Camping is a great family activity for summer! When you don’t have time to head to the mountains, or you want to sleep close to home, give backyard camping a try.
Camping is an awesome summertime adventure! Kids love the novelty – sleeping in bags, watching the stars, hearing the nighttime sounds up close, using flashlights and eating s’mores!
You may not have the time or money to spend on an official campground, or maybe your summer schedule is just too jam-packed to squeeze in another trip.
Guess what? You can still have all the fun of camping right in your own backyard.
Maybe you’re a backyard camping pro, or maybe you’ve always wanted to try it – whatever the case here are some tips for backyard camping that will really take your event to the next level!
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Backyard Camping Tips
1. Don’t forget the comforts of home.
True, you’re only a few steps away from the house, but this tip’s important, particularly if you’re camping with younger kids or if this is their first time in a tent.
The outdoors can get a bit intimidating, with unrecognizable sounds, unfamiliar surroundings and DARK, so make sure the kids get to bring a few favorite stuffed animals and blankets to sleep with.
Try to remember anything that will make your kids less anxious ahead of time, so you won’t be making tons of trips back inside.
2. Only take essentials.
There are lots of camping packing checklists you can find online, but for backyard camping, you really only need the essentials. Don’t get bogged down in minutia.
BUT, on the flip side, don’t forget necessities like sunblock or bug spray, even if you’re only in the backyard.
You’ll need a tent, some sort of light, sleeping bags, bug spray and sunscreen and really that’s it.
You’ll also want a tarp if you live in a wet area and an extra warm blanket if it tends to get cold at night.
Kids will need some comforting items, as well, and if you want to eat while on your campout, you’ll want to plan ahead for meals.
What you don’t need for backyard camping? Extra clothes for everyone, toiletries and personal items, air mattresses (unless you really need them), specialized camping gear/accessories (like gps or a compass).
If you discover you DO need one of these items you can always run back inside for them. But you probably won’t.
3. Plan lots of fun activities.
Make sure you’ve got ideas for before dinner and after, including some fun games you can play in the dark. You’ll keep the kids entertained, have a ton of fun and encourage them to try this camping thing again!
Take a nature hike around the neighborhood with a list for scavenger hunt items, play outdoor games like tag and Ghost in the Graveyard, pick leaves and make leaf rubbings with paper and crayon.
You can even go bird watching with binoculars or stargazing (with or without a telescope). Hide all the makings for s’mores in the yard and make a treasure hunt to find them!
With toddlers and young kids, play “Grab the Flashlight” – shine the flashlight around the yard and have them chase and try to catch the light.
A mega party pack of glowsticks will go a long way for backyard camping excitement, too!
4. Set up together.
Part of the fun of learning to camp is setting everything up.
Have the kids help pick a spot for every station – tents, fire, eating, crafts, games. Then let them put up the tent with guidance, gather wood for the fire and put all the fire necessities by the campfire spot, set out the cooler and picnic blanket, etc.
They can also fill the tent with their sleeping bags and other items and set up their beds.
5. Invest in an Easy Up tent.
This goes hand in hand with number four. If you’re going on short camping trips, doing overnight camps in the backyard or have kids that love to help, you’ll probably want to invest in a simple tent – one that’s easy to set up and takes minimal time.
We have this Coleman Instant Tent in the larger size for our family and knowing it will be quick to set up is a game changer!
TIP: Search for “instant tent” as you’re looking — that usually means the tent poles are attached to the canvas which speeds up the tent setup.
6. Try a neighborhood hike.
To set the tone for the evening and encourage a love of nature, try starting with a neighborhood hike.
You can try identifying different types of trees you come across, try checking things out through binoculars, catch a frog or two, or look for gross bugs under rocks!
Consider keeping a list or taking photos of all the nature treasures you find!
7. Make a fire for authenticity.
Every campsite needs a fire, it’s an unspoken rule! If you live in the country or rural area, this shouldn’t be an issue as long as you follow fire safety rules.
Maybe you have a fire pit already in your backyard, or are considering making one. This is an awesome way to cook all of your food during your campout!
Check here for some fun campfire traditions to start!
8. Break out the glow sticks.
Kids love glow in the dark toys! Not only will they have a blast playing with sticks and making bracelets and crowns, but a mega party pack of glowsticks will help them forget to be afraid of the dark!
They can use them outside for glow-in-the-dark tag and take them into the tent with them later. This mega party pack of glowsticks looks perfect – you can make headbands and glasses! Or take it up a notch with these cool batons!
9. Don’t be a stickler for curfew.
If you and your kids thrive on a schedule, this might not work for you, but consider forgoing bedtime just for a night. Kids will likely not easily fall asleep while lying in close quarters with the excitement of camping outside anyway.
Instead of getting irritated and enforcing a “quiet/no talking” rule, let the kids giggle and wear themselves out. They’ll get tired eventually, and no doubt they’ll remember the fun of staying up late for a long time to come!
Who knows, you might be happy when you overhear some of the secrets they share with each other!
10. Join the Great American Campout
Once a summer, the National Wildlife Federation hosts a national campout that you can pledge to join. For everyone who participates, supporters will donate $1 to the NWF charity which raises money to protect American wildlife.
Go to the site to read more, and you can sign up for group camps in your local area or pledge to camp by yourself!
Follow along with Summer Family Activities Week by clicking here or on social media with #SummerFamilyActivities.