From Mother Nature Network's Jenn Savedge:

Think your family might enjoy camping but afraid to take the plunge into the wilderness? Why not start off slow with a backyard campout?

This month, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) is hosting the annual Great American Backyard Campout, and the group is encouraging families to dust off the camping gear, unplug the screens, and get the family outside for a night of stargazing, marshmallow roasting and all around fun.

I love backyard campouts because they offer almost all of the fun of a wilderness camping trip without the hassle of travel and the fear that you are stuck in the woods if disaster — read, tummy bug — strikes. Plus, you and your kids can enjoy family time and outdoor time without spending all of your time packing and unpacking and searching for a camp site.

On June 23, you can join thousands of other families for a night of exploration and fun as part of the Great American Backyard Campout event. All you need is a taste for adventure and a desire to share the great outdoors with your children. The NWF has lots of great tips to get you started.

Camping gear is nice, but it isn't a necessity. Fix up a lean-to shelter with a tarp and sleep on a ground cloth covered with pillows and blankets. Or head outdoors for some marshmallow roasting and campfire stories, and then dash back in when it's time to sleep. (I know, that's not technically "camping," but it's all about mixing things up and enjoying a breath of fresh air with your family.)

If you really want to get into the spirit of things, checkout the giveaway I'm hosting over on The Green Parent. Five lucky families will win a ticket to a jam-packed camping event sponsored by Coleman in Napa, Calif. And each family will also head home with tons of camping gear including a new eight-person tent, sleeping bags, chairs, lanterns and coolers — even air mattresses for those of us who are over the whole "sleeping on the ground" thing. Contest ends this Friday, June 8, so get those entries in soon!