Unplug and head outside. That’s the idea behind the National Wildlife Federation’s popular, nationwide Great American Backyard Campout.™ In conjunction with Great Outdoors Month, this annual June family event encourages people of all ages to camp in their backyards, neighborhoods, parks and campgrounds, as a way to reconnect with nature.
This year’s event is Saturday, June 28. “Kids need to experience camping, especially in their youth when the wonders of the outdoors can influence their future love for nature and wildlife,” said Maureen Smith, chief marketing officer for the National Wildlife Federation®, America’s largest conservation organization. National Wildlife Federation programs educate and inspire Americans to protect wildlife and its habitat for our children’s future.
There are a lot of benefits to taking your kids camping. “In addition to developing a deeper appreciation for the outdoors and the wildlife around them, through camping in their backyard or at a local park, being in nature helps to burn off energy, stay fit and be mentally focused for school, homework and all activities in their busy day,” Smith said.
For its Great American Backyard Campout, the National Wildlife Federation provides nearly everything you need to head out into the great outdoors. The event website(www.backyardcampout.org) has packing lists, recipes, nocturnal wildlife guides, exploration activities, nature games and more.
Now in its 10th year, the event is part of the organization’s 10 Million Kids Outdoors campaign, a three-year initiative to get kids outside regularly, connecting to nature. According to the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), which supports the National Wildlife Federation campaign, increasingly fewer American children are playing outside, from 75 percent a generation ago to only 25 percent today. The goal of the federation’s initiative is “creating a generation of happier and healthier children with more awareness and connection to the natural world,” according to the NRPA (www.nrpa.org).
The National Wildlife Federation has worked to connect youth with nature for decades, inspiring children through its Ranger Rick and Ranger Rick Jr. magazines, working with educators to get kids learning outdoors and helping parents find new ways to engage their children outside.
For the past two years, my son and I have participated in the National Wildlife Federation’s camping event. Prior to moving to Prince William, we lived in a small town in rural Alabama. So camping in our backyard was very much like being in the middle of the woods. Instead of just throwing up a tent and heading to the backyard, I like to try to make things as exciting as possible. We work on crafts the week before and get our grocery list for the things we will want to cook on our campfire.
Of course, no campout can be complete without making s’mores. Here are simple steps to creating your own custom marshmallow roasters. I spent a total of $3 in supplies for this affordable craft, and kids will love being able to use their creativity to design their own.
Long round wooden dowel 1 inch in diameter
Clear wood sealer spray paint
Twine, buttons, scrapbook papers and other supplies to decorate (optional)
Cut the wooden dowel into about 6-inch lengths. Drill a hole in the bottom for skewers and, if making a string handle, also through the top for the twine or yarn. Sand the edges.
Decorate your dowels as desired and allow them to dry. Use clear wood sealer spray paint to coat the dowels and let that dry completely.
Clip the end of your metal skewers and add adhesive to the end. Insert the skewer into the bottom of your dowel.
Add your twine for the handle along with any buttons or other decor items you want to use.
Before roasting food, burn the end of the metal stick in the fire for a few minutes to burn off any residue.
Also, lighting is always important when camping. You can create this Mason jar solar lantern with a basic Mason jar and a $1 solar light. Uncap the solar light from its stand. Remove the inner portion of the jar lid and secure the solar light to the top. I used hot glue and twine on this one. Use some heavy wire to wrap around the edge of the jar and create your hanger. Your new lantern will now easily hang from inside your tent. You could also skip hanging it and just set it out on the ground or your camp table.