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15 Backyard Camping Ideas for Families: Enjoy Nature Now

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Backyard camping is a fun way to get outside without straying far from home. This is also a great opportunity for novice campers to learn about camping in a safe environment. 

Backyard tent camping

Our family loves hiking out into nature, but we’ve done our fair share of backyard campouts too. Here, we’ll share some backyard camping ideas for your whole family, including essential aspects of backyard camping, reasons to try it out, and activities to explore.

Essentials for Your Backyard Camping Trip

Backyard camping looks different for every family. You can plan yours with all your family’s favorite games, foods, and bedding.

The key is to make things fun, engaging, and comfortable while staying in your own backyard. Here are a few of the essential aspects of any backyard camping trip. 

1. Eat Over a Campfire

Eating outside is an important part of the camping experience. Cooking and crafting food to nibble around a campfire is a classic camp activity.

Check your community burn laws to ensure you can have a fire pit in your yard. There are a variety of fire pits and enclosed outdoor fireplaces that are safe for use in the backyard. 

Roasting Marshmallows over a campfire

You can also use your barbeque to grill burgers, hot dogs and roast marshmallows in a pinch. Access to a grill is a benefit of a backyard campsite, and one many yard campers take advantage of. 

2. Plan a Fun Activity

Spending time as a family is one of the reasons we love to camp. You can enhance this experience by planning fun activities to enjoy together.

Choose games and activities that are age-appropriate and of a realistic difficulty level for everyone participating. 

We like to camp screen-free, but we still take advantage of being so near a source of electricity. Liven up the camping experience with a wireless speaker for some outdoor tunes, or hang string lights to create an ethereal camp vibe.

You can also test out camping activities, like a hike with your toddler to get a realistic idea of how far they can go.

3. Pitch a Tent

You can’t go camping without pitching a tent. Okay, this isn’t true, but backyard camping is 100% more fun when you do.

Even if you don’t plan to sleep outdoors (although I highly recommend you do), a backyard tent gives you a home base for camp games and adds to the authentic camping experience.

Tent pitched in a backyard

Find a smooth, rock-free area of the backyard, where your tent is well away from any firepit situation.

Fill the tent with cozy sleeping bags, pillows, camp mats or air mattresses, and flashlights or lanterns. The cozier the tent, the more likely your family is to want to stay the night in it.

4. Eat Camping Snacks

We touched on this a bit above with our eating over a campfire suggestion. Camp snacks come in all shapes and sizes. Some foods to try on the campfire include:

  • Hot dogs
  • Marshmallows for s’mores
  • Popcorn
  • Campfire nachos
  • Kabobs
Smores with cookies

Some snacks that don’t require a fire pit but may require a cooler include:

  • PB&J sandwiches (or nut-free butter for those with allergies)
  • Trail mix
  • Granola bars
  • Fruit (apples, oranges, bananas, grapes, berries, etc.)
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Tuna sandwiches
  • Veggies and dip

Try making your snacks ahead of time and packing them in an ice-lined cooler. I know home (and the refrigerator) are a few steps away, but it takes away from the experience the more you go inside. 

5. Stay Cozy

Just because you’re sleeping outdoors doesn’t mean you have to leave all if your creature comforts behind.

Child cuddled in blanket while camping

Hang some string lights on your backyard tent, set up some tiki torches and snuggle under some blankets.

Reasons to Camp in Your Yard

You might be reading this and wondering why on earth you would camp in your yard. There are so many beautiful national and state parks to explore. 

While I agree that camping away from home is often more fun, there’s something to be said for a backyard campout. Here are a few reasons to give it a try.

6. Get Young Kids Used to Camping

The younger your kids begin camping, the more comfortable and prepared they become. We started our little guy camping right away, but young children can be unpredictable in new environments. 

Young child playing with water on the deck

Taking the time to do a test camp in the backyard prepares you for camping away from home.

Your child gets used to eating and sleeping outside, and you get a chance to see if there are any concerns to overcome before heading out on real camping trips in the great outdoors. 

7. Try Out New Gear

Another reason to pitch a tent in the backyard before an official campsite is to test new gear. You never want to find yourself outside overnight with a faulty camp product. I can speak to this with real-life experience. 

We brought our trusted Thermarest air mattresses on a camping trip and one of them deflated in the middle of the night. We were 4 hours from home and there was nothing to be done about it, so we each slept one night on the ground.

Trying new gear (or testing out old gear) in a safe environment ensures it’s in good working order before camping far from home.

