Posted on: 17.06.2015.

Author: Ana G

Camping at Home: 12 Fun Ideas for Camping in Your Backyard

''Backyard Camping'' by Anthony Crider is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Spending time with your children is important for a healthy development of family bonds. With some proper planning, parents can ensure they provide the kids with an all around fun experience. When it comes to planning a memorable family adventure, nothing can come close to the endless fun that kids have when camping outdoors.

Unfortunately for parents, camping trips often involve a lot of hassle, as there is a lot of packing involved, preparing the vehicle and traveling for miles to a crowded and expensive campsite. Camping in your own backyard provides the parents with a great alternative and a fun way to create long-lasting memories, new family traditions, all while saving time and money.

Benefits of Camping in Your Backyard

''2014 Great Backyard Campout'' by vastateparksstaff is licensed under CC BY 2.0

There are many benefits of camping in your own backyard that are sure to convince you to choose this type of adventure for your family as well:

  • Less hassle - Planning a backyard camping adventure involves much less hassle. You don't have to plan for a week in advance, and worry about getting to the campsite, or forgetting the supplies.
  • Not as time consuming - Camping in your backyard is not time consuming. Preparing for your ''trip'' and getting to your campsite takes less time than traveling to a campsite away from home.
  • Money-saving - In terms of family finances, it is a less expensive optionthan your usual camping trip, as you don't have to purchase all the additional travel supplies, because you are staying close to your home.
  • Proximity to home - You can enjoy full benefits of stocked fridge and indoor plumbing. Being relatively close to your clean bathroom is particularly handy, especially for small kids.
  • Security - Your kids will feel more secure staying in your neighborhood versus the unknown area and wildlife of a strange camping place.
  • Health - Backyard camping will offer your family an adventure, fresh air and relaxation, all close to home, and with no access to technology.
  • Great test for kids - This type of camping is a great way to test your little or first-time campers.
  • Best of both worlds - Your family can enjoy the best of both worlds; the convenience of home and exploring the nature up close.

Planning a camping trip to the backyard sounds simple. However, without proper planning, there is a chance of ending up with bored and unhappy children marching back to the house. Here are some fun ideas for activities that are sure to make your ''camping trip'' a memorable one.

1. Set Up a Play Tent

Image courtesy of, licensed under CC0 1.0

Supply the kids with a tent to retreat to with items such as books, stuffed animals and games. A deck of cards and a board game will keep the kids entertained, while at the same time teach them some basic skills such as counting, colors and letters. Checkers, Mancala, and Connect Four are all great strategy games that can be played quietly by older children inside during the younger children's nap time. Other items to put in your play tent include a small table and chairs, coloring books and crayons, building blocks and Play-Dough

2. Build a Fort

Create an outdoor fort with cushions, blankets and sheets, clothesline, branches or other items. Use your imagination. Your fantasy fort can be a treehouse, a blanket fort, a cushion castle, a fairy house or a teepee. Children are all about creating these tiny little private getaways. Such activities will teach younger children about construction, engineering and sustainability. A well-built fort created from yard items may become a play attraction long after the "camping trip" is over.

3. Explore Your Yard

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There are many interesting and educational things that can be found around the yard. Go to an "exploration" of the area to discover the many different types of insects, plants, flowers and trees in the yard. An age appropriate book on birds, insects, plants or animals will surely excite any tiny explorer. A magnifying glass or binoculars are sure to add an element of fun to your adventure.

4. Make a Nature Collage

During the exploration of the yard, it is a good idea to collect interesting and odd things in a bag or bucket. When the exploration is over, engage the kids in an art activity involving the collection. Use glue to adhere items to a piece of cardboard or paper. Use the items to create different animals and creatures using additional supplies such as pipe cleaners, google eyes, pebbles, sticks, pine cones and feathers. Save these creations to display in the house after your "camping trip".

5. Organize a Treasure Hunt

''Pirate Treasure Map (14 of 26)'' by Unskinny Boppy is licensed under CC BY 2.0

It is important to plan ahead for activities such as this one. Create a treasure hunt for the children with clues that will lead them around the yard and to a final payoff. Each clue can be geared to a nature reference, family activity reference (swing set, garage, flowerbed, etc.), or possibly as a treasure map complete with numbered paces, geographical direction and an "X" to mark the spot! You can download treasure maps from the Internet as well.

6. Play Backyard Bingo

Create or print out outdoor themed bingo cards from the internet. Engage the family to travel or look around the yard to find the objects on their cards. The first camper to find all of the items on their card wins a prize. This activity can be adjusted for younger campers with the use of pictures in place of or in addition to the written words.

7. Get Active


''Croquet in the park'' by Natalia Wilson is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Arrange some physical playtime to burn off energy with activities such as badminton, volleyball, soccer, Frisbee or touch football. For extremely hot days, consider playing some less strenuous competitions such as beanbag toss or croquet. If there are enough participants, devise a small tournament of players competing for prizes. Hot days are an opportunity to enjoy water balloons or water gun fights. For a no fail, bubbles and water balloons are always a winner with children of all ages.

8. Cook Outside

Great chefs know that there is no substitute for cooking over an open flame. In addition to a grill, some cities even allow the use of an enclosed fire pit, making the whole backyard camping experience much more authentic. Plan the family meal to include items that can be cooked over a fire, such as hot dogs, chili, beans or any other family favorite. After the food has been cleaned off the plates, it is time for the sticky sweetness that only S’mores can bring to a campfire.

9. Sing Campfire Songs

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An acoustic guitar, harmonica or kazoo can turn any campfire into a small choir of outdoor enthusiasts. Choose familiar songs for the younger children to join in, like "Oh Suzanna" or "I've Been Workin' on the Railroad." Take the opportunity to teach the kids some new songs or engage the family in making up your own catchy tunes.

10. Tell Campfire Stories

When it is time to settle down and prepare for slumber, engage the family around the fire with some campfire stories. For older kids, these stories can be scary ones told with the addition of the theatrics created with a flashlight shining under your chin. If your kids are younger, you can tell a story in which each person around the campfire adds some content to the fable as you go around the circle. Allow a certain amount of speaking time for each person or number of words that can be added to the circle story for added fun. Encourage children to make up their own stories and tell them to the group.

11. Go Stargazing

''Nik stargazing.'' by Christian Reusch is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Enjoy the night sky with activities with your children. While the little kids have fun counting the stars and drawing the constellations they see, older kids can identify those constellations by using a star guide. Have the kids draw the shapes they see in the sky and create their own constellations. They can invent some background stories of their creation, which will surely engage conversation. Talk about what they see in the sky such as the moon, airplanes, planets or shooting stars while lying comfortably in your own backyard.

12. Light Up The Night

Flashlights are good for more than just lighting your way through the dark. Use the light to create shadow puppets on the walls of the tent. Have one or more children inside of the tent, creating a shadow puppet show on the wall of the tent as the remaining children enjoy the show from the outside. Engage older children in a game of flashlight tag. Plan ahead and purchase some glow sticks or glow bubbles that the kids can enjoy in the evening hours. 

Going on a family vacation does not mean that you have to leave the comforts of your home; rather than that, you should embrace the unique experience it offers your family. Everything that your family needs to do to have a fun-filled and educational getaway is to explore your backyard from a new point of view. Be sure to plan activities, involve the kids, explore the nature and create memories that will last a lifetime.