If you are an outdoor enthusiast and have kids, there will be the first time for them to go camping, and it is going to be an almost-intoxicating experience.
When you get to see their eyes lighting up when looking at the stars on the sky or a bonfire, t is going to reignite your wonder of all the things around you in this beautiful world. Introducing them to this world can be a little challenging, especially when you are introducing them to something they have not experienced before.
This is why most parents do it like they do with sleep schedules and diapers. You don’t start by taking them camping to Yellowstone. You start slowly and build things up until they are ready for the next step.
When it comes to camping, the first thing you need to do is camping close to your home. Backyard camping will give you the chance of being close to your bathroom, chicken nuggets, and a comfy bed in case things don’t go as planned.
Even if you are going to camp in the backyard, there are some considerations you have to make so as to ensure your kids are safe, comfortable, and happy. This will include your choice of gear to fire safety, to entertaining your kids without the help of smartphones or iPads. There is a lot of thought that needs to go with to have a great time in the backyard.
Benefits of Backyard Camping
- No commuting – this is one of the biggest benefits of backyard camping? Have you forgotten something? Just get if from your house. Is the weather getting worse? Get inside the house.
- You will not spend a lot of time planning backyard camping. Preparing for it and getting to your camping site is not going to take a lot of time because it is a couple of steps away from home.
- There is less hassle when planning for a backyard camping adventure. There is no need to spend the entire week planning the ‘camping trip’, worrying about the site, or forgetting supplies at home.
- Packing is very simple. All you are going to need is gear for the night.
- There are no restrictions, which means you can invite as many people as possible.
- There is no worrying about the water quality
- The kids will feel safer and more secure when they are in the neighborhood compared to a camping site far from home.
- You can make good food and have your gas grill close by.
- You can decide whether you will sleep under the stars or inside at any point of the night.
- You don’t spend money on a campsite, buying camp wood, or fuel.
- If one of your kids has an accident and soils their pants, you can easily access the bathroom
- Nervous kids will have an easier time camping because they are in a familiar place
- You can ask them to put away any gadgets they might have, and if they happen to bring them along, they won’t be able to use them because the Wi-Fi doesn’t reach the campsite.
- It is going to be a great experience for both the kids and the parents.
- Camping in the backyard is a good way of introducing your kids or first-time campers to camping.
Treat It like a Real Camping Trip
There is no need for specialized gear when camping in the backyard. You can work with things you already have (and try to minimize the things you work with) and it is going to be part of the fun. The backyard is going to be a great way of knowing whether you are ready to go to a campsite far from home.
You should see this as an actual camping trip even though the stakes are low. To make it more real, pack your cooler full of drinks and food even if your kitchen that is full of food is a couple of feet away. This is your chance of taking the camp chairs and Jetboil you have been storing in the garage.
You Should Not Be Too Hardcore
While pretending you are far from home makes things more fun, you shouldn’t take things too seriously. There are times when you might be obsessing about using only the things you brought with you and fighting the temptation of going back inside the house to bring out something you might need, and this ends up preventing you from feeling relaxed. If you start feeling uncomfortable sleeping or there is an aggressive smell of mildew, go inside the house and bring more blankets from your bed.
Keep It Simple
When you have an easy setup, you are going to have an easier time cleaning up. While you want the experience to feel authentic, you should not pull all the stops to achieve that. Try keeping the menu and supply list simple. You don’t need to have fancy equipment to make wonderful memories.
You should involve your kids in every step of the process os they can know more about setting up the camp and taking it down.
Let the Anticipation Build
You should tell your kids about the camping beforehand to they can start getting excited and look forward to the day. The kids will keep asking you whether you will be camping tomorrow, and how long before you go camping. You will also know how well your kids know about the concept of time and how much pestering of your nerves you can stand.
Whether you decide to give them a week’s notice or an hour, the main goal is giving them some time to get excited and look forward to camping.
Get Your Kids Invested in the Process
Let your kids pack their own stuff. The ages of the kids will determine the level of supervision they need. When you do this, they have a chance of practicing in an environment that doesn’t have any consequences for mistakes. Let them pack whatever toys or books they want.
