Night Under the Stars-star gazing guide

You don't have to jump into the car for a fun campout! Pitch a tent in your own backyard, build a campfire, or pretend with a lantern or flashlight and grab some marshmallows.

To get started, check out our activity ideas. Then print our stargazer's guide and our backyard campout checklist.

Activity Ideas for a Backyard Campout

The Set Up: Half the fun is in the anticipation. Ask the kids to help you pitch the tent, roll out the sleeping bags and prepare the munchies. If it's legal and safe in your area, designate and clear a small area of grass, brush, and debris for a campfire.

Campout chow: You'll need to fortify young campers with nutritious camp snacks and meals. The most fun (and easy) foods are camp staples like hot dogs and hamburgers. To give them an authentic camping experience, set up an outdoor grill over your campfire. Try these classic campout recipes:

Doggies in a Blanket
Smoky Cheese Dip
Peanut Butter & Jelly Munch Mix
JELL-O S'Mores Cups
JELL-O Firecrackers

Make like the pioneers: Serve your meals on mess kits and your drinks in individual canteens. If it's an especially warm evening, you may not need a tent at all.

Glow in the dark t-shirts: Grab a couple of white t-shirts and let your kids create their own camp t-shirt using glow-in-the-dark fabric paint. For inspiration, think back to your old camp t-shirts printed with pine trees, bears, beavers, and tee pees.

Spend the evening stargazing: Even the smallest children enjoy searching for constellations and counting shooting stars. Look for Ursa Major (The Big Dipper) or the planet Venus, one of the brightest "stars" in the western hemisphere.

Print our star gazing guide for a handy reference.