Backyard Camping at Home (Ideas, Tips, and Fun!)

Camping with kids can be a lot of fun and camping with kids can also be chaotic, stressful, and exhausting.  Cue the drum roll….. but backyard camping at home with kids, it’s the best of both!  Easier, less stressful and still heaps of fun!

If there is any apprehension from you or your family, this is probably the easiest and the safest type of camping there is.  Think of backyard camping as the appetizer to the full-on 6 course meal type of camping!

roasting marshmallows at a backyard campout

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What is backyard camping?

Basically, backyard camping is simply having a campout at your home.  You don’t even need to spend the whole night outdoors if you don’t want to… you can do all the fun camping things, then head inside to your cozy bed for the night!

But, if you are going to sleep outdoors, this could mean anything from setting up sleeping bags on the porch to pitching a tent at the back of your property under the tree by the fence.

If you’re really lucky and live on a large piece of land (or have friends/family who do and would let you sleep there for the night), you can head further away from the house so you feel alone and like you’re actually out in the wilderness.

What do you need to have a backyard campout?

To plan a successful backyard camping excursion you’ll need something to sleep in or on and some basic camping supplies.  Perhaps you’d like to have a campfire or bring along a picnic?  You could do all your bedtime routine inside the house where it’s most convenient and head out in your pajamas.

Or, you could pack everything you’ll need and do it all outdoors (although, I don’t recommend peeing in the backyard! – you’ll have to head in for some things)

And, if you’re not planning to sleep outside, you should still set up the tent because kids will love it!  If you don’t have a tent you could also create a fort or shelter and set up a ‘camping spot’ with blankets, pillow, snacks, and a few activities.

Can you camp at home without a tent?

Of course! Years ago the apartment I lived in would get soooo hot in the summer. Without air-conditioning, it was unbearable at night. So, we’d pull our futon mattress out onto the balcony and sleep out there!

If you happen to have a balcony or porch, you can sleep out there or make a sleeping area in your yard by stringing up a tarp or an old sheet if you’d like some shelter. You could sleep on the cushions from the lawn furniture or cover an area of your yard with blankets and rugs.

I’ve even seen people set up sleep areas in kid’s outdoor play forts, on the trampoline, or inside kiddie pools!

Just because you don’t have a tent doesn’t mean you can’t try backyard camping at home!

Activities for backyard camping

1. Eating!

Well, I think it goes without saying that you should make s’mores at your backyard camp out!  But, what type of s’mores is up to you.  If you are able and planning on having a small campfire, you can roast the marshmallows for traditional s’mores.  Otherwise, here are a few more ideas for the yummy treat:

Handmade pizza box solar ovens for cooking smores in your backyard
  • Fill waffle cones with marshmallows, chocolate, and other goodies, then roast these over the fire or grill.
making smores cones for backyard camping
camping dessert nachos for backyard camping
S’mores nachos from

2. Games

For most kids, s’mores, playing in the backyard, and sleeping in the tent will likely be enough excitement.  But, if you happen to be planning this for older kids or would still like a few planned activities on hand, check out these following ideas:

Scavenger hunts are always fun!  Here’s a list of various nature scavenger hunts.  Or, you can easily make up your own scavenger hunt.  For young kids color boxes and tape this to a plastic pail or paper bag.  Then, kids, will hunt around the backyard looking for items of each color.

Pull out the yard games.  Think badminton, croquet, bocce ball, or cornhole. Or, if you don’t happen to have any of these, balloon tennis looks like an easy and super fun activity. 

Balloon tennis activity by Glitter on a dime

If you happen to be handy with wood-working tools, you can up the fun factor with some of these giant outdoor games for kids and families.

Playing in the dark: Take advantage of the dark nights and kids staying up a bit later outside to pull our some glowsticks and flashlights and let them enjoy some fun night time play. You’ll find a bunch of games and activities to play in the dark here in this article.

3. Reading and Watching

There’s something so lovely about cuddling up outdoors and reading a good book to your littles. Try inviting some reading by bringing out some fun kid’s books and laying them with pillows onto a big blanket in the shade. 

These camping books would be perfect for the backyard campout! 

Or, if you live somewhere where the sun sets early you could try setting up an outdoor movie showing.  Diana Rambles put together a very cool camping movie party and you can see how she made all the props and grab her printables too if you want to make it all fancy and fun!

Camping movie party by Diana Rambles

A few last tips for a successful night in the backyard:

  • Kids will enjoy the process of setting up camp as well as actually camping.  So, let them be involved.
  • Invite a few family friends along for the adventure – or maybe a few stuffies or dolls!
  • Make sure to check the weather forecast and plan for any night time temperature drops.

Backyard camping as preparation for their first camping trip

Even if you’d prefer camping somewhere other than your backyard, backyard camping can be very helpful in getting toddlers comfortable with the new situation.  It seems that tents are very exciting to toddlers and you’d probably all be better off getting that tent sleeping excitement spent at home than at the campground.

Here’s a great guide to camping with toddlers if you’d like to try the real thing someday!

It can also feel less intimidating to kids who are worried about sleeping outdoors or in strange situations.

Hopefully you found some great camping at home tips and inspiration to head to your own backyard for an evening of fun family camping!

2 thoughts on “Backyard Camping at Home (Ideas, Tips, and Fun!)”

  1. What a fun post! We need to try backyard camping. I think my kids would love it! Thanks so much for including our balloon tennis activity! 🙂

    1. Hi Heather, Yes, you and your kids should definitely give backyard camping a try! Thanks for sharing your great activity idea:)

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