Thought kids could only go camping in the woods? Pitching a tent close to home is a great way to have fun and learn new skills, and it's easy to "rough it" in the backyard.
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Kids can imagine they're in the forest as they pitch tents, cook out, and gaze at the stars, all within range of parents' watchful eyes -- and an indoor bathroom.
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With a pair of binoculars, a compass, and a trail guide, kids will be inspired to explore new terrain (in your backyard!), identify trees and birds, and scout out animal homes. Then they can record their discoveries in a camp journal.
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Keep a Cooler
When closed, it's a tabletop for chow time, and inside ice packs keep bottled water cold and milk and fruit fresh for tomorrow's breakfast.
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Making a Fire
Campers need fires for many reasons, including cooking, light, and warmth. Prepare space for a safe backyard fire so you can make hot dogs.
Collect large stones and arrange them in a ring with clear space around it to prevent the fire from spreading. Set a small charcoal grill in the center and pour a bucketful of pebbles around the base to stabilize it and to absorb sparks. A grown-up can light a fire in the grill.
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Prepare a hearty meal of grilled hot dogs topped with cheese and chili reheated over the fire. It'll give the hungry woodsmen all the energy they need to go exploring.
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A vivid imagination (and maybe a deck of cards) is all kids need for entertainment. At sundown, shadows rule! Kids will find plenty of ways to play with them.
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No camping adventure is complete without making classic s'mores. Have an adult help make the gooey treats.
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Leave time to look for the constellations. Use a rubber band to fasten red cellophane over the end of a flashlight; this way you won't have to readjust your eyes to look for Cygnus the Swan in the night sky.
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Most regular tents are big enough for two sleeping campers. You can easily set up a second tent using some basic camping supplies: two waterproof tarps with grommet holes (available at home-improvement stores), tent pegs, rope, and clothespins.
Stretch the rope between two trees (or other fixed points); tie securely. Drape a large tarp over it. Working together, pull out two opposite corners. At about a foot out from each corner, place a tent peg. Let go of tarp; hammer pegs halfway into ground; angle pegs out for strength. Repeat for other corners and slide the tarp out of the way.
Lay a smaller tarp on ground under rope; tie it to the pegs with rope or bungee cords. Reposition roof tarp; tie to pegs. Place clothespins along the roof rope to hold the tarp in place.
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Light the Lantern
Hang a low-beam lantern and a favorite stuffed animal neatly at the tent's entrance to dispel scary dreams.
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Rise and Shine!
Enjoy breakfast served crisp and cold in metal mugs -- a fitting ending to an exciting adventure.