8. Attempt a New Sleeping Arrangement

Camping means leaving the comfort of your familiar bed. Many campers get used to certain outdoor sleeping arrangements and change can be hard.

For example, we each use a lightweight sleeping pad and sleeping bag. Some families prefer hammocks with mesh bug nets. Every camper is different. 

baby sleeping in a tent

When you switch to a new sleeping arrangement, there’s no telling how comfortable you’ll be. Camping in the backyard lets you switch things up, or wave the white flag and head into the house.

This is especially important with kids who have trouble sleeping outside of their beds. If you’re transitioning a toddler from their peapod to a pack n play, you’ll want to backyard camp while you figure that out.

9. Test Sleeping in the Rain

We’ve camped in all types of weather. Believe it or not, a rainy camp evening can be an enjoyable one if you’re prepared and have the right equipment to keep warm and dry.

A backyard campout is a great way to test how your gear holds up in the rain. 

kid with umbrella

Some tents have waterproof ratings, but may not hold up well to high levels of rainfall. Testing your tent lets you determine if you need an additional tarp or rain fly before you attempt a rainy camp away from home.

I’ve slept in a tent that was taken down by a rain storm and it would have been awesome to be able to run inside the house instead of having to lose sleep attempting to set the tent upright in the rain.

10. Try Out New Clothing

If you get bug repellent clothing or a sun blocking shirt, you’ll want to know if it works before you leave behind the bug spray or sunscreen.

foraging for mushrooms

Hanging out in the great outdoors but still within steps of your back door is the perfect way to test out new camping clothes knowing you could head inside and change at any time.

This is especially true for kids. Don’t have the first time they put on new hiking boots be at the trailhead.

Backyard Camping Games and Activities

Finally, the fun stuff! Of all our backyard camping ideas for families, these are the most popular. Keeping kids entertained and engaged is important.

It’s even more crucial in the backyard, so close to the conveniences of home. 

Not sure what to do on your backyard campout? Here are some of our favorite backyard activities to get you started.

11. Star Gazing

Stargazing can be done with the naked eye or a telescope. If you’ve got access to a telescope and a clear night, this is a great opportunity to bring it outside and catch a glimpse of the stars and planets. 

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No telescope? No problem. One of our favorite night time activities is laying a blanket or sleeping bags down in the grass after dark, lying on our backs, and staring up at the stars. 

Make this more interesting by printing out a map of the stars in your area for this time of year. Try your hand at finding constellations on the map by tracing them above you in the air.

13. Tell Spooky Stories

Is it even really camping if there are no spooky fireside stories? I guess so, but we love this activity. Even with young campers, you can give this a go if you use age-appropriate tales.

If you don’t know any of your own, find some campfire stories for kids online and print them off ahead of time. 

Take turns telling ghost stories (or funny stories) and have a prize handy for the winner. This is a fun way to energize the camp experience and bond as a family. 

14. Classic Campfire Games

There’s no end to the campfire games you can play. We find that every family we talk to has their own favorites. One tip for creating camping games is to plan for day and night. 

Here are a few classic games to play around the campfire:

  • Charades – This classic game of acting out clues and trying to guess the answer is tons of fun fireside. Just be careful not to get too close to the flame.
  • Chubby bunny – To play this adorable game, take turns stuffing as many marshmallows into your mouth as you can. The winner needs to have the most mallows while still being able to say audibly “chubby bunny”. This isn’t a game for little kids to play.
  • Telephone – The game of telephone requires no phone. Rather, campers sit in a row or a circle. One camper whispers a sentence into the ear of the camper beside them and this sentence circulates. The last camper in the line says the sentence out loud to see how much it has changed since the beginning. 
  • Catch the Winker – In Catch the Winker, one member of the camp crew is selected as the winker. They must wink at a chosen camper without being noticed by the rest of the group. Campers who are winked at are out. Other campers must try to watch for the winker and catch them before they’re winked at too.
  • Songs – Singing songs around a campfire is always a fun time.

There are also plenty of activities to be experienced away from the campfire. Backyards are great for outdoor sports and contests. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Backyard scavenger hunt
  • Washer toss
  • Cornhole
  • Frisbee
  • Flashlight Tag

15. Go on a Hike

Go on a hike around your neighborhood or to your local park.

Starting from home is a good way to see how far your kids can reasonably hike and what kinds of hiking entertainment you’ll need to pack.

Couples Camping Activities

Camping in the backyard can be fun for just two as well! Read all 43 romantic activities!

Happy Camping!

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