By a camping expedition, we mean a couple tents pitched in the backyard. If you have camping equipment, you're good to go. If you don't, stock up at a discount department store or borrow from friends or neighbors.
You need a couple small tents (or one big one), a few roasting sticks and a lantern. Many parents have a contained, free-standing fire pit. Adults obviously need to supervise any campfire activities, but nothing says fun like the smell of a campfire. Let the kids roast hot dogs and, later, marshmallows for s'mores. If the kids are older, let them take turns telling scary stories.
Are your kids ready for the real deal? Check out this must-have camping checklist before you hit the road >>
This one is not for mothers who are faint of heart, but boys and tomboys will love this! On the invites, encourage invitees to wear playclothes and shoes, and to bring their favorite Matchbox cars and Tonka tractors and trucks. All moms and dads have to do is find some dirt and imagination.
Pile and scatter some dirt in the driveway and spray it down with water. Buy a few pavers and some PVC pipe, as well as anything that might double as bridge-building material. Set up a "car wash" as part of the play area. Now cut the kids loose. It's not easy watching kids get that dirty, but you won't hear a peep from them for hours. This is primal kid play… just stay out of their way.
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This is an oldie but a goodie, and you can put your own spin on it. Lots of little girls have frilly Halloween costumes lying around and need little encouragement to get decked out in them. You might have a tea party for Disney princesses or for favorite TV characters such as Dora and the gang.
If you have the girls bring their dress-up clothes, they can help in the kitchen, making the cookies or small cakes for the tea party and then dressing up afterward. Have lots of little-girl makeup and ribbon on hand. Order up tea party jewelry kits from Oriental Trading that the girls can make before getting all decked out. Ask a couple other moms to help out, and be sure the big girls get dressed up, too.
From invite ideas to creative themes, check out these tips for throwing a spring tea party >>
This warm weather classic is a home run when brave moms go for broke in the junk food department. The dollar store should have everything you need -- for instance, place settings and tablecloths. Then, you'll have to plunk down for things you might not ordinarily buy, such as chips, cream-filled cookies and -- say it with us -- Easy Cheese. Buy individual ice cream cups for the kids while you're at it.
Now that you have a menu for which kids would give their left arms, throw in some fun yard games. Gather up some over-the-top bubble makers and sidewalk chalk. If you have spare time, organize a scavenger hunt.
Need picnic-food inspiration? Check out these simple picnic recipe ideas >>
Think bugs, birds and butterflies for invites, themes and decorations. Have lots of tissue paper and pipe cleaner on hand for making flowers. Take the kids to the nearby park for a nature walk, and bring along a bird and plant guide for identification purposes. Visit a paint store and ask if they have a wallpaper book they'd like to get rid of. Kids can collect things on the nature walk and make their own scrapbooks with pieces of wallpaper.
Serve flower cookies and bug juice for the older kids. (Bug juice is Kool-aid with plastic bugs frozen in ice cubes, and should not be served to toddlers!).
Check out this creepy, crawly recipe for bug juice >>
Turn the backyard into a water park! This idea involves a couple wading pools, the sprinkler system and lots of water guns. Throw in a water slide or a slip and slide. Put interesting water toys or floaties in the pools. Have a couple of five-gallon buckets of pre-filled water balloons available. Expect everyone to play hard that day and sleep well that night!
Looking for more outdoor games for kids? Check out these fun backyard games! >>
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