Camping Party

Backyard Campout - Capture the Flag Game




Steffazz in Deltona, FL  USA


August 2003



Backyard Overnight Campout Party  Have a big lawn and hankering for fun and adventure? Invite the neighborhood kids over for a sleepover under the stars. Tell scary stories, make s’mores, and learn how to light a campfire for this night of spooky wholesome fun! 

INVITATIONS/GUESTS; compile a guest list of about 7-15 kids. Make sure everyone is compatible with each other and with the theme of the party. We don’t want any “indoorsy” types raining on our parade! Inform parents of the nature of the agenda…namely, cooking and sleeping outdoors. They might have some valid concerns or some useful advice. Ask a few moms and dads to drop by and help out. Send out invitations about 2 weeks in advance. You can print them out or purchase them, but it’s more fun if you personalize them! This means hand lettering the party details like date, time, and place, as well as decorating the front of the card with whatever you want.  

PREPARATIONS; To make sure everyone sleeps in the utmost comfort, you’ll need to purchase or borrow a few large tents as well as mattresses, comforters, sheets, and pillows. Collect all the stuff into big storage bins to keep organized. If you live in a rather insect-infested area, invest in a couple powerful mosquito lanterns. They’re harmless and effective. Worried about snakes crashing the festivities? Simply keep the grassy play areas trimmed, cleared, and well lit. The vibrations from loud noises usually keep the crawling critters away. 

DECORATIONS; Hang up a few multicolored Chinese lanterns to cast a rosy glow as the day grows old. Use scented candles to enhance the aroma of nature. Pop some music into a portable boom box to set a certain lively mood. If it’s a birthday you’re celebrating, banners, streamers, and balloons placed artistically around the party area heighten the fun and enjoyment. Remember, less is more when it comes to outdoor decorating. 

FOOD; If you’re having a campout party, you gotta fire up the ol’ charcoal! Food cooked outdoors is always more delicious and slightly smokier than food broiled, baked, or fried in the kitchen. The bite of fresh air sharpens the appetite too. So get grilling! Here are some economical and time saving ideas:

(1)Picnic tables are ideal, but any hard surface with seating room will do. Spread an old sheet to serve as a tablecloth which can later be simply gathered up and thrown away, spills and all. It’s very convenient. Or have the kids eat on a picnic cloth spread on clean ground.

(2)Give everyone one plastic plate, one plastic cup, and one plastic fork and spoon. Put each child’s name on their cup and plate and tell them to reuse it. This is a thrifty way to skip dishwashing.

(3)Keep a good supply of napkins, paper towels, and moist towelettes on hand to handle spills and sticky fingers.

(4)Stock up on condiments like mustard, ketchup, relish, and Tabasco sauce.

(5)Buy 2 liter bottles of lemonade and soda to serve as beverages. Fast, cheap, and easy. If you’d rather have your drinks come serving size, buy all natural Capri Sun Sport drinks or juice boxes.

(6)Throw some Johnsonville Bratwurst on the fire. It’s truly the best; flavorful, chewy, and scrumptious on a bun with sweet relish and spicy mustard.

(7)Hot dogs on the menu? Ballpark wieners plump up as they’re cooked to juicy, beefy perfection. Oscar Meyer all beef franks are good too. 

(8)Okay, so those cheesy, chewy State Fair corn dogs are already cooked. They just need to be grilled a few minutes to warm crispness. They’re simple and lip-smackin’ good.

(9)Burgers are standard. There are so many delicious varieties too! Provide slices of Kraft cheese, pickles, lettuce, and tomatoes so guests can add their own toppings.

(10)Purchase some fresh or frozen produce, such as broccoli, carrots, beans, onions, bell peppers, sweet corn, peas, or mushrooms. Chop, slice, and dice it all up, wrap in Reynolds aluminum foil, and grill over low heat. You get a charred, crunchy side dish so delicious and smoky that kids will be scrambling to eat their veggies.

