This summer, the days have felt especially long. Due to COVID, I find myself saying “no” and “we can’t” a lot more than I want to. The restrictions and precautions evoked by parks and outdoor spaces, along with those we choose to abide by as a family, have left me feeling like I’m trapped in a shrinking room!

Then one day, shoulders slumped as I sad-sacked around the house, I decided to change things up. All summer long, my husband and I have been missing our regular adventures. Camping has been high on our list because, though he has been camping in our old Westy, our 3-year-old has never been tent camping! Cue, backyard camping!

The Pre-Test

We figured there was no reason to put it off any longer. I got our tent out of the basement and walked purposely across the living room toward the back door, only to be stopped halfway by my very insistent son. He was VERY interested in setting up the tent… in the living room. And that’s exactly what we did. It was the perfect way to test out this whole camping thing… before we tested it out.

Though my intention was to pitch the tent in the backyard, I recommend this “pre-test” to anyone who has concerns about your child actually sleeping in the tent. Our son has always been an early riser and so he is also an early sleeper. To expect that he could get to sleep at his usual 5 PM bedtime with the summer sun still at its peak and so many backyard distractions was a tall order.

We had other concerns too but the most pressing was bedtime routine, general supervision, and whether or not my husband and I would get any sleep.

With the tent set up in the house, my son was content to “pretend camp” for weeks. We looked for plastic night animals with our headlamps, roasted Lego marshmallows, and slept under a Christmas light sky.

It was a major success and was just what we needed to shake up the boredom. However, if you opt to skip this pre-test and head right to the backyard I do have a few helpful tips.

Photo Credit: Deanna Curry @shinydayadventures

Photo Credit: Deanna Curry @shinydayadventures

Taking the Tent Outside

Though our son is an early sleeper part of the appeal of going camping is that you get to do things you normally wouldn’t (here are some ways to make camping fun for kids). When we finally made it outside with the tent we stayed up until it got dark, around 8:30 pm, looking for nocturnal animals and lightning bugs. By then we didn’t have to worry about the sun and all the neighborhood noise had quieted. Not to mention, he was so tired we didn’t even need the bedtime routine to lull him to sleep. We also let my son fill his tiny belly with a marshmallow, hot dog, and Chex Mix dinner.

As far as supervision, we actually went to sleep when my son did that night because, well, we are parents and we are tired. But if you’re camping with a baby (check out this post on camping with a baby) or your kids go to sleep before you, a baby monitor, or even an open window, depending on your situation should suffice.

Photo Credit: Ashley Scheider

Photo Credit: Ashley Scheider

Backyard Camping Tip

The number one tip I can offer is this, try to remember why you wanted to do this. We did it because we wanted our son to experience all the things we love about camping and being outside. So, we let our kid eat junk food, set off a few sparklers, forgot about bedtime, were noisy and ridiculous, and as much as possible tried to remember what it’s like to be a kid.

Need more inspiration? We got you covered:

Do you have a favorite family room or backyard camping memory? Share it in the comments!

Be sure to join the Hike it Baby Community Facebook Group. It’s a great place to ask questions, learn from others, and share your family’s outdoor adventures!

About Hike it Baby

Hike it Baby is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to getting families outdoors and on trails across the U.S. and internationally, supporting, educating and inspiring families through their more than 300 communities across North America. Since its grassroots inception in 2013 in Portland, Oregon, Hike it Baby is now a growing community of 270,000 families and 500 volunteer branch ambassadors hosting more than 1,600 hikes per month. More information, as well as daily hike schedules, can be found at, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Editors Note:
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