoy the vastness and beauty of the night sky.


Growing Up in the Valley is Roanoke's very first family focused magazine. We are the premier source for family fun in Southwest & Central Virginia!
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