(11)To me, desserts that go best with the savory, substantial fare of a barbecue are light, cool, and fruity. Purchase a few half-gallons of raspberry, peach, melon, or lemon sorbet to serve with wedges of fresh fruit and whipped cream. A delectable dessert with no preparation and practically no cleanup. Or just serve fresh fruits by themselves. At the peak of the season, they’re sweet and succulent. 

(12)Have a buffet of snacks always ready to quiet random food cravings. Pretzels, chips and dip, cheese doodles, crackers, cookies, soda, juice, and popcorn are basics. Go the extra mile with items like corn muffins, slices of chocolate pound cake, fresh squeezed lemonade, and pizza bagels. 

(13)During the course of the night, the guests will be having hot chocolate, s’mores, and candy, so they’ll be plenty fed.

(14)A few extra adults around make it easier to prepare, serve, chaperone, and clean up, but everyone can do their part. Kids can throw away their own dinnerware and sweep up their own crumbs. In case they spill or drop food, they should aid in mopping it up. Build a sense of responsibility, helpfulness, and togetherness. 

ACTIVITIES; [outdoors parties are always full of wholesome fun and games that really get you moving. If the party starts to slow down, suggest a game of touch football or a round of freeze tag to fill in the gaps. There’s nothing like the glow of running around and yelling and forgetting you’re supposed to be the dignified one.]

(1)Here’s an unusual ceremony. At this party, guests get their goody bags as soon as they get there. Fill the bags with traditional stuff like bookmarks, pencils, gel pens, notepads, lip balm, nail polish, scrunchies, candy, noise-makers, balloons, confetti, stickers, stamps, costume jewelry, and gift certificates. Include a small disposable flashlight and s’more kits. Each kit consists of a bar of Hershey’s chocolate, a sealed zip-lock bag filled with mini marshmallows, and 4 large graham crackers, enough to make 8 slices of bread for the sandwiches. 

(2)Obstacle course races are competitive but fun, a great way to break the ice and pump up the blood. You can do egg in spoon races; just divide the kids into 2 teams, give every team member a spoon to stick in their mouths, and give one person on each team a plastic egg. When someone blows a whistle, the kids with the eggs must put the eggs on their spoons, their spoons in their mouths, and rush to be the first to walk 10 yards and back. They then hand the egg over to the next person in line who places it on their spoon. It continues until one team manages to run through all their players and sit down before the other team is done. Another option: lifesaver races. Everyone gets a plastic straw to stick in their mouths. There are two teams and two team leaders. The leaders get a hard candy lifesaver strung onto their straw through the hole in the middle. He walks ten yards and back and then tries to slide the lifesaver from the straw in his mouth to the straw in the mouth of the person next in line. It continues until one team has run through all their players before the other team has finished. It is very difficult and amusing to try! Then of course there are the classic relay races, three legged races, and potato sack races. They’re all hilarious!

(3)After all that running around and cheering and laughing, something more quiet and expressive is just the thing. Have the kids make cowboy an’ injun costumes. Just turn grocery bags into plain brown vests and hats, and supply puff paint, tempera paint, and glitter. The guests can decorate their paper clothing according to whether they’d rather be a cowboy or an Indian. Once they’re done, they can play cowboy and injun. Give the cowboys pins to wear (cardboard templates covered in aluminum foil) and set them loose in the yard. It’s kind of like a big, fun, free for all tag game. Any Indian who gets tagged must trade vestments with his cowboy partner, and on and on till everyone has collapsed. Or have the Indians who get captured stand in a special part of the yard dubbed as jail. Helpers from their tribe can come rescue them at the risk of their own freedom. You’re likely to get breathless just observing the frolic. This is an old pioneer pastime that’s really enjoyable to play and watch.

(4)Don’t deprive the guests of traditional games and party fun. Pin the tail on the donkey, hot potato, musical chairs, limbo, duck duck goose, and button button are still favorites.

(5)Take time out to eat lunch.