Plan the Campout
You should begin by having a meeting with your family. This is where you are going to share different ideas and get inputs from the family. Choose a day that works for everyone, and discuss the different things you are going to do during the campout.
You can call your friends and family to join if you want to expand the adventure. Once you have chosen a day and the number of campers, you will then start making a list of all the things you are going to need. Gather the camping gear; tarp, tent, pillows, sleeping bags, sweatshirt, pajamas, toothbrush, etc.
Plan Your Food in Advance
The best option when it comes to food is non-perishable items unless you have a big enough cooler than you can use in safely storing food.
You can grill on a fire pit or barbecue. You can make sandwiches or even order pizza for your campout (this is not authentic since you wouldn’t be able to do this in an actual camping trip, but this is one of those benefits of camping in your backyard).
Always have snacks when camping. If you are going to roast food on a stick, make sure you prep the sticks early.
Food to Have in the Backyard Campout
- Hotdogs – food cooked on open flame always tastes better. Hotdogs are a must for every camping trip and you will always enjoy eating it with your loved ones.
- S’mores – using graham crackers or cookies that are covered in chocolate makes it easier for hands to manage. Your kids will have a lot of fun with s’mores and you can even get a dip, which adds another spin on this camping staple.
- Roasted Marshmallows – your camping is not a true camping trip without marshmallow roasting. If you cannot start a backyard flame because you lack space, then consider using a portable grill to roast marshmallows.
- Popcorn – Many people don’t know that you can cook popcorn using an open flame. You will need vegetable oil, tinfoil, and popcorn seeds. Take a handful of popcorn seeds and one tablespoon of vegetable oil and place on the tinfoil. Fold the foil into half then seal the edges. Take a long stick then attach the foil packet so you can roast over low heat on the grill or hot coals. You should be listening for popping sounds when they stop popping, remove them from the heat. You can now add butter and salt to your popcorn then.
- Hot Chocolate – hot chocolate is going to make the backyard campout enjoyable, and you can keep it warm by placing it on the grill.
- Campfire Pies – Campfire pies is one of those things you need to have during your campout. Some people call it Hobo Pies and Mountain Pies. They are easy to make and very delicious. You will need bread, pie iron, butter, a brown paper bag, your favorite canned pie filling, and powdered sugar. Take a slice of bread and butter one side, then put it on the sandwich toaster with the side with butter facing down. Close the toaster then cook it over hot coals. Take out the campfire pie from the pie iron then put it inside the brown bag with icing sugar.
The camping trip does not have to end when day breaks. You can have breakfast in your backyard if you feel adventurous. You can easily prepare instant oatmeal in just a few minutes. Another option is cold cereal and milk.
Pancakes have become part and parcel of a great breakfast. Stir the pancake mix then pour it into a sealable bag. Carry griddle pan with other camping gear. You can easily make pancakes in the morning and serve with maple syrup. While pancakes tend to be a little more work, it is going to be worth it.
You should always remember to carry snacks. They are great because kids can eat them when feeling hungry. Some great snacks include granola bars, cookies, homemade trail mix, fruit, and homemade trail mix.
Which Tent Should You Pitch?
It may seem that any type of tent will work if you are just sleeping in your backyard. However, it’s essential to look at the properties of each tent before purchase. What if the weather shifts to rain? Wouldn’t it be lovely to remain outside by choosing one with water repellent properties?
However, you are just outside of your own home, so a top-quality tent probably isn’t necessary. A tent without all the bells and whistles should be just fine as well as much more affordable.
While you may want to stay outside during a rainstorm, if lightning starts, you should head inside. It is better to be safe than sorry and the house is just a short run away.
The tent you choose to camp in your backyard does not have to be expensive, but it should protect you from the elements such as rain, wind, and dew. Use a teamwork approach during camp setup to get your children involved.
If you don’t already have a tent and you don’t want to buy one, a rope tent can be readily built.
To build one of these makeshift tents, you will need four heavy bricks or rocks, a large blanket or sheet, and a few feet of rope. You’ll also need two trees spaced relatively close together or some other points of attachment.
