I first heard of the Great American Backyard Campout from my husband, Herbie. He follows the National Wildlife Federation’s (NWF) facebook page and decided we needed to get involved as a family. The focus of NWF is to get kids outdoors exploring in nature to create healthier and happier children. In achieving this goal, NWF promotes the Great American Backyard Campout on a specific day each year to encourage parents to unplug and spend time with their kids outdoors. You can also register on NWF’s website to donate to their cause which is “to establish and maintain programs to make outdoor time a priority to protect children’s health and ensure their readiness to learn.”
This year’s Great American Backyard Campout was held on June 23 and marked our 2nd year participating. To make things more fun and also expose our friends to camping, we invited a few other families to join us, most of which haven’t camped since our 1st backyard campout last year. We wanted to keep things simple with the focus on exploring the backyard, so we only offered a few organized activities, such as a craft and hikes.
As families arrived, we helped them get settled in by pitching their tent and putting away food items.
Then, the kids were let loose to explore their surroundings. BTW, this is probably the only opportunity all year that this group of adults get to have conversations together without interruption from the kids. We were able to lounge around and talk without kids screaming for attention for almost an hour. You’d be amazed by how a group of kids can come together and entertain themselves without the aid of an electrical device.
With the help our our Living Beyond the Box DIY mom Amber, we set up a craft table for painted rock bugs which the kids loved. Even the preteen kids enjoyed this activity and happily helped the younger ones complete their projects.
For dinner, every family was assigned an entree, side dish, or dessert to contribute. We had a wide variety of dishes such as marinated chicken, vegetable skewers, cabbage salad, mac & cheese, fruit, and pizza (which was delivered through the back gate…lol). Everyone was fed and happy!
Before bed, the older kids organized night hikes for the little ones. With flashlights & glow sticks in hand, all the kids enjoyed a nice stroll through the backyard in the dark.
After the kids started to get tired, everyone brushed teeth and changed into pjs to get ready for bed. Some kids went down easy and others didn’t. For those parents who didn’t fall asleep with their kids, we were able to spend some time chatting around the campfire. All in all…It was a great day!
As a disclaimer, this is not the type of event that you should expect to get a lot of sleep. Kids wind down at different times, they talk to each other through the tents, some kids will wake up as soon as the sun comes up, and people may snore. You just have to keep in mind that even though it is a lot of work with little sleep, these are the memories that your kids will carry with them for a lifetime.
All things considered, the 2nd Annual Great American Backyard Campout at the Smith’s was a great success! We successfully engaged all of the children through the outdoor environment with very little parent encouragement or use of electronic devices. Although the parents were still using their devices to document the day, it was not a distraction. Following the campout, most of the families discussed another summer camping trip with great optimism. If we could encourage at least one family to develop a love for camping in the great outdoors, I would be extremely satisfied. If not, there’s always the 3rd Annual Great American Backyard Campout!
Here’s a little campout video for you.