(6)A few more games once the food settles down. The classic capture the flag is always a hit with kids; just split them up into two teams and give each team a flag. This can be any object like a baton, a ball, a box, etc. Divide the lawn into two territories, red team land and blue team land. To identify themselves, the reds and blues can smear each other with red and blue paint, they can wear red and blue vests, they can wear red and blue badges, whatever! But there should be a factor to distinguish between members of opposing teams. Now, the stage is set for play. Just yell go! The object of the game is for red team members to sneak over to blue team land, take possession of their flag object, and make it back onto their home ground without being tagged by an opponent. If they are tagged, they go to a designated jail. They can be freed when a member of their own team runs over and tags each of the prisoners above the waist. By the way, the flag object is placed inside a holding area, like a hula hoop or just a circle drawn with paint or chalk. Any member of an opposing team, if they make it as far as the holding area, can stay inside, clutching the flag object or not, and be safe from taggers. So run!

(7)Evening has arrived. Start up a campfire with a match and some kindling. It may take a while if you’re a novice! Use thick, dry logs and keep some gasoline on the side in case you prove inept at starting the blaze with just a mere match. As the flames build, make sure to emphasize safety and precaution to the kids. Remind them what to do if their clothes catch fire. Once you know everyone is safe around the fire, start the fun!

(8)Make the s’mores! Long toasting forks are available in the cooking/grilling section of most department stores. Skewer the marshmallows and demonstrate slow, safe roasting over the flames. Let the older kids try it first. Once a few marshmallows are well crisped, let the youngsters move in. Watch carefully and have a source of dousing power, like a hose or a bucket of water, nearby just in case. Everyone should end up with marshmallows blackened and crunchy on the outside, but gooey and warm on the inside. Let them sample a few, but save the rest. Now work fast! An adult chaperone should have softened the chocolate in the microwave. Help each child slide their piping hot marshmallows onto a graham cracker layered with blocks of melting chocolate. Add the top cracker and take a bite. Mmmm nirvana. Keep working until tummies are satisfied.

(9)Once full and warm, gather round the dancing firelight and tell scary stories. The adults can share old fashioned spooky tales, and the little guests can dream up their own, modern versions. Creepy skits and shadow plays are popular entertainment too. Here’s another idea. Have one person say the first line of a would-be story, and have the person seated next to them continue. Everyone can get into the fun and add their own touches to the communal haunted tale. This is a time for gasps of horror as well as screams of laughter.

(10)Go on talking, laughing, and sharing into the night, but once the wee hours swing by, its bedtime. Separate the kids into tents and have everyone help set down the mattresses and arrange the sheets and comforters. Distribute pillows, goodnight kisses, and Dixie cups of hot cocoa. Keep a trash can nearby for the cups. Also, make sure everyone knows where to find an adult, and where the nearest bathroom is. (A couple of chaperones should bunk overnight outside with the guests.) Sweet dreams!

(11)Wake up in the morning and get breakfast ready for the young ones. (Sorry, outside time is over. Cooking now comes back to the kitchen.) Use whatever you have in the fridge Fry up some bacon, scramble some eggs, toast some bread, and pour the milk and OJ. Take breakfasts to order and serve it up on paper plates with real flatware. (It’s difficult to eat breakfast with plastic knives and forks.) Guests will mostly be discussing yesterday’s fun, but encourage them to eat and get dressed. Their parents will be here soon. Herd them into the bathroom to brush their teeth and wash their faces too.

(12)Once everyone’s ready to go, they can just sit and talk or get their own little games together on the front lawn. Your watch is over. You’ve shepherded them through a night of camping activities, so give yourself a break until their families arrive to pick the guests up. 

MEMORIES; you should use your camera and camcorder often. Capture all the kookiest, funniest, weirdest, sweetest, and silliest moments on film. Send thank you cards (either thanking guests for the birthday present or for just attending the party) along with extra prints of pictures. If your child is the artistic type, they can later make a page for their scrapbook by using quotes from guests, samples of party favors, and snapshots from the party. Or fill a specific photo album with the most memorable pictures and store it on a special shelf.

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