Once you have gathered your materials, tie the rope between the trees, toss the blanket or sheet over the rope, ensure that it hangs evenly on both sides, and simply pull those sides apart to create your makeshift tent. To secure your canvas, use the bricks or rocks on all four corners.
Throw a water-resistant tarp on the ground underneath the tent, add sleeping bags, and the tent is ready for adventure.
Set Camp as a Team
Many families camp in the backyard before heading out to a wilderness area for a bona fide camping trip with their kids. Using a teamwork approach now prepares your children for those upcoming camping trips. Have them help you shake the tent and hammer in the posts.
Putting up the poles usually requires more than one person anyway, so this experience will help them feel like they are part of the action. Even though you are in your backyard, they will quickly learn the individual components of the tent and its construction.
Set Up Beds
Make sure you add soft surfaces to sleep on during the night. A thick comforter, an air mattress, camping cots, and even cushions from your couch in a pinch will work. Stock your tent with sleeping bags or cotton blankets and pillows. Make sure that the bedding takes the night time temperatures into account.
Stock The Tent
Camping is all about fun and safety, so add stuffed animals to the mix if you are camping with young children. Lanterns, flashlights, or glow sticks will help prevent accidents in the middle of the night. Once you’ve covered the basics, bring some board games or cards for family fun.
Sleep under the Stars on an Air Mattress
If the forecast doesn’t include rain, the weather is warm, and the skies are clear, some families opt to sleep in the open on air mattresses. Make sure to lay a waterproof tarp on the ground before setting up camp. Since night time temperatures drop, include warmer blankets for snuggling later on.
Use Lounge Chairs
You can make do without a camp cot or air mattresses if you have some old school lounge chairs. If you’re planning on sleeping under the stars, just lay them out and add pillows and blankets. Otherwise, you can put them inside the tent for a comfortable sleeping experience.
Sleep on the Ground
Camping in your backyard does not have to be a heavy-duty experience. If you don’t have camping equipment, just lay a tarp onto the ground, add bedding, and head outside for the night. Once it’s dark, spend time looking at the stars and catch one that’s falling if there is a meteor shower that night.
Seating Area Setup
Picnic tables or patio sets work best. However, you can use a small table to set food and drinks on and sit in lawn chairs without losing out on any of the fun.
To make the experience even more straightforward, simply throw a blanket on the ground and use it for an outdoor picnic. Sharing food and good company while lounging directly on Mother Earth is what a good camping trip is all about.
However, to keep your camping experience pleasant, be sure to sweep the area before setting up for dog poop or other icky items that can quickly ruin the mood.
Create a Safe Fire Pit
Safe fire pits are positioned well away from the house and the tent. A minimum distance of 15 feet is recommended. Clear a circle 10 feet across from the pit and remove any objects that are potentially flammable. At the center of the ring, dig a hole a foot deep and add rocks to the perimeter.
Dry wood for fuel is required, and a shovel and bucket of water should be kept nearby to put flying sparks out quickly. Keep your kids away from the fire, so they don’t get burned. At the end of the night, be sure to use water to put the fire out and cover it with dirt to prevent it from flaring up while you sleep.
Camping is closely associated with campfires. However, many local governments require a permit. Check to see if you need one before starting your fire. Children should always be closely supervised and never let the flames be unattended.
If bonfires are not allowed in your municipality, substitute a terra cotta pot lined with aluminum foil for the fire pit. Add charcoal and enjoy the flames. This makeshift options lets you have your s’mores without violating local ordinances.
Mark out a line and make sure your kids don’t cross that line to get too close to the fire. Open fires can be dangerous, and you don’t want an accident that will ruin the experience.
Campfire Without Fire
It is possible to create the ambiance of a fire without actually having any flames. Try a do-it-yourself approach. Using rocks as a base, top it with wood in the classic triangle for starting a fire, and then add some LED string lights. You’ll have a center to gather around without any of the worries of tending to a fire. The warm glow of the lights will simulate a real campfire.
Bring on the Music
There are many ways to bring music into the mix. Plug your phone into a portable speaker or lug a boombox into the outdoors. Give everyone a chance to pick the music and it’s a DJ party. Have a sing-along or a dance party, if that’s what you prefer.
