Backyard Camping 101

Have your kids been begging you to take a family camping trip? Do you have plans during the weekend that prevent you from taking a trip to the campgrounds nearby? Even if you don’t have a tent, no worries! Here are some tips and tricks to help you create a successful camping memory in your own backyard. 


☐ Tent or Tent Alternative
☐ Tarp
☐ Sleeping bag(s)
☐ Pillows
☐ Extra Blankets
☐ Flashlight with fresh batteries
☐ Bug Spray or Natural Remedies for Bug Repellent
☐ Sunscreen
☐ Fire Pit
☐ Games
(Click here for the printable)

With the kids camping in the backyard, food and clothing are pretty easy. You don’t have to “pack” them for the big trip, and your kids still have access to running water so they can brush their teeth and shower before bed.

Although you have easy access to these facilities, make the experience more authentic by instituting a rule stating that everyone has to stay outside for the majority of the night. It might take away from the experience if everyone is just dashing in and out every few minutes. 

Alternative to Tents

Easily create an alternate makeshift shelter by tying rope or clothesline between two trees and hanging a large tarp, blanket or canvas over top. You will also want to lay a tarp underneath to create a dry space for sleeping. Layer it with extra blankets to create a more comfortable sleeping area.

If your kids are afraid of the dark, make the experience magical by hanging lamps or string lights around the backyard or tent area. They will brighten the campsite with a soft glow and help everyone feel more safe and secure spending the night outdoors. 

If the weather is nice enough, you can simply create an outdoor fort using extra pillows and blankets too! The sky’s the limit. 

Natural Bug Repellant

Did you know sage, mint, and lavender naturally repel mosquitoes? Wrap them together and you get the best natural repellant bundle aka Bug Bombs. Another benefit is that your camping area will smell fabulously fresh! Read the full instructions from Tilly’s Nest

Fire pit

Create a realistic camping scenario. Already have a fire pit? Plan on using it to eat camping-friendly foods like hotdogs and s’mores! If you don’t already have one, they are relatively easy to make, and you can use them all summer for get-togethers with family and friends. Here’s how to build your own: 

  1. Clear out a space the desirable size for your pit. To do this, dig up the grass and water the ground. You can place sand as a ground layer if you want to help create more of a border for fire safety. 
  2. Use kiln-fire bricks to build a barrier/wall around the pit. You will want to cement these bricks together so they don’t move on you later. A good rule of thumb is to make an above-ground fire pit 12-14 inches tall. With kids who might want to sit on the edge of the pit, layer the brick to 18-20 inches tall. 
  3. OPTIONAL: Layer stone/gravel at the bottom.
  4. Grab the kindling and matches, your fire pit is ready!

NOTE: Check your neighborhood guidelines. Not every neighborhood allows fire pits. If that’s the case, break out the grill!

Backyard Games & Campfire Activities

There are numerous games you can play in your backyard or take with you when you’re on camping trips. 

The Classics

Play a round of telephone or Simon Says. Dare to be truthful with a few games of Truth or Dare or take a few swings at Name That Tune and other sing-song activities. In Name That Tune, one player sings or hums a tune, and everyone else tries to guess it. The person who guesses right is the next one to sing or hum. Introduce incentives like s’mores or marshmallows for the winner!

The Energetic

Kids a little wound up from the sugar and fun? Let them get some of their energy out with a game of cornhole, badminton, frisbee, giant Jenga and more. Take Twister out for a spin! Not afraid to get messy? Pour a little paint of the same color on each of the circles and see how everyone fares with the new twist. Another option includes setting up a backyard ring toss.

If your kids ask to go on a hike, take a walk around the block or neighborhood and play a game of I Spy through the adventure. 

With smaller yards, it might be easier to simply disconnect from electronics for the night and play some family friendly favorite board games. Make it a challenge! Play the best two out of three in checkers or have a family chess tournament. 

Simmering Down

Before bed, share a scary story or create your own with shadow puppets! Gather around the fire before lights out and exchange stories of haunted woods and hotels or spooky blood-sucking fiends (no, we aren’t talking about the mosquitoes). Mix it up and go around the circle letting each person add onto the story!