Camping in the yard is every kids’ dream, and even if Mom and Dad opt to sleep inside, a night of pitching a tent, busting out the sleeping bags, and hanging out under the stars mean an event the whole family will talk about all year. (Bonus: real bathrooms!) Here’s how to pull it off.

smorecamping

SET UP CAMP.

Lay down a tarp to mark your territory, then have your kids help pitch a tent on the lawn. Look for a nice flat spot without tree roots or rocks underneath. For a comfier sleep, spread yoga mats underneath everyone’s sleeping bags—instant cushioning!

DON’T FORGET THE S’MORES!

If you have a firepit in the backyard, you’re golden! If not, you can make a mini fire pit out of a terracotta pot: Just line it with tin foil, pile the inside with charcoal (and add lighter fluid, if necessary), and light the pile for tabletop s’mores. The last option just might be the easiest: Use your grill! Cook dinner on the barbecue (may we suggest such camping staples as burgers, hot dogs, and veggies cooked in foil packets), then roast ‘mallows over the residual heat.

TELL SPOOKY STORIES.

Swapping ghost stories is an age-old tradition. To give everyone the willies, pick a story you know well (it could be an old urban legend, a creepy scene from a movie that’s always stuck with you, or an old nightmare that’s still lodged in your memory—anything creepy makes a great starter!). Set it nearby (in this very house, or in this very cul de sac, for example), and let it unfold slowly, adding lots of details as you go, which builds suspense and makes the tale feel more true. It’s always fun to add with a spook (like suddenly shouting out the ending or lunging at your rapt audience) or a twist (such as a punchline that turns the whole thing into comedy).  

TAKE GREAT PHOTOS.

You’ll want to document this special memory (for future Chatbooks!), but snapping a photo in low light takes a little skill. For starters, you’ll need your camera (or phone) to be perfectly still so that you don’t wind up with a blurry photo, so use a tripod or set the camera on a table or something else sturdy. And don’t be afraid to use a flashlight as a makeshift spotlight: Shine it on your kids as they pose in front of the tent, and suddenly your camera has something to spot and focus on. Now those are some happy campers!