Ten backyard campout activities

My oldest starts kindergarten in the fall and I want to make this summer memorable as my full days with her end, come September.  My summer bucket list, appropriately titled ‘Summer Memories’, lists 15 activities that I thought would stand out amongst our regular summer days of riding bikes, picnics and swimming. 

One of the activities I look forward to most is our backyard campout. For our first campout on June 29, we’ll be joining families around the U.S. for the Great American Backyard Campout, supporting National Wildlife Federation programs to make outdoor time a priority for the health of children.

We regularly camp in the great big outdoors but a backyard campout allows us so much more flexibility: less stuff, less time and can be planned on very short notice. 

Here are ten ways to make the most of a backyard camping adventure.

1. Scavenger Hunt

Make a list of items that can be found outside in your backyard or nearby park.  Give the list to each child and have a race to see who can find all the items first. Some ideas: yellow flower, green leaf, beetle, stick for marshmallow roasting, white rock, bee and a pine cone.  For a quick and easy option, print off the Backyard Campout Scavenger Hunt list from Sid the Science Kid.

2.  Make a Bird Feeder

I love how simple bird feeders are to make so kids of all ages can participate.  Between now and your campout, save a few empty toilet paper rolls.  Bring them, along with peanut butter, bird seed and some twine or string to the campout.  Roll the toilet paper rolls in peanut butter and then in the bird seed.  If you have peanut allergies in your family, use try using coconut oil in it’s place.

Hang the feeders in your yard and watch the birds flock to eat.  Once you hang your bird feeder, grab a pair of binoculars and use a bird book to identify the birds nibbling in your backyard.

finding bugsPhoto by juhansonin
3.  Insect Identification

Pick up an insect identification book at the library and take it with you on your scavenger hunt.  Alternatively, take pictures of all the insects you find. Save for another day when you can print the photos and use the BugFinder tool at InsectIdentification.org to identify all the creepy crawlies you found.

4. Press Leaves and Flowers

Take leaves and flowers found during your scavenger hunt and book them into books to press.  Once dry, use them to create a memento of your backyard campout.

5.  Backyard Games

Anyone up for a good old game of Simon Says? I love playing childhood games, they bring out the kid in me again. Other ideas: Red Light Green Light, Tug of War, Three Legged Races, or a Water Balloon Toss.   After dark, Flashlight Tag and Hide and Go Seek are fun for older kids.

6.  Show Off Your Talents

Ask your kids in advance to prepare a skit, song or dance to perform during your campout. Designate a “stage” area and let their lights shine. If your family is stage shy, try a game of Pictionary or charades.

7. Make Lanterns and a “Fire”

Mason jar or drinking glass + candle = cheap lantern.  If you don’t have a fire source such as an outdoor fire pit or chiminea, you can make your own mock fire pit with a circle of rocks and a few flashlights covered with red, orange and yellow cellophane.

8. Investigate the Nighttime Sky

Find your way around the stars by making a star finder.  You can download and print the instructions at NASA. It’s a great opportunity to teach your kids about constellations.  For young kids, give them a dark piece of paper, some white paint and toothpicks.  Ask them to create their own starry sky.

For budding astronauts, print out a moon journal and start it the night of the campout. For the next 30 nights, take the journals outside and draw the shape of the moon, identifying the date and time.

smoresPhoto by popofatticus

9.  Backyard S’mores

No campout would be complete without S’mores. If you have an outdoor fire pit,  grab a long stick and start roasting. If you have a BBQ, make your S’more and wrap it in foil.  Place the foil packet on the hot grill and let the chocolate and marshmallow melt (about 4-5 minutes). The same method would work in the oven at 350 degrees.

10. Campfire Stories

I’m planning to switch out our regular bedtime books for campfire stories.  My kids are two and five so I’ll be leaving the scary stories out. One of our favorites, The Woods, definitely makes the list.  I also like Curious George Goes Camping and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.

Are you planning a backyard campout this summer? What are your favorite campout activities?


Tiffany lives, plays and works in sunny Bend, Oregon with her husband and 2 kids. When she isn't outside playing or dreaming about her next vacation, you can find her writing here.

Encouragement for living simpler, right in your inbox.

We share our stories as we simplify our lives - no guilt-trips, just love.

(no spam, promise. we hate it, too.)


  1. It’s on our summer list as well. We haven’t done it in a while so it will be a special treat. We love to sit around the fire and share memories of the kids that make everyone laugh.

  2. Thanks for such great ideas, Tiffany! We’ve never camped out at home but love to go camping. This gives me a lot to think about for things to do in the backyard!

  3. These are great ideas! We haven’t camped out in our backyard yet, but it’s on the to-do list. Will definitely reference this post when the time comes.

  4. Camping in the backyard is one of the main things my daughter keeps saying she wants to do this summer, so it’s on the list! Thanks for all the fun ideas!

  5. Great ideas! 🙂

  6. our favorite “scary” story for little ones is the berenstain bears and the ghost of the forest. we make s’more snack mix (mini choc chips, teddy grahams and mini marshmallows) and read the story by flashlight

  7. Wendy H. says:

    Hello! I love the ideas and your website! Would you mind teling me what kind of tent is pictured in the blog? We need to upgrade to a large family-sized tent, and I love that that one has two rooms and windows on the rainfly. Thanks!

  8. Stephanie says:

    We are planning on camping in our yard this weekend so thanks for all of the great ideas….my daughter and I will be sleeping inside though while the boys are outside…my daughter can barely sleep all night in her bed so we might have to try that part of it next year 🙂

  9. SO nice tent and i love it,
    Any one like to order tents or sleeping bags,chairs,pls feel free to contact me jack@susun-outdoors.com SUSUN OUTDOORS is a professional manufacturer of camping gears in China

Add Your Thoughts