If you don’t have time or energy to go camping, you can still have fun camping in the backyard. We know it’s not the same as camping in the Great Outdoors but it’s a fun backyard alternative.
Recreate the magic of a camping trip without having to loading the car with stuff and travelling to a campsite. Instead, bring the gear out to the backyard and have a family staycation in the backyard. Here are some backyard camping ideas for a fun and memorable family experience. You can even use these ideas for a backyard camping birthday party.
Set up camp
Pull out your tent and set it up in the backyard as you would if you were really camping. Get out the mats and sleeping bags and all the other camping paraphernalia. As you’re only camping at home, you don’t have to worry about trying to fit it all in your vehicle. If you don’t have a tent, improvise. Use your summer beach tent or rig something up over the clothesline.
If you don’t want to camp outside or don’t have a backyard, set up a tent, a play fort or some kind of shelter in your living room. You don’t need to camp outside to enjoy camping at home. You just want something different to break up the monotony of lockdown.
Fill up your tent
Next, it’s time to fill up the tent. You’ve added the mats and sleeping bags but what about all the other stuff to make it comfortable. Bring out your doonas, pillows and even some fluffy blankets. Get kids to bring out their stuffed toys and throw them in there too.
Decorate your campsite
It’s now time to decorate your campsite. Use fairy lights, solar lights, glow sticks or Christmas lights to create a fun atmosphere in the backyard. If you feel like music, bring out some portable speakers and enjoy some tunes in your tent. For a fun activity before your camping trip, get your kids to create a special Spotify playlist for your camping experience. Set up the picnic blanket, camp chairs and a table as well so you have a spot to hang out together.
Get your dog involved
The best thing about backyard camping is that the campsite is dog-friendly. Kids love having their four-legged friends on holiday. Set up a space for your dog to be part of the camping adventure with a sleeping area, toys and food and water bowl.
Do a backyard scavenger hunt
Once your campsite is set up, have some backyard fun. Download the Newy with Kids backyard scavenger hunt and get the kids to search for the different items on the checklist while it’s light outside. Have a special treats available if they can cross off most of the items on the list.
Do some nature craft
Look around the backyard and find things for nature craft that the kids can do. They can collect leaves, twigs and seeds and make nature necklaces or build a bug hotel. Encourage your brood to be wildlife warriors by building a bug hotel from things you’ve found in the garden. Your bug hotel will act as the perfect habitat to attract a variety of mini-beasts to your garden which is wonderful for environmental diversity and also a great outside activity that will continue to spark your child’s interest as they regularly check on their big hotel for new guests!
Play some yard games
Get the kids playing in the backyard. You can play retro games like tag, three-legged races or wheelbarrow races. You can even hide different items in the “campground” and get kids to find them. If you have games like badminton, horseshoes, cornhole or tether ball, organise a family tournament.
Enjoy a camp shower
If the kids have gotten a bit grimy in the backyard, give them a campground shower. Set up an outdoor shower using the garden hose and hose them off.
Have some fun with torches
Once it gets dark, get out the torches and let them do a torchlight tour of the backyard. The yard looks completely different at night. Use the torches to create shadow puppets in their tent. You can also play torch tag in the dark. One person is “it” and then has to spot the others using the flashlight. Once they’ve tagged someone with the light, they’re out.
Do a cookout
While you’re “camping”, cook some food over a campfire in your backyard. If you have a firepit or portable camp cooker, cook food that you would eat on a camping holiday such as snags, hot dogs or damper over the fire. You can even toast marshmallows, make s’mores with graham crackers or digestive biscuits or make banana boats in foil. For inspiration, check out this collection of camp meals on the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service website. If you’ve don’t have a fire pit, fire up the barbecue and cook some food. Just serve them on camp cookware for an authentic experience.
Talk to other campers
If you’re used to camping with friends and family, make them part of the camping adventure. Arrange a Zoom or Facetime call and reach out especially if they’re camping in their backyard too.
If part of the appeal of a camping trip is getting back to nature and getting offline, put away the devices or turn off the wifi in your home. This recreates the off the grid appeal of camping and encourages family bonding.
Spot the stars
If it’s a clear night, spot some stars. You can use an app like SkyView® to view the night sky. Simply point your iPhone, iPad, or iPod at the sky to identify stars, constellations, satellites, and more. You can also try spotting the International Space station by downloading the NASA app.
For some camping fun, tell ghost stories, play I Spy or break out a guitar or ukelele and have a singalong around the campfire. You could even get some kids books out and do a storytime. Here are some camping-themed kids books: Bluey: Camping, Peppa Pig: Peppa’s Camper Van, Anh Do’s Hotdog #5: Camping Time and Isadora Moon Goes Camping.
Watch a movie
Some camping purists might not agree with watching a movie while you’re backyard camping, but if you’re at home, why not enjoy some entertainment. Set up a laptop or if you have a projector, set up a movie screen using a white bed sheet.
Once you’ve got everything set up, get ready for a night’s sleep outside. The best thing is, if the kids change their mind about sleeping outside or need to go to the toilet, it’s just a short trip back to the house.
More camping ideas you might enjoy:
Started in late 2012 by a local mum, Newy with Kids has grown into a thriving go-to family guide for the Newcastle, Lake Macquarie & Hunter region. Parents visit the Newy with Kids website to find things to do with babies, kids and teens. Whether it’s local attractions, upcoming events, kids eat free, school holiday activities or birthday party ideas, Newy with Kids is the best website for local parents to find local kid-friendly activities and information 24/7.