If you want to give the kids the experience of sleeping out under the stars without all the fuss of a real camping trip – check out these backyard camping ideas!
Camping is such a fun way to put aside everyone’s electronic devices and just hang out together. You don’t need much to have a backyard campout – all you have to do is throw up a tent and lay down a pallet of blankets to get one started. But if you’re looking to turn the evening into more of an event – you’ll want to plan for activities and snacks. Think about what the kids will do to in the hours before sleep comes. Will you have a camp fire? A scavenger hunt? A movie? Scary stories? Make it MEMORABLE!
These also make really AWESOME backyard camping birthday party ideas – the kids will love it and your house won’t get destroyed!
Backyard Camping Ideas
1 . Tent Prep
The tent is one of the most exciting parts of backyard camping!
Let the kids help set up the tent – even if they’re just handing you poles. This will really make them feel like they’re part of the camping action!
Set up your tent a little early – so the kids can help make their pallets just how they want them. They can drag out their bedding and favorite stuffed animals – or use sleeping bags.
Make sure there are plenty of flashlights and batteries to go around – and if you have a lightweight LED lantern – hang it from the top of the tent to provide a central light source. This is important if they’ll be playing cards or board games or reading!
Also, I always face our tent towards the house – so the kids have a straight shot to the door if they get scared or have to use the restroom. If you have solar stake lights in your yard – take a couple and stake them on either side of the tent door, so the kids don’t trip in and out.
Photo via HousewifeRevisited
2 . Evening Activities
Just like at summer camp – a couple planned activities will make the evening much more fun.
If you’re throwing a party for younger kids – a scavenger hunt is a great way to eat up some time before dark. (I like this idea of writing the clues on paper sacks – so they already have a bag to collect their treasures!)
**The prize for the winning child or team could be something small – like LED finger lights to play with at night.
Another tried and true activity is hide and seek. For our older kids – we’ve made it more interesting by waiting until it’s dark and giving the “it” person a flashlight and a Nerf gun. Takes the excitement up a notch!
Any sorts of yard games like horseshoes, corn hole, ring toss, frisbee, croquet, etc… are good activities to let the whole group just hang out together.
Catch Fireflies – this activity is provide my nature – all you need to do is have a couple cups or jars on hand!
3 . Camp Food
One of the BEST evening activities is making dinner and dessert.
Get the campfire set up while the kids are playing games and have something really simple that they can cook themselves – roasting hot dogs on sticks is the easiest possible supper! These roasting sticks are great and you can use them forever.
Another easy and YUMMY option is Tacos in a Bag – kids LOVE these…
For a drink station – fill up a cooler with ice and juice boxes, water bottles, etc… and set it out by the tent. Helps keep the kids out of the house and makes things even more “campy” 😉
Making s’mores is also an essential campfire tradition. To help things go smoothly – I usually get out a big tray and set the crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate (already broken into squares) out on a table near the fire.
If s’mores aren’t in the cards – have snack baggies made for each camper to take to the tent and munch on. GORP mix is one of my faves (“good old raisins and peanuts” – but I add M&M’s too). Any sort of trail mix type snack is good – but you could also do a “S’mores mix” using Golden Grahams, chocolate chips and mini marshmallows!
4 . Outdoor Movie
Talk about easy!
An outdoor movie is a really cool way to wind everyone down as you get closer to bedtime. If you have a projector (or can borrow one from a friend) – you can make your oven movie theater using a sheet hung from a wall or clothesline. If you have a white wall on your tent – you might even be able to use it as a screen! Of course – one of these inflatable screens would make things SUPER simple.
For seating, lay down blankets or set up camp chairs (have guests bring their own if you don’t have enough).
5 . Lights Out
When the kids finally hit the sack – you might want to stay up with them telling stories with their flashlights on. Our favorites are the kind that aren’t really that scary but have a “jump scare” element to them. You can dig around here to find some age-appropriate ones!
My kids are board game fantatics – so they usually turn on the lantern and fit in a game of something or other. Cards are ideal because they don’t require lots of pieces or paper money, etc…
Keep in mind that some kids might decide in the middle of the night that they don’t want to stay outside – and you should probably let them know that’s okay from the get go. They can drag their bedroll in and “camp” on the living room floor if they need to.
Once they’re all asleep, you can lie back and rest – knowing some truly fun family memories were made.
Backyard Camping Ideas Gear List:
If you don’t have much equipment and you’re starting from scratch – here’s a handy dandy shopping list for you backyard campout…
- Tent that fits everyone
- Sleeping Bags
- LED lantern
- Flashlights with batteries
- Campfire roasting sticks for Hot Dogs or Smores
- Camp chairs
- Movie Projector and Screen
We’d love to hear any backyard camping ideas you have to make a campout more fun!
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