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Kid-Friendly Guide to Backyard Camping

Camping is a classic and timeless family activity. Typically, families pack up the car, travel a few hours to a somewhat nearby campsite, and set up the tents for the weekend. While not every family enjoys sleeping in the elements, most of us look forward to the slow down and fresh air. For experienced campers, then a night in the backyard is pretty simple. However, for new campers, then a backyard camping experience might present a new challenge. To help, the following highlights a variety of tips and tricks to create a memorable night with the kids.

Like anything outside, especially at night, spending the night outside will include a few bugs and mosquitos. In addition to basic camping tips, the following guide includes some kid-friendly entertaining ideas because spending an entire evening without a tablet could be pretty difficult.

Basic Backyard Camping Tips & Tricks

backyard camping tips

Camping is a timeless tradition. However, if you need a touch-up on the basics or simply never spent much time camping growing up, then the following will help with the essentials.

First and foremost, backyard camping provides a little flexibility. As opposed to a planned camping trip, take a look at the weather and pick a night without a poor forecast. While a summer storm is always possible (you can always run inside), choosing a night without rain or strong winds in the forecast will go a long way toward a successful experience.

Next, survey your yard and find a flat surface to set up your tent and sleeping area. Along those lines, ensure you have the basic materials, such as a tent, sleeping bags, pillows, blankets (with some extras), and camping chairs. For some, placing a ground tarp under the tent will help protect against extra moisture (or even some sharp sticks, rocks, or other objects).

Finally, don’t forget about your meal prep. While it is simple to run inside for a few quick things, lean in to the experience and pack a bag full of snacks, along with lunch and dinner. With fire as the cooking source, your dinner options may be limited, but the kids will likely enjoy roasting a hot dog over the open flame. Related, a few things to ensure are part of your camping materials and/or checklist:

  • First Aid Kit
  • Firewood
  • Fire Pit and/or Portable Grill
  • Bring Cooking Supplies (including foil)
  • Extra Water
  • Keep Food Secure
  • Backup Power Source
  • Plan Bathroom Access
  • Plan for Pets
  • Check for Allergies

Tips for First-Time Campers

tips for first time campers

The good thing about backyard camping is that you are at home. While it may mimic the traditional camping experience, if things go awry, then you can run inside or simply regroup in the house. For first-time campers, then this is a crucial aspect of backyard camping that provides a little peace of mind and extra comfort. To help, the following tips should relieve some stress for first-time campers with kids eagerly looking forward to a night outdoors.

  • Practice setting up the tent before the night out. Be sure to read the instructions.
  • Agree that everyone will stay outside once you’ve set up camp (except for bathroom breaks if everyone agrees).
  • Set up a cooking area with the campfire (or firepit if you already have one in your yard) and a hangout area with chairs and lighting.
  • Plan ahead for meals and pack a cooler with snacks, drinks, and other goodies (like s’mores).
  • Check the weather and plan for a much cooler night, so bring plenty of blankets, sweatshirts, and extra towels for spills.

Depending on the level of excitement of the family, planning sufficient activities to entertain the kids (and your spouse) may be the biggest challenge. To really simulate a traditional camping experience, then many families will agree to make it a screen and phone free evening. While it is important to keep one charged phone for emergencies, try to keep it for emergency use and really engage with the experience.

From telling campfire stories to stargazing, Mother Nature offers a fair amount of activities. However, planning ahead and having a mental list of outside activities, along with packing a few things will help make a more memorable experience. For example, playing flashlight tag, throwing a frisbee, or trying to catch fireflies are classic camping games.

Additionally, take advantage of the time outside and teach (or learn) about a few basic survival skills. For example, make a map of the yard and bring a compass to teach some navigation skills. Related, cooking over a fire allows you to teach the kids (depending on their age) about starting a fire and other fire safety skills.

Finally, and most importantly, keep it simple. Don’t feel bad about missing something (after all, that is part of camping and well, everything), and just embrace the experience. Bring a camera (and bug spray) and simply engage with the family to create a memorable evening enjoying the natural surroundings of your backyard.

Tips to Entertain Kids While Camping

kid's activities when camping

Most, if not all, kids will remember their first camping experience. Whether camping in the backyard or a local campground, keeping the kids entertained can be quite challenging. For kids who are used to tablets, TVs, and computers, then camping offers a nice alternative and some fresh air. For some family-friendly entertaining ideas, then the following aims to help provide some inspiration.

  • Scavenger Hunt: Create a scavenger hunt with nature items for kids to find. This could be a first activity (which will allow you to set up the campsite).
  • Decorate the Tent: After setting up the tent, then let the kids decorate the inside of the tent with fairy lights and personal items.
  • Bug Catching: Lean into the bugs and bring a Mason glass to catch the bugs and other critters. For more, bring magnifying glasses to observe insects.
  • Outdoor Crafts: Bring supplies for nature crafts like leaf rubbings or rock painting. Also, some camping-themed crafts, such as making paper lanterns or nature collages might be fun.
  • Run Around: Just run and play games like tag or hide and seek.
  • Stories & Songs: Sitting around the campfire telling stories and singing songs is a quintessential activity. For some inspiration, bring some books (perhaps even a Choose Your Own Adventure) to help engage the kids and make the stories and songs interactive.
  • Glow Sticks & Shadow Fun: Embrace the dark night sky and give the kids glow sticks for nighttime games or to light up the campsite. Related, use the flashlights to create puppets on the tent walls (and even include them in the campfire stories).
  • Make S’mores: No camping experience is complete without s’mores.
  • Look at the Stars: From the constellations to simply stopping to stare at the stars above, this is a simple activity that anyone of any age can enjoy (and probably more important for older kids and adults).
  • Nature Photography: Provide disposable cameras or smartphones for kids to take photos of the area. From the sun and trees to a different perspective of the house and neighborhood, pictures of Mother Nature are always awe-inspiring.

