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Camping-themed party décor

Selena Dehne is a marketing and public relations manager for JIST Publishing, freelance writer and life-long Hoosier. She covers home, entertaining, and holiday topics for SheKnows.com and FabulousLiving.com. Selena has also published do...

Transform your backyard into a campsite

Picking a kid-friendly theme for a birthday party can be difficult, especially when it seems as though kids outgrow their favorite toys, books and movies just as quickly as their clothes. If you’re planning an upcoming party for your child and need a theme he or she isn’t likely to outgrow in the upcoming months, opt for a camping theme. It’s a great theme, because people of all ages can enjoy what “the great outdoors” has to offer!

A welcome banner

To help you easily transform your backyard into a fun and welcoming campsite, consider incorporating the following elements.

1Tents

Tents are a must if your child and his or her friends will be spending the night in your backyard. You can pitch a large one, so that all of the kids can sleep together, or you can pitch several small ones and divide the kids into groups of two or three per tent.

Even if the party is not an overnight affair, you can still set up tents to create a scene that resembles a campsite. If you don't have access to multiple tents, create your own using blankets, tarps, sticks and PVC pipes.

Movie

2Rustic signage

For an extra-special touch, consider hanging or posting homemade signs. Desiree Spinner, owner of Desiree Spinner Events, suggests using a hand-painted sign to greet guests. "It's the perfect camp-themed welcome and it's way more original than balloons," she explains.

You can also hang signs on tents. Write the names of the children the tent is intended for on the sign. Then post coordinating signs around your "campsite" that feature clever camp-themed phrases or lighthearted warnings. For example, when Tracie Stier-Johnson hosted a kids camping party, she posted wooden signs that included phrases like "no boys allowed" and "don't feed the bears."

3A welcome banner

Anyone who's ever been to summer camp can probably remember seeing a giant welcome banner across the entrance of the campground. Stier-Johnson created one -- complete with s'mores graphics -- to welcome guests to the party.

Picnic tables

4Picnic tables

Wooden picnic tables are ideal for camp-themed parties, and your options for decorating them are vast and varied. You can use lanterns for centerpieces (and additional nighttime lighting); plaid or flannel fabric for tablecloths or table runners; and rounded blocks of wood for displaying food and drinks at different height levels. To really evoke a feeling of "the great outdoors," consider decorating tables with flowers and small evergreen shrubs.

Spinner says you can also paint an outdoor picnic table to create a fun and interactive guest book.

5Portable chairs, square hay bales and wooden logs

When camping, people generally use collapsible chairs for seating. For a camp-themed party, gather a group of these chairs -- using your own stash and borrowing from friends and neighbors – and place them around a fire pit or activity site or in front of an outdoor movie screen. For a unique alternative to traditional chairs, opt for square hay bales, wooden logs or even blankets.

A fire

6A fire

You can't have a camping-themed party without creating some kind of a fire for guests to enjoy. If you live in the country, you may be able to build a bonfire yourself. If you live within a community, you'll probably have to settle for a small fire pit. If you don't already own one, you can purchase one at retailers like Lowes, Home Depot or Target. You can also create your own using bricks or stone blocks.

In addition to these ideas, draw décor inspiration from your own camping experiences. Think about the things you love best about camping and find creative ways to recreate them in your own backyard.

Campfire goodies

Foil-wrap campfire desserts

When you've had enough of s'mores, here are some yummy dessert alternatives to cook on your campfire.

More camping ideas

Top summer camp books, movies and songs
Summer camp packing ideas
Packing tips for overnight summer camp

Photo credit: Tracie Stier-Johnson Photography
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