Of course, when you are in your backyard, you have to be courteous when it comes to neighbors. Keep the volume down as the night gets later. Just because you are having fun, that doesn’t mean that your neighbors don’t need their sleep.
Camping Supply List
To make the most of your experience camping in your back yard, be sure to include the right mix of supplies. Here is a list to help you.
- Waterproof tarp
- Umbrella or overhead shade
- Camping gear for cooking
- Firepit or BBQ
- Insect repellant
- Flashlight or lantern
- Snacks and other nonperishable food
- Essentials for hygiene
- Books, games, and toys
- Pillows, stuffed animals, security blanket (for kids)
Add Home’s Comforts
Even though you are only in your backyard, the nighttime sounds that you’ll hear are different from the sounds kids here at night inside their bedrooms. These hoots and creaks and rustles can scare kids. Add in the darkness once night falls, and you have the potential for a frightening experience for young ones.
If this is your first experience camping, be doubly sure to add comfort items such as blankets or favorite stuffed animals when setting up camp.
Do Fun Camp Activities
Don’t forget about the fun camping games and activities when you decide to camp in the backyard. There are so many games and activities they could enjoy depending on their ages.
There are some activities your kids can do on their own while some activities can be done by the kids and parents together.
Puzzles and coloring books are great to keep your kids busy while you get the grill or firepit started.
Outdoor games are always a hit when you plan to camp in the backyard. Bean bag toss is a safe and easy game for your little kids. Older kids may enjoy playing bocce ball or horseshoes. Croquet is another favorite game for such circumstances.
In fact, you can purchase croquet sets at any toy store or online store. Pin the Tail on the Donkey is a party classic that will have everyone laughing and enjoying the game. You may even change the donkey to a more camping suitable animal such as Pin the Tail on the Moose.
You can engage the family around the fire by telling some campfire stories. You can even tell scary stories with the addition of theatrics using a flashlight shining under your chin when big kids are involved. Younger kids will love stories where each person around the fire adds some content to the fable.
Allow equal speaking time to each person so that he or she can add his/her twist to the story. Encourage the kids to make up their own stories and tell them to the group around the fire.
You can turn the fire into a tiny choir of participants with an acoustic guitar or harmonica. Choose familiar songs so that your younger kids can join in. Teach the kids some new songs or engage the family in making your own tunes.
Take a daytime hike to explore some of the roads that you have never walked down before. Have a compass and map so that your children could navigate the hike. Take a binocular to see how many different birds you could identify along the hike.
If you take a moment to pay close attention, you will be surprised as to how many birds are in your neighborhood. Let your kids collect stones and leaves as souvenirs along the way.
Even though daytime walks are fun, you should wait until the sun goes down to enjoy the hike with your entire family. The sounds in the neighborhood are different at night. The peacefulness of a summer evening is something you will always remember.
When the sun goes down, take a flashlight and go for a mini-hike in the moonlight with your kids. Try to spot any night birds that live in your area such as night hawks and owls.
Once you get back to the camp, don’t forget to warm up with hot chocolate.
You can let your imagination run wild and create shadow puppets using a tent and a flashlight. If you don’t have a tent, don’t worry, you can always tie a sheet up from tree branches to do the shadow show.
A rabbit is an easy shadow puppet even your kids can create. A fox is a complex puppet that you can create and show your kids how to do it.
Make sure you plan the details of a scavenger hunt a day or two before planning the backyard camping event. You can use pictures on pieces of paper and let the kids find the hidden prize.
Older kids can search the neighborhood for hidden clues that lead them to the treasure.
You can use anything as a treasure such as small trinkets and candy.
Gazing at the Stars
If it’s not cloudy when the sun goes down, you should include stargazing in your list of things to do. Buy a book about stars so that your kids can identify the North Star and the Big Dipper. Stargazing is a great way to spend some quiet time with your kids while laying back.
One player should whisper something to the next person’s ear and pass it along to the next person until the phrase gets back to the first person. See if the phrase is still the same when it gets back to the first person.
