The beach may be made of cardboard, but the s’mores supplies have been restocked.
There’s plenty of room for the Barbies and stuffed animals, too.
Camping at home, the Dougherty girls say, is just as much fun as being at the lake.
“The biggest thing is, we love the family time, and we love the outside time,” mom Suzanne says.
During past camping excursions, getting away from Omaha was a big priority for Suzanne, husband Nick and daughters Grace and Addie. And, the girls say, don’t forget dog Chip.
Both parents are lifelong campers, and Fremont Lakes State Recreation Area is a favorite with their family.
Since they didn’t have the lakes to swim in, Grace created a diorama of the campgrounds on cardboard instead.
Tent camping hasn’t been possible at state parks with the advent of the coronavirus. So the Doughertys, like many Nebraska families, have been making do with their backyards. Tent camping has now opened in many state recreation and wildlife areas. A decision on state parks will be made soon.
More than 250 families have submitted their Camp at Home NE photos since the Nebraska Game and Parks program (outdoornebraska.gov/campathomene) started last month. All will be entered in a grand-prize drawing for a two-night camping stay at a Nebraska state park.
“It’s been wonderful to see so many happy families and faces enjoying the outdoors and sharing joy and positivity during this challenging time when we are recommended to stay home,” said Christy Firestone, Game and Parks communications director. “People have shown their creativity in activities and spending time together — camping in their yards, gathering around the campfire, playing games.”
That’s why the Dougherty girls need room in the tent for their stuffed animals. One of their favorite games on camping trips is to hide those pals and then search for them by flashlight.
They love their hobo meals and s’mores. When they ran out of chocolate and graham crackers, they served their toasted mallows over chocolate cookies instead.
“Camping, especially during a pandemic, teaches you to be resourceful,” Suzanne said.
Joshua Freshour also has a lot to teach sons Henry and Theodore in their backyard campouts in east-central Lincoln.
Things like how to pitch a tent and build a fire in the fire pit. They’ll cook hot dogs and, of course, s’mores.
The Freshour family, which includes mom Rose and 1-month-old Amelia, camps out most weekends in the summer, and has already enjoyed three excursions in the backyard since February.
“We’ll sit around and look at nature. There’s a ton of birds, and foxes are running through,” Joshua said. “We’ll go on walks and talk about nature, whether it’s helping them identify trees by their leaves or birds and the sounds they make.”
He wants the kids to grow up to be good stewards of the earth. The boys love the sense of adventure and ask lots of questions.
At 2 and 5, they won’t remember the effects of the virus, Joshua said, but they’ll remember how home felt.
“I want to maintain their sense of wonder and really cultivate it. Because nature is filled with limitless wonder,” Joshua said. “As a parent, my goal is to help them to discover the beauty, joy and mystery of the world we live in. Especially in nature. It helps get them grounded.”
That’s why the lifelong camper can’t wait to get the green light for tent camping from Game and Parks.
“Once that opens up,” Joshua said, “we’re going to be hitting a lot of the state parks.”