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A Backyard Campout

One of the things I miss about our pre-kid days is camping.  And yes, I know it’s possible to camp with young kids, but almost everything is possible.  But I don’t think it’s a stretch to say it’s a little more complicated to camp with young kids.

Before Miles was born, Brandon and I would go camping quite a bit.  We’ve never been really “roughing it” kinds of people, but we do like camping at campgrounds with bathrooms and electric hookups.  We like to hike and generally like being outdoors if the weather is okay.  We went camping around the Grayson/Ashland, Kentucky area where we lived as well as in other parts of Kentucky and Virginia with family.  One time we even had a camping trip with the two of us, my parents, Brandon’s parents and brother, and even our dogs!  It was a fun weekend, there’s just something great about being out in the woods and having to pack everything you need for your weekend survival into the back of your car.

However, since we’ve had kids, it hasn’t seemed like it would be possible enjoyable to go camping with our toddler and preschooler.  It hardly seemed worth the effort to pack up all of the baby things (swings/bouncers, high chairs, some kind of sleeping apparatus, and so  forth) for a few hours of “relaxation.”  Now that we have rid ourselves of almost all of the baby gear, it seems like 2012 might be the summer to take up camping again!

We bought a nice tent and camping supplies back when we seemed to have endless amounts of money, and luckily we got good enough things that they have held up over the years.  In addition to the six-person tent, we have a screen tent for eating, a propane grill, lanterns, and some other things that make camping nicer.

We have a few camping trips already arranged, one at the end of May (with my mom, sister, and nephew) and one in June (where I’ll be meeting up with some of my online mommy friends that I’ve been friends with since 2007!).  Since it would endanger my sanity to be thrown into the woods with a bunch of gear that hasn’t been used in years plus two wild children with no camping experience, we thought it would be fun and helpful to try some backyard camping to get them used to the idea of sleeping outside in a tent.

So that, my friends, is what we did.

Yesterday after work, we set up our monstrosity of a tent in the backyard, grilled hot dogs and made macaroni and cheese on the propane stove.  When it got a little darker, the boys explored the backyard with their flashlights (an activity I recommend even without an upcoming camping trip — they loved shining their flashlights all over their swing set and discovering how things look in the dark), and then we roasted marshmallows over a fire in our fire pit.  After we brushed teeth and changed into jammies, we all climbed into the tent to settle down for bed.

Tent Sleeping is a Pain

Allow me a sidebar to discuss sleeping arrangements in tents with little ones.   We do not own sleeping bags.  Sleeping bags seem kind of expensive, especially for children who may tend to pee the bed.  I tried to think of a good alternative to sleeping bags, considering making my own by sewing 2 sides of a fleece blanket together.  But in the end, I decided to try a method my mom passed down to me — an oldie but a goodie, the ole cheap pool raft.  I bought one at Dollar General for a mere $4, figuring if it didn’t work, we had at least tried and not spent much money.  But it really did work nicely!  Miles refused to lay on it, preferring to sleep on a stack of blankets, but Spencer liked sleeping on a soft, inflated surface.  Unfortunately, he is a wiggly sleeper, and I awoke several times during the night to find him in various positions both on and off the raft.  But all in all, I think it will be a good solution for travel sleep and I think I’ll be another one and figure out a way to get Miles to like it.

Now, another thing about sleeping in a tent.  Back when it was just Brandon and myself (sometimes with, sometimes without our dogs) in the tent, we would bring an elevated queen size air mattress for sleeping.  (Remember when I said we weren’t exactly the types to rough it?  That’s what I meant.)  Yeah, it took up some room, but it was at least comfortable.  But now that we have two small children, there’s not enough room for a big air mattress.  Instead, we tried to make a padded surface out of various blankets and bedspreads from our household collection.  Stay tuned to find out how that went…

So!  It was bedtime, and we knew the best way to get the boys to settle would be to turn on their favorite movie and watch “Up” on the laptop.  Sure enough, after some loud talking and acting out the first 30 minutes of scenes, they began to drift off to sleep.  Miles fell asleep first and slept like a rock all night.  Spencer took a little longer, and as previously discussed, he was all over the place but did sleep soundly.

Brandon and I, however…Well, it was like we were sleeping flat on the ground.  It was as though we had no padding whatsoever under us and today, my hips and back are still in pain.  We managed to sleep, even with the surprisingly loud sounds of the traffic from the nearby highway and the train going through town (SERIOUSLY, how many times does that thing go through town in the dead of night?!).  OH and it got COLD!  It was so hot yesterday afternoon and evening and we were all sweaty by the time we went to bed but by 1:00am or so, Brandon and I were freezing!  The boys were fine because they had blankets but I hadn’t thought we would need them for the adults.

By 4:30am, I’d had ENOUGH.  In several quick movements, we scooped up the boys, unzipped and rezipped the tent and made our way into our bed and everyone went back to sleep until it was time to wake up for the day.

If the weather cooperates, we hope to sleep in the tent again tonight, if nothing else, to make it feel like the whole set up was worth the trouble.  But if we do that, I need to figure out something to make it more comfortable.  I might set up the one twin air mattress we have and make a bed using two bedspreads and other fluffy blankets for the other person.  I think if they were all doubled over to make a bed for one instead of two, it would be comfortable enough.  OR maybe we’ll buy another twin mattress?  Not sure it’s worth it though.

All in all, it was a good experience and I think the boys will be ready for the campground in three weeks!

Have you gone camping with your young kids?  What made it easier for you?  What did you sleep on?

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About Krista

Krista is a full-time working mom of two boys, currently aged 6 and 7. She lives in Kentucky with her husband, Brandon.

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