Even if traditional summer camp isn't on your agenda for your kids this summer, they can still get in on all the fun with these tips for planning the perfect camp experience by turning your family’s backyard into a virtual summer camp!

Make your backyard the place to be this summer

If you were lucky enough to go to summer camp as a child, you likely remember experiencing your world in a whole new way. Making friends, discovering new interests, developing skills, and testing out newfound independence are just some of the amazing byproducts of time spent at summer camp.

The American Camp Association explains why kids' summer camp is so beneficial: “Camp provides children with a community of caring adults, who nurture experiential education that results in self-respect and appreciation for human value. All of the outcomes — self-identity, self-worth, self-esteem, leadership, and self-respect — build personal competencies. These personal competencies are reflected in the four "Cs" of the camp community: compassion, contribution, commitment and character!” 

Not all children will have the opportunity to experience summer camp first-hand, but parents can recreate some of that camp magic in their own backyard.

Plan the basic structure

The key to turning your backyard into a summer camp is careful planning. Sit down and put some thought into just what you want your camp to be. Ask yourself when you’ll hold camp and for how long, whether or not it will have a special theme or focus, whether or not you’ll have any sleepovers and what types of materials you’ll need.

For inspiration, check out our list of top summer camp books, movies and songs >>

Name it

Enlist your kids' help to come up with a great name for your camp. Having them help in the naming process will help to build up their sense of excitement and make the idea come to life.

Create your guest list

Have your children choose some friends to invite. Then, consider inviting other kids from your community who your children don’t know yet so that they can have the fun experience of making new camp friends.

Plan your activities

Tried-and-true arts and crafts projects for campers include creating camp T-shirts with fabric pens or paint, making friendship bracelets and creating art from materials found in nature.

Your little campers will love learning new physical games like badminton, bocce ball, croquet and horseshoes. Create as many stations as possible throughout your backyard so they can choose from their options and move freely between activities.

Here’s how to make your backyard look like summer camp >> 

The grand finale

Wrapping up the summer camp experience with a backyard sleepover complete with tents, campfire songs, semi-scary stories and the required s’mores will serve as a great ending to their camp experience and will likely be what they remember most of all.

Final thoughts

While hosting camp, try to assume the role of camp counselor rather than parent so that the children get the richest possible experience that most resembles traditional camp. Let them explore a bit more than usual, resolve their own conflicts and challenge themselves a bit and they’ll come away feeling more confident and self-assured.

More camp fun

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Comments on "Backyard turned summer camp"

Erin June 28, 2012 | 2:55 PM

This is too cute!! I love the Grand Finale of having a sleep over in tents (hey, it gets the kids outta the house for a night!) and making smores. These are some great ideas. Living in AZ, though, this will have to be more of a fall or winter event, as it's 110+ degrees out so there's no way anyone would be attending this backyard summer camp :)

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