Rebecca P. CohenExpensive family vacations are not on the agenda for us this summer, so when we were asked by some neighbors to camp with them by a nearby lake for the Fourth of July, the adventure sounded like a great idea. At this time last year, my husband and our two young boys visited Mount Rushmore and Badlands National Park. But even if we were close to home this year, I still wanted a wonderful family memory of the holiday.

Packing up the car, we had enough to keep us comfortable for one night: two tents (just in case the five kids wanted their own to sleep together); hot dogs, s’mores, and breakfast snacks; our pillows, sleeping bags, and a favorite stuffed animal for each child; toothbrushes, toothpaste, and toilet paper; a picnic blanket, magnifying glasses, binoculars, flashlights, battery-operated glow sticks for fun (and for safety to keep track of the littlest ones in the dark).

My neighbor, a teacher, brought along a brilliant idea: clipboards for each of the kids with a pencil for each and print-out of a scavenger hunt. My seven-year-old son and her eight-year-old daughter got a more advanced list of 10 things to find (a pattern in nature, something hanging, animal tracks) and the three, four, and five year-olds got a list that had more pictures: six pine cones, three birds, one acorn. The older and younger kids worked in teams and guided themselves through the activity.

Our neighbor’s husband brought along fishing gear and he and his oldest daughter taught my boys how to fish, which they loved, and the rest of the time, the kids explored nearby. They came across small and big toads and waded in the water, playing with rocks and even found a crayfish. Not once did they say they were bored or scared, and when the last fireworks died off in the distance around 10:30 p.m., after some giggles and talking in the tent, they fell asleep with ease.

Whether the backyard or nearby park, it’s easy to have a fun adventure close to home. And the convenience of the location makes it easy for new campers to try it out, especially with some friends, and create memories that will last a lifetime.

Rebecca P. Cohen is Founder and President of Rebecca Plants LLC, is a gardening and outdoor lifestyle company that inspires families to be outside and improve their well being. For her weekly online video series, “Get Out of the House” as well as Starla J. King’s guest blog series “Savoring Summer,” visit

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Published: July 10, 2009