Community around the Backyard Campfire

Backyard sleepovers with my nephew are becoming a tradition. Once a term, we pitch a tent in the backyard, cook outdoors, have an outdoor bath, make pancakes for breakfast and work on the treehouse. The highlights of our most recent camp-out were playtime, dinner and interaction with the neighbours. This experience really pulled us into a strong sense of being surrounded by community.

Friendships formed

On the eve of our last backyard camp-out, my 5-year-old nephew spotted a young girl across the road and asked my husband if he could take a flower to her. After a quick check-in about crossing roads he went over and struck up a friendship straight away. They played with fig berries, built ‘cities’, used the tree swing and found a broken bird egg.

The bird egg and the strange new boy became the catalyst for an older sister to join the pair, who then included her friend from next door. Quite quickly a group of four was formed. They moved to the treehouse next door for a while and then my nephew led the group to inspect the water run he had created on our side of the road. Keen for the fun and connection to continue, our nephew extended an invitation to the group to join us for a campfire. Parental consent was given and one of the dads commented, “If only adults could make friends so quickly!”

The joy of full bellies & treehouse adventures

There was much joy around our backyard campfire; stoking it, trying multiple times to light it, ensuring each other was safe and helping the younger ones deal with feelings of fear. A few marshmallows were toasted and the treehouse with its trapdoor, ladder and stairs was explored, before the girls bid us farewell for the evening.

We got cooking our dinner and another set of neighbours, a Mum and two daughters, came to join us following my brief text message invitation. We sat around chatting as my nephew and I finished chopping the vegetables. The kids retreated to the treehouse to play while the adults talked around the fire. When dinner was ready, we all sat and ate a delicious meal together, warming our hands around the mugs of campfire pasta we held.

Connection to community

Our hearts were warmed by the feeling of community. The feeling we were not alone in our street, we had people we could consider friends beside us and who we could reach out to if we needed help. I was filled with gratitude for this sense of belonging found under the canopy of stars in our little patch of nature in the suburbs.

I imagine for my nephew our camp-out experience felt similar to his 3-month stay on the small Pacific island of Kiribati. During this time he was part of community where the children could roam the neighbourhood, meet up with friends and play on the streets with the adults knowing generally where the children were playing. My nephew found this freedom of moving between houses and being outdoors in a local community of children so valuable, he prioritised it over opportunities to tinker on projects and even…eating pancakes! To me it highlights the importance and innate desire for a strong connection to community.

At Educated by Nature we are intentional about developing our programs with a wide range of ages in both the children participants and our staff. This has been an important decision for us in building the atmosphere of a village community.


2 tbsp oil
1 onion
3 rashers of bacon
3 carrots
2 celery stems
2 capsicums
1 x 700ml bottle passata
700ml water (plus extra water)
1 x 400g tin butter beans (drained)
1 handful fresh herbs (chopped)
2 cups pasta (small) We used wholegrain spirals

1. Make a fire and bring down to small flames over coals.
2. Dice onions and bacon and place in large pot with oil.
3. Place pot on the fire and cook onions and bacon until sizzling and soft.
4. Dice carrots, celery and capsicum.
5. Add to pot and stir. Cook for one minute.
6. Add passata, water, beans and herbs. Fill the passata bottle with water. Add water to the pot.
7. Bring to the boil.
8. Once boiling, add pasta.
9. Add more water if necessary to bring to desired consistency.
10. Once the pasta is soft, serve in mugs.
11. Enjoy eating with friends, family and neighbours.