Choose one person to play the role of Simon. “Simon says” the other players to perform certain tasks. The players should follow the command of Simon and do whatever he/she says. If the command isn’t preceded by the words “Simon says,” the player who does it is out. The winner gets to play Simon in the next round.
Truth or Dare
Players will ask each other if they are prepared to tell the truth or would like to dare. The player should choose between truth or dare before he or she knows the question. If the player picks the truth, he or she must tell the trust. If the player picks dare, he or she should act out the dare or he or she is out.
Staring Without Blinking
Tow players should sit opposite each other and stare into each other’s eyes for as long as they could. They cannot blink while staring into the eyes of each other. The first one to blink or laugh is out. Every player needs to play the game until the Don’t Blink champion is chosen.
Name That Tune
One player should hum or sing a tune and the other players try to guess the name of the song. The person who guesses the tune right will be the next player to sing or hum a tune.
Watch a Movie from the Tent
An outdoor-inspired movie is another great way to acclimate your kids to the outdoors. This will make them feel as if they are far from home and allow the imagination to run wild. Set up a mini projector and stream the movie against the house, white bedsheet, or the fence.
Build a Fort
Make an outdoor fort using blankets, cushions, clothesline, sheets, branches, or any other item. Your imagination is the limit. The fantasy fort can be a cushion castle, blanket fort, a treehouse, a teepee, or a fairy house. Children love creating these tiny little private gateways.
Such activities will teach your young kids about construction, sustainability, and engineering. A fort created from yard items can become a play attraction for a long time to come even after your camp trip is over.
Explore the Yard
You may find many educational and interesting things around the yard. Explore the yard to discover different types of plants, insects, flowers, and trees. Having an age-appropriate book on insects, plants, birds, and flowers will no doubt inspire the young explorer in your kid. Make sure you take a binocular and a magnifying glass to enhance the fun associated with these activities.
Make a Nature Collage
It is a great idea to collect odd and interesting things in a bucket or bag when exploring the backyard. Use the collection to engage your kids in an art activity when the exploration is over. Adhere the items to a piece of cardboard or paper using glue. Use these items to create different creatures and animals by using goggle eyes, pebbles, pipe cleaners, pine cones, sticks, and feathers. You can display these creations in your home after the camping trip is over.
Create some outdoor-themed bingo cards from the internet. Engage the entire family to look around the yard and find the objects on the cards. The first person to find all the items on the card is the winner. You can adjust this activity for younger kids by using pictures in addition to written words.
Make sure you arrange some physical playtime to burn those stubborn calories in the process. Badminton, soccer, volleyball, touch football, and Frisbee are some of the best activities in this regard.
If the afternoons are extremely hot, you can plan some less strenuous activities like croquet or beanbag toss. If you have enough players, you may devise a small tournament. Water gun fights and water balloons are ideal for extremely hot days. In fact, water balloons and bubbles are always a winner with younger kids.
Parents need to always focus upon the safety of the children. There are always going to be hazards when you are taking smaller children into unfamiliar areas.
Those that are born with special needs related problems will need to learn how to manage their impulses, master their senses, and also control the way that they are functioning in dangerous areas.
You might feel inclined to protect them as long as they live, but you can make a backyard campground much safer and not do that.
- Fire – Fire safety information for outdoor activities can be very helpful regarding children. You can help prevent burns from occurring, and other types of injuries, when a fire is burning. If you can surround the fire pit with concrete blocks or rocks, this can serve as a good barrier. Additionally, always extinguish your fire completely before deciding to head off to bed.
- Sleep – There should be rules in regard to sleeping outdoors because of the potential dangers that are outside. They should never sleep together on the same mattress, and blankets should not block their airways, plus babies should always be placed on their backs.
- Wandering – It is possible that your children may sleepwalk, and this could be for a variety of reasons. Because of this, you should always keep the tent closed. Younger kids should be placed in between you and any type of exit. Putting a bell on the zipper to the tent is a good safety tip for older children.
