I learned about a great outdoor activity a week from today.

The Great American Backyard Campout on June 22 is something for the whole family. It is a nationwide event, so probably tens of thousands of families will participate this year. The event has a website — backyardcampout.org — where participants may sign up, just for record-keeping, for the National Wildlife Federation program called “Be Out There.”

This free program was developed as a motivator to get children and their parents outside to connect with nature. That may sound silly, but these days, nature can sometimes take a backseat to games on mobile devices and even those indoor Wii mock-sports activities.

The Great American Backyard Campout can be done in your backyard, in a safe neighborhood setting, or in a group at a local or state park. (Parents, be aware of the safety standards for anywhere the kiddos camp out.)

There really aren’t any rules involved in this activity. It’s intended to promote self-discovery of all nature has to offer. If you’d like to come up with some pre-planned activities, the nature scavenger hunt I discussed last week would be great as well as coming up with some outdoor recipes that are easy to plan and prepare while camping. (Everything tastes better to me when you eat outdoors.)

Another great activity to do with the kids involves using their senses. In this noisy world of ours, rediscovering our senses, particularly hearing and smell, in the outdoors can be quite exciting and imaginative, not to mention inspirational. Playing a game of listening (or smelling) and trying to identify the sound/smell of an object can be very fun, yet challenging. Looking at the night sky, constellations and feeling the wind can lead to great conversations.

And I dare say, all participating parents will discover a thing or two, not only about their children but about themselves. Being outside, with fewer distractions, can both relax and stimulate us in ways not possible indoors.

I hope to hear from you if your family decides to participate. Happy camping.

Darla Menking is a certified Bell County Texas Master Gardener and a Texas Master Naturalist. Email her at darla.menking@gmail.com.

(1) comment


We participated last year and are looking forward to doing it again with our girls tonight...

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