The Ultimate Guide to Backyard Camping with Kids

Canva happy multicultural kids smiling while sitting in yellow camp

Sometimes it’s hard to get away with the whole family. Life is hectic, and packing up to drive several hours to a campground, amusement park, or vacation spot can sometimes be too much to handle.

But, when you’re itching to get away, and you can tell everyone needs a break from the mundane, try backyard camping. This ultimate guide to backyard camping with kids will give you tons of fun ideas to make a stay-cation easy, stress-free, and fun for the whole family.

Safety and Weather

Before you decide to break out the camping supplies and get your kids excited, take a few minutes to think about safety and weather. If there’s a storm on the horizon, you may want to postpone it. Or at least prepare to bring the water-sensitive items in the house.

As far as safety goes, consider your neighborhood and whether you have privacy in your backyard. Also, think about insects, dangerous animals, and fire safety. Backyard camping is pretty safe, especially when there’s plenty of adult supervision to go around. 

For more information on determining backyard camping safety, check out my other article Is Backyard Camping Safe? Everything You Need to Know.

Decide On A Plan

Treating backyard camping like wilderness camping seems to make it fun for everyone. If this is what you want to do, it can be a good opportunity for everyone to take a break from their screens. No going inside to check your phone or watch YouTube! Of course, you probably want to allow everyone to use the indoor restroom for sanitary reasons.

Or, if you want to watch movies with the family in the tent, you may want to run an extension cord. It all depends on what you and your kids feel like doing. Whatever it is, get everyone to participate in some way.

Gather Camping Supplies

Having to run back inside for something every few minutes can be a bummer. Gather all of your supplies and bring them outside to begin setting them up. This includes food, sleeping pads, tents, games, flashlights, sleeping bags, bug spray, pillows, blankets, and drinks. Once you’re outside, pretend like the house isn’t even there. Unless, of course, someone needs to use the restroom.

If you need some basic supplies, we’ve got a few suggestions. 


CORE 9 Person Instant Cabin Tent

For big families or small families who want to spread out and have activities in the tent

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Coleman Sundome Tent

A small tent great for cozy camping in all kinds of weather. 

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Sleeping Bags

TETON Sports Celsius XL Sleeping Bag

Great for cold climates.

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Oaskys Camping Sleeping Bag

Ideal for warm-weather camping.

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HiHiker Mummy Bag

An excellent all-weather sleeping bag.

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Coleman Kids 50

Great for kids and glows in the dark!

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EZORKAS 2 Pack Camping Lanterns

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Great water-resistant lanterns with 4 lighting modes. 

Wsky Rechargeable Camping Lantern

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Easy to hang, includes 6 lighting modes, and doubles as a flashlight.

Set Up The Campsite

One of the nice things about backyard camping is being able to do things you couldn’t do in the wilderness. For instance, stringing lights around your campsite can enhance the mood and make it easier to see when the sun goes down.

Setting up the campsite is also a good opportunity to teach your kid or kids how to erect a tent and organize supplies. It can be a fun learning and bonding experience for everyone. So, do it like you would in the wilderness. Have a little one choose a good spot to put the tent, and then you can all set it up together.

Make It Comfortable

If you have an air mattress or two you want to inflate, go for it! If not, you can use sleeping bags, blankets, pillows, and even yoga-mats to make your sleeping area nice and comfortable.

Of course, no campsite is official without camping chairs. If you want some heavy duty camping/lawn chairs that will last, check out these by Coleman. They even have a built in table that flips up when you need it. Pretty cool.

Start A Fire

Canva Father and son roast marshmallow candies on campfire in forest. Family relationship concept image

Make sure to check for a burn ban in your area before starting a fire. Again, this is an opportunity to show your kids how to start and maintain a fire properly. Of course, you can also show them how to extinguish the fire when necessary.

