Imagine the perfect camping experience: The kids beg to hear more stories, everyone’s enjoying s’mores and the whole family cuddles together to warm up a small tent. Outside the frogs and cicadas sing their songs under a bright starry sky—and if an emergency crops up, the house is only a few steps away.
Welcome to the Great American Backyard Campout, held Saturday, June 23, where families nationwide are encouraged to pitch a tent in the backyard and explore the natural surroundings right under their feet.
The third annual event is sponsored by the National Wildlife Foundation, in its continuing effort to "unplug" Americans from our technology-dependent society and help kids learn to love nature.
"One of NWF’s main initiatives is to reverse this disconnect, known as nature-deficit," says Ashleigh Poff, the foundation’s marketing communications coordinator.
The event’s Web site, www.backyardcampout.org, offers valuable tips like the safest ways to start and maintain a campfire, traditional camping songs and great recipes for s’mores. Before the campout, kids should visit the Web site with their parents to get the scoop on easy ways to safely observe nature, like how to make a sugary paste to spread on trees that attracts butterflies and insects.
"We want children to have fun and utilize their sense of wonder," Poff says. "Enjoying the outdoors will create appreciation for nature and encourage children to spend more time playing outside."
The campout is a great way for experienced campers to take it easy in the backyard or for beginners with younger children to learn the ropes of camping before traveling too far from home.
Once you sign up, get the kids excited by taking them along to buy supplies or by having them make up ghost stories to tell in the tent. For even more fun, invite some neighbors or your kids’ friends to join you. So take a night off from the TV, cyberspace and chauffeuring to the movies and take in the sights and sounds of the great outdoors.
Who knew your backyard could be so exciting.