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39 Fun Backyard Camping Ideas + Free Printables

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Can’t find the time to jet off to an exotic vacation? Planning a vacation can get tricky, especially when you have little ones and a busy schedule. This summer, enjoy a backyard camping experience and avoid the hassle of planning and extra costs.

Some may be quick to assume that backyard camping is a less fun version of traditional camping. However, with the right tools, food and activities, a experience can become the perfect cost-friendly way to spend a summer weekend. Plus, download the included camping activities to add some extra fun to your night under the stars.

Backyard Camping Benefits

Whether you’re looking to save money or need a quick and easy summer activity for the family, backyard camping has many benefits, including:

Saves money: Instead of spending a lot of money on travel and booking a campsite at a national park, camping in your backyard cuts down on costs.

Less planning: Planning is stressful — especially when you’re trying to make everyone happy, including the kids. Cut out the stress by planning a simple experience in your backyard.

Cuts down on carbon footprint: Driving or flying to a camping destination leads to more fuel output in the environment. Staying in your backyard and avoiding travel is a great way to cut down on your carbon footprint, not to mention it’s cheaper.

Close to home: Easily stay close to home in the comfort of your backyard. If you forget any items, they’re only steps away! Plus, it’s a quick safety option if all of a sudden something such as a thunderstorm hits.

Take a break from electronics: Camping in your backyard can help your family unplug from their phones, laptops and gaming systems, making it a unique experience.

Safe for kids: If you haven’t taken your little ones camping before or if they’re on the younger side, backyard camping can be a safer alternative and is a simple way to introduce them to sleeping outdoors.

Bring the family together: An outdoor experience like backyard camping is a great way to bring the family together and bond. These are memories you’ll cherish forever!

How To Camp in Your Backyard

If you’ve decided you want to have a backyard camping experience but you’re not sure where to start, we’ve put together some top tips to follow when going about your planning:

Pick a spot: The first thing you need to consider is the best place in your backyard to pitch the tents, like an area with a flat surface. Also, be sure to check the weather beforehand and make sure the sprinklers are turned off for the night.

Set up your campsite: Once you’ve picked out your camping area, make sure you have the essentials such as a tent, sleeping bags and chairs.

Gather your supplies: To ensure you have the ultimate camping experience, double-check that you have supplies such as grilling utensils, s’mores sticks, flashlights, a cooler for food and drink, and mosquito repellent if necessary.

Plan the food and snacks: Elevate your camping experience with some fun food options. Stick to classics like hot dogs and s’mores or get creative with some fun popcorn recipes and drinks.

Backyard Camping Setup Ideas

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Setting up your backyard camping experience is perhaps the most fun part of planning — plus, since you’re at home, you can get more creative with it than if you were at a park campsite. Here are some tips and add-ons to include in your backyard camping setup to take things the extra mile:

Build a firepit: Before building a fire in your backyard, make sure fires are legal in your area (some areas may prohibit them due to fire season). If you have the ability to have a campfire in your backyard, make sure you have some stones to create the outer ring of the firepit if you don’t already have a pit, some tinder and kindling, fuel and matches. Setting up a campfire can also be a great opportunity to teach your kids about fire safety.

Hang fairy lights: Fairy lights or string lights are a great way to add some extra light and coziness to your setup. Hang them around the tent or on the outside of your home. Plus, you can purchase battery-operated lights if your setup isn’t near an outlet.

Build a fort: If you don’t already have a camping tent, make a fort outside! Get creative and hang blankets from the outside walls of your house or make a teepee tent out of sheets and different materials from inside the house. This also makes for a great activity to complete together.

Bring out pillows and blankets: For the ultimate cozy factor, bring your favorite pillows and blankets from your home outside — this is something you normally can’t do with traditional camping!

No-spill cups: No-spill cups are ideal for the young ones and can prevent liquids from leaking into your tent and all over the pillows and blankets.

Set up a projector: For a more outside-the-box backyard camping experience, set up an . Set up a mini projector and stream a family-favorite movie on a wall, fence or white bedsheet.

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Camping Activities

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Make your backyard camping night memorable and plan some easy things to do together. Stick with the traditional camping classics, like spooky stories and campfire songs, or incorporate new activities like yoga and tie-dyeing clothes.

7. Tell ghost stories: For some classic spooky fun, tell ghost stories around the campfire. If you don’t know any stories off the top of your head, prepare ahead of time and purchase scary storybooks for kids.

8. Read storybooks: If your little ones aren’t fans of scary stories, read some classic storybooks instead. Or, you can also sit around the campfire and tell your own stories, with the next person continuing where the last one left off.

9. Campfire yoga: Backyard yoga could be something for the whole family to enjoy together.

10. Hike the neighborhood: Take a hike through your neighborhood or nearby roads to see something new. Then end the night camping in your backyard.

11. Tie-dye clothes: Give your backyard camping adventure the traditional camp feel with tie-dye. Purchase a tie-dye kit and create matching T-shirts with your family — you can even tie-dye socks, pillowcases and more!

12. Sing around the campfire: If you’ve got some singers or musicians in the family, bust out the instruments and sing around the campfire. If not, you can make your own instruments with household items or just turn the activity into karaoke and use a speaker.

13. Catch fireflies: Catch some fireflies with the little ones if they’re in your area (most commonly in areas with lakes and streams). Use a firefly catching net and place them in a mason jar to watch the light show — just remember to release them afterward!

14. Stargaze: You don’t have to have a telescope to check out the night sky! If you’re camping on a clear night, lay out a blanket and see if you can spot any constellations.

15. Watch the clouds: For an activity to do during the day, watch the clouds go by. You can look for different shapes in the clouds and have your kids draw what they see. You can also use the printable below to track the shapes you see in the sky.