- Bites, bruises and bumps – You can avoid injuries from getting worse by having first-aid kits handy, not so much indoors, but in your tent so that you can access them right away. If they do have a bug bite, this can be preventable. You can use lemon eucalyptus oil, DEET, and other topical solutions as needed.
Add a certain type of atmosphere in the backyard area. You shouldn’t have to rely upon electric lights, especially when trying to create an unforgettable experience.
Put these lights in bushes and trees. You can also hang them in front of a tent so that they can see them. It’s perfect for nighttime games because of how they glow. If you decide to get golden lights, these will also work. Effectively, the more lighting that is available, the more magical that will be for the children.
Rainy days are perfect for backyard camping when creating paper lanterns. It is a kind of craft project. Once they are done you can set them up adjacent to plants, bushes, and also trees. You should also consider LED lights to provide the light so they can be seen. You just need a couple of these to create a literally enchanted world for everyone involved.
Give your kids a flashlight when they do this type of event. There are many cute ones that are created, made of different materials and colors, which can add to the overall ambiance. If you are going to do any type of excursion at night, extra flashlights are always needed.
Another strategy is to consider using glow sticks. These are safe for kids and very easy to use. If you get larger ones, these will work, but some prefer smaller units that can wrap around the wrist. These are really a lot of fun, especially when you also have access to glow bubbles. These can shine in glitter in the dark, as well as flow to the ground, making the entire night even more magical.
Create a Camping Feeling
It is a good idea to let them get ready outside instead of sending them into brush their teeth or get clothing for the evening. This can really enhance the entire experience. You should also provide a 5-gallon jug of water, preferably one that has a tap. If you do not go inside of your house very often, it will really seem as if they are camping in the wilderness.
There are several backyard rules that they should follow. Once they are done eating, they might want to go back inside to play games. During this time, you should really connect with your kids in ways that are simply not possible with your usual schedule. This can be a great place to have family time, limiting to only using the bathroom if they want to go in the house.
You can also prevent them from using electronics such as handheld games or phones. There should be no tech at all and toys and boardgames should be the emphasis.
People that are outside in the backyard should not be able to leave without permission. Kids can become very forgetful when they are having a good time, and because of this, you may find them wandering throughout the neighborhood.
Turn off Your Sprinklers
Sprinklers should also be turned off as this could be problematic if they are sleeping outside. This should only be done if you are testing how waterproof your tent is, plus you need to double check to make sure it is off at night.
Have a Plan B!
Sometimes plans may not go as you had foreseen, such as rain and thunder appearing out of nowhere, which means a secondary plan should be in place which may include indoor activities! Spooky stories, complete with torches that are used to light up their faces, and you could also use an animal themed game. If you want to make sure that they feel like they are camping, be sure to maintain this unless there is a substantial storm.
Bring Your Keys
One time someone told me that a locksmith had to come over because of a backyard camping experience. No one had broken into the house, yet someone had accidentally locked everyone out when they went into the house at night. By the next morning, when people tried to go inside to use the bathroom, they were not able to get in at all.
Having a spare key outside is a great way to alleviate this potential problem, and my friends had to call a locksmith because they did not have this option available.
Once this occurred, I have always had extra keys, especially with me in the tent, so that the problem cannot recur. It really is better to be safe than sorry later on!
Don’t Be a Stickler for Curfew
If you like to have a schedule, you may not enjoy this, but kids should be allowed to forgo their typical bedtime. They will fall asleep very easily, especially with all of the excitement they are having outside.
Instead of using the standard no talking rule, that the kids giggle until they are exhausted. Eventually, everyone will fall asleep, and they will always remember this experience. You may even get to hear secrets that they are sharing with their friends and even you that you have never heard before!
Silly snapshots of family members, kids, and friends can be done with a simple camera. A group shot is recommended. Always make copies for everyone involved!
Hanging a picture frame, specifically from the branch of a tree, can create a makeshift photo booth.
Camping is an affordable and easy way to help you and your family connect with the world by doing something that does not require a lot of work. It is likely that this is not why you want to do this for your kids, as you simply want to have a great time with them close to home.
The best news is that you just need to plan for a small amount of time, and with patience and love, you can create the optimal camping experience for everyone in your backyard.