Ready to pledge to go camping? See why these families enjoy it


Here are some camping activities you can do — even in your backyard.

Backyard Matching Game

While you’re outside, ask your child to cover his or her eyes. Fill a bag with items from outdoors — pine cones, a leaf or two, a red rock, a gray pebble, a dandelion, a y-shaped stick, and so on. To play the game: have your child reach into the bag and pull out an object. They must then look for its match. Once a match is found, the child pulls another item from the bag and looks for another match.

Build an outdoor fort

Using materials such as boxes (the larger, the better), old blankets (that can get dirty), long sticks, rope, along with optional items (rakes, clothespins, plastic sheets), have your child create his or her own outdoor hideout. A couple of ideas: drape blankets on low tree limbs and use as a covering for a fort; recycle a large box, cut out windows, and call it home.

Note: The best forts are totally kid-constructed.

Firefly fun

Watch the light show. Flashing fireflies are everywhere. Look for males flashing as they fly and females twinkling in one place. See if you can figure out their flash patterns. Are they all one species or several different ones?

Catch and release. For a close-up look, catch a few fireflies in a jar. Check them out and then let them go, of course.

Source: National Wildlife Federation’s Southeast Regional Office


For those who have never ventured into the woods, 13 state parks offer loaner gear through the First-Time Camper program. The program's equipment was donated to the parks by Coleman, REI and the North Face, and for $50 per family, first-time adventure seekers can spend two nights in a modern campground with a tent, sleeping pads, chairs, a camp stove, lantern and marshmallow-roasting sticks. The $50 includes the cost of staying at the park. Parks also have a $5 parking fee. Park staff and volunteers can help set up the tents and provide "Camping 101" instructions.

Note: It is recommended that reservations are made at least two weeks in advance.


To read about yurts, a new kind of camping experience, go to

Tips for camping like a pro:

Sharifa Ned grew up camping in Northern California. She went hiking, slept under the stars and enjoyed all of the trappings of spending a night in the great big outdoors. But for her husband, Valder, who grew up in coastal Florida, tent camping was a foreign concept.

Shortly after getting married 13 years ago and settling in Douglasville, Sharifa introduced her husband to the joys of camping. And ever since, the family, which now includes 6-year-old Laila and 9-year-old Amari, tries to camp at least once a year.

“Don’t get me wrong: I love glamour and I love luxury and all of that, but when you go camping, there is togetherness, there is an experience in nature,” Sharifa said. “And you are creating memories for your children that will last a lifetime.”

The National Wildlife Federation is hoping more people make a commitment to camping at least once this summer. The NWF recently kicked off the 11th Annual National Wildlife Federation Great American Campout, and it is urging people of all ages to pledge to camp anywhere — a forest, a local park or even their own backyards.

The event website at provides tips on what to bring, lists of campout activities and recipes. Campers are encouraged to take #Campies (Camping Selfies) and submit them to NWF's Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages to share their experiences.

The goal of the Great American Campout: to unplug, reconnect with nature and inspire the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts.

Sharifa Ned said her family, which enjoys camping at state parks including High Falls State Park near Jackson, loves listening to the sounds of nature — a waterfall, a hooting owl, chirping cicadas. They also enjoy sitting around the campfire making up stories — each family member says a line or two of a story and then the next family member takes it from there.

While the family tries to pack light, they always bring a few comforts from home — including an air mattress for sleeping, and a portable, electric grill to whip up eggs and pancakes for breakfast.

Meanwhile, MaKara Rumley, her husband, Rob, and three kids between the ages of 6 and 10 camp two to three times every year. Rumley said she likes exposing her kids to the camping experience even when things don’t go smoothly.

Last year, for example, her family arrived at their campsite in darkness — and then it started to rain. But the less-than-ideal conditions, she said, forced her family to work together and be resilient. Everyone chipped in to set up the tent and make dinner, and then after one of the sleeping bags got wet, they had to share their sleeping bags.

“With camping, you have to learn to be flexible, and to be innovative and creative,” Rumley said, “and those are important life skills.”

Once the weather cools, the Rumley family plans to set up a tent in the backyard of their Atlanta house.

And even though they will be just a few steps away from home, they plan to make the most of the experience, and leave all electronics inside.