The idea of sleeping in tents, exploring nature and eating outdoors is exciting for a lot of kids. If you have a little camping enthusiast in your house, throw him a campout party for his next birthday. Invite his friends to come to the party in their best camping gear and set up the coolest campground around in your own back yard.
Turn your back yard into a kid-friendly campground. Set up children's tents around a fire pit. It doesn't have to be a real fire pit -- just arrange some large rocks in a circle and place some sticks in the middle of it. Put up a wooden sign with the camp name on it. You can use your last name or your child's name, such as "Camp Johnson," or "Camp Lila." Each tent can hold a different activity, such as one for arts and crafts and one for telling stories.
Serve simple camp food like hamburgers, hot dogs and baked beans. You can set up a trail mix bar, where the kids can mix and match a variety of nuts, dried fruit and candy pieces to their liking. For drinks, try water flavored with fruit such as oranges, served in individual canteens. Depending on the age of the kids and whether you have a real fire pit, you can have the kids roast marshmallows and make s'mores over the fire. Otherwise, you can give the kids s'more kits as a party favor to take home.
Plan a camping relay game for the kids. Scatter camping supplies around the yard and give each child a backpack and a list of items. The kids must find all the items needed for a camping trip and stuff them into the bag. The first child to put everything in their backpack wins. If you have a large group of kids and a large outdoor space, another idea is to play "capture the flag," a classic camping game. Divide the kids into two teams, each with its own territory. Each team places its flag somewhere visible on its territory. The goal is to get onto another team's territory, steal its flag and make it back to your own territory. However, if a child is tagged on another team's territory, they are sent to a jail and can only be freed by a fellow teammate tagging them free. The game ends when a flag is successfully captured or when one team has the most prisoners.
Divide the kids into pairs for a nature scavenger hunt. You can either have them look for nature items in your back yard, or you can take them on a nature walk in your area. Give the kids small binoculars and point out any wildlife, such as birds you might see along the way. Have them "fish" for prizes. Fill a wading pool with small prizes. Blindfold the kids, give them a toy fishing rod and have them try to hook a prize. Sit in one of the tents and take turns telling stories. If the kids are older, they might want to share ghost stories. For younger children, you can do story time with a book about camping.