Everyone loves a backyard camping trip, it’s great fun for everyone, but it’s also a great opportunity for learning. It is a fun way to teach your kids the basics of self-reliance, without them realizing they are learning anything because they’ll be having so much fun.
Start with ground rules that apply to your particular area. You may live in a place where starting a small fire in your backyard is acceptable, but many people do not, so consider what is appropriate first.
We like to set a “No going back into the house” rule once our backyard camping trip gets started, but many people will have to break this rule to handle basic bathroom necessities without offending your neighbors. Again, consider your area and what is okay in your neighborhood. The other rule we set is no electronics other than flashlights. You can come up with your own family camping rules and once you do, just let the fun begin.
Step 1 – Create Your Shelter
The first place you start whether out in the wilderness or in your backyard is to set up shelter. Sometimes this is a simple as popping a tent, but even that is a skill that is highly necessary in many survival situations. It is a good idea to make sure your kids knows how to pitch not just any tent, but also the one you and your family plan to use if faced with a survival situation. While it’s great to make sure that your emergency tent stays neat and safe, breaking it out and getting accustomed to how it works will save valuable time later, especially if you teach your kids how to take part in the action.
Backyard camping is also a great opportunity to teach your kids about alternative shelters, such as making a cover with a tarp and some rope. If you have a good amount of brush or plant life, you may consider teaching your kids about natural shelters, how to keep off the ground at night, and how to camouflage themselves from potential threats. These skills are fun for most kids to play with– tying knots, pitching tents, playing hide-n-seek, and making forts are all activities most kids love to take part in and the simple knowledge of how to do it well could save their life if faced with an outdoors survival situation.
Step 2 – Start a Fire
Again, starting a fire may be something that is prohibitive in your backyard, but you can still teach your kids how to properly build a campfire structure without lighting it. It’s a great opportunity to talk about fire safety, how to clear dangerous materials from a fire area, or how to properly put out a fire. In addition, let them learn about fire starting in a camp stove, rocket stove or hibachi grill. Learning the essentials of fire-starting, especially without the use of a lighter is a skill no child will ever forget.
Step 3 – Cook on a Camp Stove
Once you’ve got that camp stove going, it’s time to teach your kids how to cook without the aid of electricity. This is another opportunity to talk about safety, not just around fire but around food. Make sure your kids understand how food is properly cooked in order to avoid being sick. Basic survival cooking skills are an excellent thing to pass down to your kids; it can help keep them alive and safe as well as being a great job for the older kids to take on in a survival situation.
Step 4 – Purify Water
I feel like water purification is an extremely important aspect of teaching your kids survival. They need to know where to look for water and how to make it safe for consumption, and I find it easy to squeeze a little water lesson into a backyard camping sessions. You can have your kids simply purify some water that comes from your hose. It’s important to make sure my kids know how to use the water purification system you have on hand, as well as how to purify it by simply boiling it.
Step 5 – Navigate Using the Stars
When the stars come out to play it’s time to teach your kids the basics of celestial navigation. Teach them how to find the North Star and how to determine direction. This is a great opportunity to teach your kids how to use compasses too. You can easily turn this into a game, a sort of directional scavenger hunt if you will.
Step 6 – Read a Survival Story
Instead of the proverbial ghost story, when it’s time for bed dig into a good survival book. Getting your kids’ head in the mindset of being able to survive will go a long way if and when a disaster actually hits. Having heroes and characters that have proven how self-reliant kids can be is an important self-esteem booster that can keep your kids strong and level headed at the most important time. Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet is one of the most popular survival texts and has been enjoyed by children and teens for many years. The Swiss Family Robinson and Robinson Crusoe are also long standing favorites, but for the early teenage set you may get further with something like the Hunger Games.
A night of backyard camping is simple fun that is part of almost everyone’s childhood. With a little extra planning and guidance, you can turn it into an opportunity to help instill valuable skills and self-reliance in your kids, making them part of the team and an asset in survival.