A crackling fire is one of the best things about camping. You can cook hotdogs and roast marshmallows for S’mores. Plus, it’s relaxing and soothing. But, if you aren’t able to have a fire, you can use a charcoal grill to cook up some fun food and have a great time.

An age old tradition for lots of people when roasting marshmallows is to do so with a stick. If you’re not really up for that, because lets face it, you have no clue where that sticks been or whats on it, you can always use these marshmallow roasting sticks instead.

Play Games

There are plenty of fun games you can play with your family while camping in the backyard. Some involve supplies and don’t. Either way, there’s something everyone will enjoy in the list below. 

Tell Ghost Stories

The old go-to is telling ghost stories around a campfire when it gets dark. You can find age-appropriate ghost stories here if you can’t remember any from your childhood. If you want to get really scary, you can break out an old Halloween costume and scare your kids when they least expect it. But they may not be able to sleep outside after that. Fair warning!

Play Telephone

Chances are you remember this game from your childhood. You gather into a circle and one person comes up with a secret word. They whisper it to the person to their left. That person whispers it to the person to their left, and so on. When it comes full circle, the last person announces the word they heard to the group. It’s usually very different from the original word! 

Telephone is best with a large group, but it can still be fun if you have a ringer along the way who can stir things up. 

Create a Story

To engage the imagination, you can have everyone tell a little bit of a story, each person adding their own scene as you go. This can get pretty silly and can be tons of fun.

Play Tag or Hide-And-Go-Seek

If you still have some sunlight, you can play a game of tag or freeze tag in the yard. Or, if you have a big enough yard, you can play hide-and-go-seek.

Have a Scavenger Hunt

You can place treats or toys around the yard and give your kids clues as to where they are. You can also do this when it gets dark, just give your kids flashlights and tell them to be careful!

Play a Board Game

Transferring your board games outside can turn an old, boring game into a new fun one, just because of the change of scenery.

Play a Lawn Game

Corn Hole is a great lawn game. You can also play glow-in-the-dark lawn darts (don’t worry, they’re safe), or try your hand at this giant Jenga set!

Read a Book

You can also read a favorite book to your kids. There are tons of adventure books that would be fun to read your kids while on their own backyard camping adventure. 

Cook Fun Food

Besides the usual S’mores and hotdogs or hamburgers, you can get creative with your camping recipes. You can do Mac ‘N Cheese, kebobs, breakfast sandwiches, and hot cocoa. For a list of easy camping recipes, click here.

Clean Up and Break Down as a Team

Canva Cute Little Girls Helping Their Parent to Set up a Tent on a Campsite. Active Lifestyle Family Recreational Weekend.

If all went well, you and the kids had a great time and slept well outside. But the camping adventure isn’t over. It’s time to clean up and break down. 

It’s important to teach your kids from an early age about leave-no-trace camping. And what better place to teach it than your own backyard! After all, who wants to see trash on their back lawn? If you made a fire, show your kids how to replace the rocks of the fire ring after making sure that the fire is completely out.

Properly breaking down a tent is a good skill to learn at a young age. As is rolling up or stuffing sleeping bags and taking all trash to the proper place. The earlier your kids are exposed to the outdoors, the quicker they’ll catch on. Plus, it’s hard to put a price on basic survival skills and the time spent teaching them to your kids. 

In Conclusion

Backyard camping can be a vacation in itself. It means quality time and teachable moments for you and your kids. You can use it as an opportunity to unplug from technology and the hectic world of work and school. 

It’s good to start with a plan that involves safety, supplies, activities, basic ground rules, and food ideas. Involve your kids in the whole process to make it a memorable experience that can kindle a love of the great outdoors. Next time you’re stressing about getting away, remember that you have a great spot in your own backyard

Justin Childress

Justin Childress is the creator of He is also a devoted husband and father of his 1-year-old son Gabriel. Justin enjoys spending time with family, reading, and, of course, contributing to Read more about me or follow me on Pinterest to stay connected.

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