We started camping with our son when he was right around a year and a half old (18 months). Often, we had friends and family think we were crazy for bringing our little lad camping at such a young age, but as we discovered, it was one of the best ways for us to develop a love for outdoors and a connection as a family from a very young age!
Within 6 months of getting our camper when our son was small, we camped over 7 times and over that time, it was evident that our little guy LOVED going camping! His love for camping inspired us to throw him an adorable camping party for his second birthday that was high on fun, but easy on the budget, especially since we had plenty of camping gear on hand!
Because we wanted to keep his party budget friendly, I designed invitations that looked like postcards that were coming from a summer camp or campground that featured simple tent and campfire graphics and we printed them on inexpensive card stock. I also used the same graphics and fonts to create a banner through Vistaprint with one of their coupon deals and it came out adorable! Party favors included small lanterns we found in the Target dollar spot for a $1 each and carabiners and compasses that we picked up as well for the parents. Still, almost 5 years later, these lanterns are going strong and we have guests from the party telling us how much they and their kiddos loved the favors!
When it came to activities, we brought out camping games that we usually bring on our camping trips for extra entertainment like bean bag toss and ladderball. This entertained the adults as well as the kids. We created a cute scavenger hunt card to let the little ones explore and mark off as they go as well as provided camping themed color sheets. Also, because his birthday is in the heat of the summer and we have a pool, it was a no-brainer to make the party a swimming party as well. We called the pool, “Lake TurningTwo” and encouraged the kiddos to jump in and have a ball. We even featured some “fish bobber” floats throughout the pool that were super cute.
When we had started camping, we used this tutorial to build our son a small A-Frame tent from a twin bed sheet we had on hand as something he could use for indoor pretend play when the weather was bad. It turned out to be the perfect prop, along with some tree limbs and tissue paper, for a cute play area and “photo booth” for the kids and families. We also put out “camping chairs” for everyone to sit and relax and an extra “tent” (canopy) for extra shade for guests that included some fun lantern lights hung for some extra flair that we usually hung on our camper awning on trips.
We set up the party table with things we had on hand; a brown twin sheet was used as a table cloth and other details included some lanterns, a small mini Christmas tree without ornaments, an old “gone fishing” sign we had inside our camper for decor, as well as the cake, cupcakes, s’mores, and chips served up in brown paper bags cut in half to give a “rustic” look. We also had the reusable birthday banner that we created the year prior to give some color and pep to the event.
In order to keep the menu for the party authentic but simple since the kiddos were young, we had hot dogs, chips, and fruit pouches for the kiddos while the adults dined on more mature versions of the classic camping fare- chicken sausages, pasta salad, and fruit. Of course, a camping themed birthday party wouldn’t be complete without s’mores, and we featured several versions of the camping classic without requiring a campfire. We also included a birthday cake and cupcakes that featured fondant decorations obtained from a local cake decorator that featured a tent, campfire, and little marshmallows. Drinks included “bug juice” (juice pouches), water, lemonade and iced tea. All refreshments were inexpensive and easily prepared in advance and fit the tone of the party perfectly.
It’s been almost five years and we are now approaching our son’s 7th birthday and this party still remains both his (and our) favorite party to date. In fact, as we approach his next birthday, we have mentioned this idea to him again, but with the option to do a backyard camp out with a few of his friends and more focus on the outdoors and some of the things he has learned through his experiences in Cub Scouts. What is great about a camping themed party is that it is timeless and appeals to kids (and grownups!) of all ages!