Originally Published on August 11, 2022. Last Updated on August 18, 2022.
8 Kid-Friendly Backyard Camping Ideas
If you’re reading this, you must be on a mission to make some fantastic memories with your little loved ones. You already know you don’t have to go far to have fun, but you want to better utilize your outdoor spaces and make these memories extra special for them—and yourself.
We’re totally here for all of the above, so we’re thinking outside the campground with these eight backyard-friendly ideas that you and your kids will love. (No long car trips necessary.)
1. Level Up Your Tent
You and your kids need a spot to snooze under the stars, so why not get creative and construct a tent in your own backyard? DIY outdoor tents are fast, easy, and budget-friendly projects you and your little campers can complete together in preparation for your backyard camping experience—letting the fun last even longer.
Kids are clever and love to help create, so this is a great way to let them unleash their inner MacGyver. You can use anything you want to build your tent, from shower curtain liners and broomsticks to drop cloths and upcycled trampolines. Then make your campsite homey and comfortable with string lights, outdoor throw pillows, blankets, and sleeping bags. If you want to go the most sustainable route, take a quick trip to a thrift shop or use what you already have on hand to build the best backyard camp tent ever.
2. Let the Games Begin
Keep the kiddos entertained and let them get out all that energy with engaging outdoor yard games. Send them on a scavenger hunt around the yard, challenge them with a DIY obstacle course, or stick to the tried-and-true classic games like Simon Says and flashlight tag (they’re favorites for a reason).
3. Give Crafts a Glow-Up
Crafts are always a good time, but crafts that glow in the dark? It doesn’t get much more fun than that. Just set out your supplies and easy-to-clean furniture where your little ones can get comfortable, and you’re good to go. Here’s a post from DIYNCrafts.com that offers a bunch of glow-in-the-dark projects for all ages, from little ones to older kids.
Get crafty during the day so your kids can proudly display their creations for all to see after the sun goes down. For even more magic, add black lights around your backyard to further illuminate the neon hues.
4. Cook Over the Fire
Food cooked over an open flame tastes oh-so-good, and did you know there are endless delicious, uncomplicated recipes that go beyond hot dogs and pudgie pies? Chicken kebabs, veggie skewers, nachos—if you can put it on a stick or wrap it in aluminum foil, you can cook just about anything over a camp stove or fire pit.
To spark your inspiration, look at this post from dottingthemap.com before you head to the grocery store to see a variety of kid-friendly campfire recipes. What’s neat about these recipes is that many offer pre-separated portions, allowing your kids to personalize their meals to fit their tastes and tolerances. This is helpful if there are picky eaters in the bunch or little ones with food allergies.
5. Be Extra With S’mores
One of the greatest culinary inventions was brought into this world in the 1920s when Loretta Scott Crew made s’mores for her Girl Scout troop during a camping trip. The classic setup—graham cracker, milk chocolate, and roasted marshmallow—has since been built upon, creating delicious twists on this campfire classic. Try any (or all) of these s’more combinations and see which ones your kids like best:
- Cinnamon sugar graham cracker + roasted marshmallow + chocolate peanut butter cup
- Chocolate graham cracker + roasted marshmallow + cookies-and-cream chocolate
- Milk-chocolate-covered butter cookies + roasted marshmallow
- Chocolate chip cookies + roasted marshmallow + chocolate peanut butter cup
- Stroopwafel cookies + roasted marshmallow + milk chocolate
- Fudge stripe cookies + roasted marshmallow + caramel sauce + toasted coconut
- Chocolate graham cracker + roasted marshmallow + roasted berries + dark chocolate
- Honey graham cracker + roasted marshmallow + candied bacon + creamy peanut butter + banana slices + milk chocolate
- Honey graham cracker + roasted marshmallow + lemon curd + white chocolate
- Graham cracker cereal + roasted mini marshmallow + semi-sweet chocolate chips
6. Watch an Outdoor Movie
One of the best parts of backyard camping is that modern conveniences are close by in your house. One fun way to take advantage of this is by creating an open-air movie theater. A simple, makeshift setup can include a projector, portable screen, and some cozy blankets. (Or a fully charged laptop will do.) If your family loves watching flicks and space permits, you could design a permanent setup in your outdoor space with sturdy, comfortable furniture and weatherproof equipment. Dim the flashlights and pass the campfire popcorn: the show’s about to start.
Sneak some education into your kids’ backyard camping adventure with a stargazing session. Turn off the lights, have everyone snuggle under warm blankets, and look up at the night sky. Point out the constellations, passing satellites, and planets, and let your kids’ imaginations do the rest.
Learn about upcoming meteor showers, planet and comet sightings, and eclipses in your area with space.com’s skywatching section. Try planning your outdoor adventure around those star-studded occurrences for an unforgettable night that reminds everyone to dream big and always reach for the stars.
8. Tell Campfire Stories
A great thing about backyard camping is that the only limit is where your property ends. But is this really a limit? Absolutely not. Gather everyone around the fire and weave them a tale that takes them on an imaginative adventure. Hang up twinkling fairy lights to add ambiance to your fay fantasy epic, or rattle some chains and don a white sheet to get into ghost stories. Just remember to know your audience—save the spooky stories for the older children because not all little kids can handle scary stuff yet.
What do I need for a backyard camping trip?
Here are the camping gear essentials you’ll need to have a successful backyard campout with your family:
- Sleeping bags
- Bug spray
- Folding chairs
- Board games and fun activities
What are the dangers of backyard camping?
There are risks involved with any outdoor activity, but with the right preparation, they can be easily avoided. Here’s how to stop a variety of camping conundrums before they start.
- Dress for the weather. It’s a great idea to make sure your family bundles up when it’s cold and wears light clothing when it’s hot. Check your local weather report so you can preplan.
- Supervise young kids. Toddlers and younger children are still learning the ways of the world and may not yet understand that it’s not okay to wander off alone, touch hot coals, or eat dirt.
- Keep pests away. Use insect spray, citronella candles, or pots of bug-repelling plants to keep your camping spot free of pesky bugs.
- Practice fire safety. Keep a fire extinguisher nearby, and never leave your campfire unattended.
- When you’re done, put the fire out. To ensure your campfire is completely extinguished, douse the embers with water until all sizzling subsides. If you don’t have water, smother the embers in sand or dirt and stir it around with a fire poker until it’s cool.
Is it fun to camp in your backyard?
Yes, camping in your backyard lets you experience nature while indoor comforts (think indoor plumbing, electricity, technology, and your own beds) are never too far away. Kids can test the waters if it’s their first time camping, and it’s a budget-friendly activity the whole family can enjoy.