Here’s How I Turned My Backyard Into An Adventure Camp

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“Ah, there’s nothing quite like the thrill of a blank canvas.” That was my first thought when I got the idea to turn my backyard into a fun-filled family adventure camp.

Then I noticed that the canvas wasn’t exactly blank. There was some junk I parked out there “temporarily.” A patch or two of dried-up grass. And a fence that’s definitely seen better days.

But that all turned out to be a bonus. Because it gave me even more motivation to turn this little patch of green into a backyard adventure camp. A place where our family could spend our socially-distanced time together exploring, discovering nature, relaxing and just having fun hanging out.

It’s surprisingly easy to make your own Camp Backyard Adventure. With some imagination, simple planning and a few supplies, you can definitely achieve this glow up.

All Hands On (The) Deck

My days of doing everything by myself with a big “TA-DA!” reveal to some half-hearted oohs and ahhs are over. The first step to creating this backyard memory factory was getting everyone involved in thinking through exactly what we wanted.

We decided on themes and used the themes to plan activities. When you’re planning, pick four or five themes based around whatever your kids are interested in at the moment, as long as it isn’t “screens.”

Decide If You Need A Daily Plan or Can “Wing It” with Lots of Free Play

Once we decided on our themes, it was time to think about exactly what activities would look like.

One of our themes was The Beach, since this backyard is about as close as we’re getting to the shore this year. (The beach is a state of mind, right?) So we decided we’d make some cool surfer-inspired tie-dye t-shirts. To recreate the sand castle experience, we picked up a couple bags of sand and dumped them on a tarp on the grass. We even planned a “beachside bonfire” with a Hawaiian-themed grill menu.

Treasure Hunting was another theme. That meant scavenger hunts galore, mapping the backyard, geocaching for treasures, making eye patches and swords, and, naturally, talking like pirates.

Scheduling is up to you. Some families really like a whiteboard with a daily plan or you can use a project planning app. For others, it’s about doing whatever, whenever. One of the benefits of creating your own ticket to adventure is that you get to do everything on your own time.

Think of Your Backyard as a Series of Activity Stations

Once we had a pretty good idea of what kinds of things we wanted to do, we started planning the space. A few were obvious — the side of the house made the most sense as a “screen” for shadow puppets and talent shows — but some were not as straightforward.

We didn’t want to spend a lot of money. But we did invest in a tent. If you don’t have one, find one that fits both your budget and your backyard. A tent makes a great resting spot and reading nook. You don’t have to sleep out every night (oh please, no). But it’s really fun to do it at least a few times during the year. Plan outdoor movies and sleepy little ones can crash out early while older ones look at the stars.

I also picked up some low-cost items that are camp staples for a reason like hula hoops, beach balls, binoculars so we can bird watch, jump ropes, plastic sheeting (DIY Slip ‘N Slide or bust) and some large plastic tubs for rubber ducky “fishing.”

Work with the area you’ve got. If you’re doing a gardening theme, kids can plant some fast-growing veggies. Or just clear a small plot of soil and stock it with some butterfly-attracting plants. If your backyard is teeny-tiny, use it as your base camp: a meeting spot before setting out on neighborhood hikes and bike rides.

Sure, finding ways to recreate camp from home can seem a little daunting. But when you remember what those adventures are really about — great memories of time spent together — you can make it happen anywhere.

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