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Camping Games for the Backyard

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Create memories (and a little competition) with some backyard camping games. Opt for classics like ring toss and board games or get creative and make your own camping-themed Mad Libs. Here are some additional fun game ideas that the whole family can join in on:

16. Bocce ball: If you don’t already have this traditional lawn game, purchase a bocce ball set for your backyard camping day. Bocce is the ultimate leisure game and can be played almost anywhere.

17. I spy: Explore the outdoors and nature in your backyard and play some old-fashioned I spy! I spy can provide a great sensory experience for kids and can get them to learn about different plants and creatures you may have in your yard.

18. Mad Libs: Mad Libs is a fun backyard camping game you can get creative with. Make your own camping-themed one or print out the template below to use. Get ready for some laughs!

19. 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.

20. Flashlight tag: Play some flashlight tag — it’s one of the most classic camping games out there. It’s essentially hide-and-seek in the dark. If you get caught in a flashlight beam, you’re out. Just be sure your batteries are good to go.

21. Backyard scavenger hunt: Take the kids on a backyard scavenger hunt where they can be on the lookout for items in your garden, such as insects, flowers and trees. This is a perfect activity for when the adults need some relaxation time.

22. Board games: Dust off the board games that have been sitting in your closet and include them in your backyard camping experience. Enjoy games such as chess, Monopoly and Scrabble for some friendly competition.

23. Outdoor Jenga: Take advantage of all the space you have outside and swap your traditional Jenga for a jumbo one. You can even save some cash and make your own giant Jenga using wood blocks from Home Depot.

24. Ring toss: Ring toss is a classic backyard camping game that people of all ages can enjoy together. Set up a ring toss set on the lawn or make your own out of recycled bottles — be sure they’re plastic bottles to avoid broken glass!

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Camping Crafts

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Reminiscing on those days of summer camp as a kid? These back-to-basics camping crafts will be sure to please the kids and them more in touch with nature. Check out these different camping craft ideas along with tutorials to help you along the way:

25. Origami paper tents: Get crafty with origami and create some paper tents. This is a simple craft that kids of all ages can complete. Check out the tutorial from Paper Kawaii.

26. Leaf rubbings: Help your kids learn about different types of trees with some leaf rubbing art. To do this, gather some leaves from your backyard and set them on a flat surface. Then, place a piece of paper on the leaves and rub over them with crayons to create an impression.

27. Tin can lanterns: Tin can lanterns are a fun and inexpensive craft to make using recycled food cans. Simply take a cleaned can and have the kids paint it in any color they like. Then, drill some holes in a fun pattern into the sides of the can so the tea light can shine through!

28. Friendship bracelets: An all-time favorite craft at camp are friendship bracelets. They’re usually made from a series of knots of embroidery floss. Check out this tutorial from Sarah Maker for some ideas.

29. DIY campsite sign: Engage your imagination and make some DIY campsite signs for the backyard. You can make these out of paper plates and hang them from trees — you can even use the printable coloring page below as part of your sign!

30. Rock pets: Rocks are usually an abundant item in backyards, so why not turn them into a fun craft? Make some rock pets by painting them with a fun design and then gluing on some googly eyes once the paint has dried.

31. DIY fire starters: If you’re planning on having a campfire, make some DIY fire starters with the kids using toilet paper rolls stuffed with lint from the dryer. Plus, this could also be an opportunity to teach your kids about fire safety. Learn how to make them at Frugal Family Home.

32. Tin can wind chimes: Take advantage of windy days and make your own wind chimes! This DIY craft can be made with empty, clean tin cans from your pantry. Find the tutorial at She Knows Parenting.

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Camping-Themed Snacks and Drinks

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There can’t be a backyard camping experience without some fun drinks and snacks to go along with it! Enjoy some s’mores and hot dogs around the campfire with your family this summer, or get creative and come up with some recipes or out-of-the-box snacks.

Add a fun element to your food presentation with these toppers — just print them out, attach them to a toothpick and place them on top of your snack.

33. Campfire hot dogs: Be sure to stock up on some hot dogs before your backyard camping night! Hot dogs are easy to grill over a campfire — you can even mix it up and make pigs in a blanket with this recipe from Delish.

34. Cocktails or mocktails: If you’re in the mood for some drinks with the adults (maybe you have your friends over too), make some cocktails or some mocktail versions of summer classics. Opt for boozy lemonade in mason jars or choose a nonalcoholic watermelon iced tea.

35. Hot cocoa: Nothing pairs better with singing around the campfire than some hot chocolate! Get creative with some recipes instead of the usual — consider adding in some cinnamon sticks or vanilla extract, and maybe some cayenne pepper for the adults.

36. Popcorn: Who needs a microwave for popcorn if you have a nice backyard campfire? It’s just as easy as making it on the stove and more fun. Place popcorn kernels and vegetable oil in a pie tin and cover with aluminum foil, then place over the fire. Once fully popped, remove from the fire with tongs.

37. Trail mix: Instead of typical trail mix, level it up with camping-style ingredients like marshmallows, Goldfish and chocolate pieces, such as M&M’s.

38. Classic s’mores: If you have a campfire, s’mores are a must. Be sure to stock up on some graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate. You can also check out this s’mores cookbook for some additional takes on this sweet treat!

39. Grilled veggies: To add a healthy option into the mix, add some veggies to your shopping list before your backyard camping night. You can effortlessly create your own foil packets, season the veggies and let the packets roast over the campfire.

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No matter what you choose to include in your backyard camping experience this summer, you and your family will be sure to create long-lasting memories. This easy activity is the perfect and is something you can do from the comfort of your home without breaking the bank. Be sure to check out these REI coupons if you’re in need of some outdoor digs or camping gear.

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