Sleep Under the Stars this Saturday Night

This Saturday, June 28 is the Great American Backyard Camp Out when thousands of families will opt to leave the comforts of home (I’m talking cozy bed, fridge full of food and TV) and sleep under the stars. If the weather holds up, my family will hauling our 3-room tent outside. I like the fact that it’s in the back yard so if I need to use the facilities, I can walk right back inside.

Sponsored by National Wildlife Federation, this annual event is meant to encourage parents and kids alike to turn in all things high tech, and experience a night with Mother Nature.

Whether you are an old pro, new to the outdoors or camping with kids for the first time,
these tips and ideas will help you make the most of your campout.



General tips:

  • Children get cold faster than adults. Dress them in several layers, which can be peeled off as they get warm or added on as they cool off.
  • Children love to play with flashlights, and having one also makes them more at ease after dark. Flashlights are also handy when making trips to the bathroom, for making shadow puppets on tent walls, and for reading before bed.
  • Bring along a game you all like to play inside. Playing it outdoors with a lantern or flashlights will add to the fun.
  • Teach your kids to treat the outdoors kindly. Make sure all waste is disposed of properly.

For more tips, visit Parents and Kids magazine

If you’re not up for an entire night outside, spend just part of the evening in your back yard, listening to night sounds and admiring the stars. The whole family can enjoy this summertime activity.

Star Gazing (found on page 128 of The Siblings’ Busy Book)

On a clear summer night, head outside with your family to view the sky.


Large blanket


Celestial map or book on constellations

Red tissue paper

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Find a rural location without much artificial light. Spread a blanket for your family to sit on. There are approximately five thousand stars visible to the naked eye.


The stars may be too dim for your baby to see, but she’ll enjoy listening to her family talk and hearing the nature sounds. Lay her on her back with her siblings. Point to the stars and talk with her about all the nighttime noises she hears.


Your toddler will find an outdoor nighttime activity exciting!

If the moon is out, ask him if he can point to the brightest object in the sky. Entice his imagination by asking if he can see the man on the moon and what he may be doing up there. Count the stars together.


Help your preschooler find a few popular stars and constellations, like Polairs (North Star) and Ursa Major (the Big Dipper). Tell her the stories behind the constellations names. She can find her own too and create stories about them.

School-Age Child

Your school-age child will enjoy using a celestial map to identify a constellation. To help him see the stars more easily, have him place red tissue paper over his flashlight.


Excerpted from The Siblings’ Busy Book. Copyright 2008 by Heather Kempskie and Lisa Hanson. Reprinted with permission of Meadowbrook Press, Available in bookstores nationwide August 2008.

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