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Setting Up a Backyard Campout for Kids of All Ages

From the tent to the fire to the goodies, get tips on creating the ultimate camping scene right in your own yard

Warm summer nights provide the perfect atmosphere for hosting a late summer campout in your own backyard. The kids will feel a surge of independence while staying within earshot of the house, and they'll get to enjoy a starry summer night before it's time to head back to early bedtimes and days filled hitting the books. So, pitch a tent and invite their friends for a backyard campout.

Setting up the site

Set up a tent for the happy campers, and tell parents that the campout is BYO-sleeping bags. To create an authentic campsite, consider investing in a portable grill or fire pit. Fire pits offer a realistic campfire feel, while portable grills can be a more affordable alternative. Place a cooler filled with beverages outside of the tent as well. Chairs and a small table complete the campsite mood.

The snacks

Trail mix provides a fun camp-inspired food to munch on all night long. Simply combine equal parts of lightly salted peanuts, mini pretzels, Cheerios, M&M's, raisins and banana chips, then toss and enjoy. Creative parents can add other dried fruits, candies, cereals, seeds or salty snacks to the mix.

S'mores are a must at any campout. This favorite camp dessert requires only marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate bars. The portable grill or fire pit comes in handy for toasting marshmallows, however a stationary grill can work as well.

If the campout begins early, have the kids cook their own hot dogs over the fire. While the hot dog may be black and sooty, they will taste great to the kids because they were fun to make.

For little campers

If your child is younger, consider setting up a tent near theirs to ensure their safety. Plan activities for the children in the daylight, such as a tent-decorating competition. As nighttime falls, assist them with their s'mores while you teach them campfire songs and show them the Big Dipper.

This is also a good time to tell stories or read them a book. Bailey Goes Camping by Kevin Henkes is a story about a little bunny who is too young to go camping with his siblings, so mom and dad show him how to camp at home. If the kids are afraid of the dark, keep a lantern on. Also, consider hosting the campout under a full moon.

Big kid campout

As a general rule, a campout for older children will require less planning by adults, as they will easily entertain themselves. Allow older children to help set up the tent and participate in any of the preparation. Before their guests arrive, establish quiet hours so the neighbors aren't disturbed all night.

Also, if the children are using a grill or fire pit, safely position the grill on the lawn and establish rules regarding the fire. For example, the fire must be extinguished when parents go to bed. Uneasy parents can give children old baby monitors or a walkie-talkie to allow them to stay in contact.

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