Tips From Camping, Outdoor and Family Enthusiasts

camping tips

For more tips, tricks, and ideas about backyard camping with your family, we put out a call for help and am sharing the curated responses below. (Note: Eliminate ‘Em is not endorsing any of the companies or ideas discussed below, but we asked for suggestions to get some different perspectives.) Keep reading to find out what the contributors who responded to our query had to say about their favorite backyard camping ideas.

Jeremy Yamaguchi is the CEO of Lawn Love, helping homeowners find quality, reliable lawn care. Specializing in technology and using industry experience, Jeremy intends to revolutionize the lawn care industry.

“Just because you are camping in your backyard and not out in nature doesn’t mean you have to use your kitchen for meals! I say lean into the camping spirit and use a grill. While more intermediate or no-frills campers may just bring a cast-iron pan for cooking all of their food, I highly recommend that beginners get a portable grill. They are easier to cook with, and if you’re new to camping, it’s nice to enjoy all aspects of it – including the meals!”

Will Hatton is an an avid outdoorsman and the founder of travel site, The Broke Backpacker.

“Backyard camping can be an absolute blast for children and adults alike. There’s nothing like sleeping outside under the stars, except perhaps, doing it safely. When you’re sleeping outdoors, you need to take the proper precautions to keep your body safe and keep pests away. Since your backyard is a place you can control, rather than the rugged campsite off a beaten trail, I recommend placing lemongrass plants around your yard to ward off mosquitos.

If you’re having a fire, make sure there’s an adult to tend it and keep it in a well-controlled area. On hiking trails, we backpackers follow the ‘Leave No Trace’ policy in which you leave an area nicer than you found it. The same can be applied to your own backyard since it’s outside and what you do there impacts the environment. So keep flames low, controlled, and safe while you cook up some delicious s’mores.”

Ryan Farley, CEO of LawnStarter, a platform that makes it easy to find and book quality lawn care services in your area.

“You’ll definitely want to prepare your yard before you even begin setting the tent up or bring the kids out. Thoroughly mow the area you’ll be camping in, and bag your grass clippings even if you normally mulch them. This will help to keep your kids’ feet clean and create a clear walking path for them. You’ll also want to prepare your campfire area if you’re going to have one. Remove any old ashes and debris, cut down weeds that may be growing around the pit, and prep plenty of firewood in advance. You should also take the time to clear a path from the tent to your home, and make sure your kids know which way to go. Finally, make sure your kids have at least one flashlight with full batteries.”

Zohaib Sunesara is the co-founder of CuddlePixie, a parenting site that shares tales to harm the heart and inspire.

“Creating a comfortable environment is essential for a positive camping experience. Choose a flat and dry spot in the backyard for setting up the tent, and practice beforehand to ensure a smooth setup on the day of the camping trip. Invest in quality sleeping gear such as sleeping bags or air mattresses to ensure a good night’s sleep, and don’t forget to bring along pillows and favorite blankets to add extra comfort and familiarity.”

Andre Kazimierski, CEO, Improovy, a house painting platform.

“When it comes to safety, the top thing I would recommend when you’re backyard camping with your kids is to have a first aid kit outside with you. This can help keep everyone safe and also avoid disrupting the fun to rush inside for a bandaid or similar. I also recommend setting some ground rules, such as the area you expect kids to remain inside, rules about leaving the tent during the night, and so on.”

Proactive Approach to Hold a Bug-Free Backyard Camping Experience

As part of any outdoor experience, bugs and mosquitos are part of the equation. Although we all love a fun night around the fire pit or a summer cookout, these common summer bugs will likely create some mayhem with the kids (or your spouse). Whether camping in the woods or the backyard, mosquitos will be part of the experience as well. However, unlike camping in the woods and relying on mosquito sprays, there are some proactive steps you can take when preparing your backyard for a night of camping.

First, to gauge a potential problem, look for signs of a mosquito infestation. Generally, mosquitoes lay their eggs near water (such as puddles, marshes or containers filled with rainwater). Like many adults, mosquitoes tend to stay close to home, so look out for any water sources or clogged gutters. Related, if you have standing water due to drainage issues or simply live near a pond or lake, mosquitos will likely be present. If not, then it may make sense to plan a camping experience based on the weather and postpone or delay the night if there is pending rain or just following a storm.

Additionally, consider mosquito treatment services to prep your yard and cultivate a bug-free experience (as much as that is possible). For families in our service area, Eliminate ‘Em offers free estimates and licensed technicians to handle all your needs. In extreme cases, we can offer same-day service! Our professional mosquito control services are available to you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to get rid of any pests in and around your home.

For mosquito pest control, our strategy may entail:

  • Eliminating or reducing water sources on your property – particularly stagnant sources.
  • Treating vegetation and water sources where mosquitoes have created nests to prevent any existing eggs from hatching.
  • Removing any secondary factors that make your property a target for mosquitoes, including wet leaves, dead wood, debris and overgrowth.
  • Offering you tips to keep the pests from returning, including effective plant-watering and lawn-mowing strategies. The less water and fewer hiding places, the better.
  • Ensuring your automatic sprinkler system isn’t causing water to pool and attract mosquitoes.

Don’t put up with mosquitoes swarming around your home and yard. If over-the-counter treatments haven’t helped keep them under control, contact Eliminate ‘Em and ensure your family enjoys a camping night or just playing outside all summer long.