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Camping in Your Own Backyard

Spring fever beckons us outdoors with butterflies and wildflowers and sunshine. The fun doesn’t have to stop when the sun goes down, or even when we’re stuck at home. Consider the best of all staycations: camping in your own backyard.

There are so many benefits: no travel, little cost, available electricity and bathrooms, a kitchen full of food, a nearby bed if you decide to bail and so much more. It’s a great opportunity to practice for a future trip or just check out your gear.

Electricity Sure, we go camping to escape from stuff that needs electricity and batteries, but they can add a bit of magic to your backyard campout. Dust off the Christmas lights and decorate the yard or hang them inside the tent. If you can’t have a campfire, get creative with an illuminated centerpiece for your nighttime gathering.

Tents If you’ve got a tent, you’re good to go. Just find a level spot without rocks. Got an extra? It’s perfect for an outdoor playroom if filled with toys. For us big kids, a folding table and chairs can create a great spot for puzzles and board/card games. No tent? No worries! Using your imagination, some old sheets and blankets can be transformed into your own tepee.

Food Roasting hot dogs and marshmallows is the classic favorite, but with the kitchen so close, you can get creative. Whether it’s a cast-iron peach cobbler or a peanut butter sandwich, everything tastes better outdoors. Check out some tantalizing variations on s’mores in our April 2017 camping guide.

Music Can’t sing? No problem — only the cicadas can hear you. Gather around the campfire and belt out classics like Row Your Boat or (clap, clap, clap, clap) Deep in the Heart of Texas or even the latest hit. Make your own rhythm instruments from empty containers with a few pebbles or beans.

Crafts Break out the paint for a “plein-air” session or use twigs and pebbles and flower petals to create nature collages. Build a birdhouse or “butter” a piece of wood with homemade butterfly food. Lie on your belly with camera in hand to zoom in on the micro-world or climb a tree to take some aerial shots. Make prints from leaves or create miniature fairy gardens.

Games If it’s rainy, use that extra tent for a dominoes tournament or to play hangman, charades, tic-tac-toe, checkers or any simple games. You’ve got all the time in the world for a jigsaw puzzle, Monopoly, Risk and other multi-hour marathon games. Of course, if the weather’s fine, set up a volleyball net or croquet set, but for a fresh twist, add a few zany “home” rules. If it’s hot, fill up the kiddie pool for your own “lake” or have a water-balloon fight. Remember hide-and-seek, hopscotch and scavenger hunts?

Nature Open your eyes to the amazing natural world in your yard. Get out a magnifying glass and examine the micro-world at your feet. Check out an online guide to identify the native plants and creatures you see. Enter them into iNaturalist and, voila, you’re an official citizen scientist. Don’t forget the simple joys of making mud pies and whistling through a blade of grass.

Dream Use this quiet opportunity for deep talks and dreaming about the future. Plan a real camping trip, share your feelings and just spend quiet time watching the clouds roll by or the stars twinkling above.

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