Before we had children I never understood the point of backyard camping. The whole point of buying a tent was to take it out into the wilderness, off of the beaten track and enjoy the isolation.


Then there were kids.

Now, backyard camping provides all the joys of sleeping under the stars without the hassles of driving the equipment and the family out into the wilderness, only for them to begin complaining that there isn’t a “proper toilet.”

Not only that, but the last time we took the littles camping, Evey stayed up all night poking us with a chubby toddler finger every five minutes and asking “Will bears come and eat us?” Unsurprisingly this did not a restful weekend make.

The nearby safety of home and parents along with the comfort of spiderless bathrooms makes backyard camping ideal for kids who like the idea of camping but are too anxious to enjoy the full wilderness experience just yet.

A backyard doesn’t have to be large, in order for the kids to enjoy a single night camping “trip.” The only things you really need are a flat piece of ground large enough for your tent or tent-like structure, a fence to ensure there are no nighttime wonderers either into or out of the camp and enough blankets, pillows, and stuffed toys to make it comfortable and safe.

Talking of safety, take a walk through the garden before your backyard camping night and ensure there are no tripping hazards such as gardening tools or toys and that there is a clear, safe, walkway from the camp to the door.  

Backyard Camping Tents And Sleeping Bags for Kids

Little boy camping in the forest

A small pup tent can accommodate two kids and can be useful even if the entire family is backyard camping. After all everyone may appreciate the privacy and quiet of smaller tents than trying to sleep in a single tent with wriggly, fidgety kids.

No tent? No Problem.

Encourage the kids to try rig a blanket or tablecloth over rope string between two points and then staking the corners of the cloth to the ground.

Turn a blanket into a sleeping bag by folding the two edges in toward the center of the blanket. Use giant safety pins to keep those edges together. Fold up the bottom of this tube and pin it in place. Another option is to keep one blanket spread on the ground and a second blanket for covering the body. Even if the day has been warm, the evening can still feel chilly.

Set up the campsite on flat level ground and use a compass to determine southeast. This way you can turn the opening of the tent in that direction to get the morning’s first warming rays.

Other Backyard Camping Supplies

Little girl camping in forest with her family, eating grilled food. Barbecue with drinks and food.

Bring all of your backyard camping supplies outside so the kids aren’t running back and forth in and out of the house. Challenge them to imagine that they’ve traveled far from home and that there’s no going back for one more thing. Bring out bottles of water, dry snacks and food like pretzels, granola, and cereal bars.

Help your kids to plan on eating a simple breakfast outdoors to celebrate the night. Place milk and orange juice in small containers that fit in an insulated bag or case filled with ice. Be kind to the environment and bring along reusable utensils and dishes.

Kids should have pants, a sweater or sweatshirt, and extra socks in case they get chilly during the night. It is always much better to be too warm and have to remove a layer than to get too cold.

Coordinating bandanas can give a group of kids a team feel and they are also useful for wiping up spills, covering the head, and many other uses.

Finally, pack a flashlight with fresh batteries for each camper and ensure everyone has some simple slip-on footware to leave at the tent doorway. This way they are readily acessable when the night-time washroom run calls.

Backyard Camping Games To Play In The Dark

caucasian female hiker reading book/writing journal at night while wildcamping, strong light from headlamp

Place a ban on battery-operated devices and turn off the wi-fi. Make sure that this ban also applies to the adults!

Avoid any board games that require lots of set-up or have a large number of pieces. Simple puzzle books, novels, playing cards, etc are all good options but, if anyone is nervous avoid the creepy stories unless you want to stay up all night. You can also encourage your little ones to begin a camping journal, beginning with their plan for the backyard camp-out and then recording their actual experience by flashlight.

Encourage your kids to pack a bag with a few more things than they think they might want to play with. If this is a first-time experience sleeping outdoors, kids may nervously bounce to a variety of activities.

Parents can direct some outdoor games that are perfect for playing in the dark. A simple flashlight led treasure hunt is always fun, as is a game of “in the dark i-spy. “

If the night is clear enough star gazing can be used as a basis for story telling. Have each child choose a group of stars, decide what they think the stars look like and make up a story.

Kids will have fun testing their night vision, so avoid having too many bright lights illuminating the yard. If there is a light near the door kids will use to enter the house, look for the lowest wattage possible.

And Finally…

Spending time outdoors, particularly with the opportunity to quietly observe the nature around them, can help children develop a sense of place. Backyard camping is an inexpensive and safe way to gently introduce children to the joys of sleeping under the stars and can be the first step toward a lifetimes love of camping.

Alternatively, you might want to try car camping. Luckily for you, we have a post for that too.