My Easy and Fun Plan for a Very Memorable At-Home Campout

published Jun 23, 2021
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Let’s face it: After spending much of last summer cooped up inside of our homes, we’re all itching for some serious adventure in the coming months. That said, if 2021 is anything like last year, the highways could be jammed up with all kinds of road-trippers. 

So, if you want to avoid regional crowds but still have a blast, we have an easy solution: a backyard campout. You don’t have to have a big budget to recreate the wonder and excitement of a summer ritual like a camping trip; kids will love to partake in the traditional activities at home. Pop a tent and they’ll be lured out by s’mores and friendship bracelets. You can invite a couple of friends over, get the whole family together, or create a birthday theme around camping filled with food, games, crafts, and more. 

What’s better, you don’t need reservations (you can totally pull this off last-minute) and you don’t have to pack a thing. Another bonus? If you already camp, chances are you probably have almost everything you need to replicate the magic of a camping trip. 

So, grab your tent, some bug spray, and your marshmallows, because we’re going to show you how to throw an epic camping trip without even gassing up the car. 

Pitch a ready-made tent — or make your own.

Nothing sets the tone for a campout like a great tent — it’s essential to creating the whole vibe. You can go full-on glamping with one of these splurgy canvas tents, or keep it simple with a classic A-frame tent for two. 

Looking for a more DIY option? Don’t discount the simplicity of a bed sheet tent. To pull this off, hang a rope between two trees (or other equally high objects). Drape a flat sheet, ideally a queen or king size, evenly over each side of the rope, and open it up to an A-frame shape. Make sure all four corners touch the ground, then place a heavy rock or brick at each of the four corners. 

Now, it’s time to cozy up your tent (think: sleeping bags, floor cushions, throw pillows, and stuffies). We love these mini lanterns, too. If your party lasts past sunset, project a movie onto the tent wall to keep the kids content while the parents hang out. (Our suggestion? The original The Parent Trap is the perfect camping movie.)

Blast that summer camp-inspired playlist.

You can sing traditional camp songs, ask your guests to bring their guitars and ukuleles, make a playlist, or all of the above. To get you started, we listed 20 of our favorite summer-, camp-, and stargazing-inspired songs to play over Bluetooth

Get the whole family involved in setting the scene.

Now’s the time to crack open that container of camping gear: roasting sticks, enamel plates, utensils, plaid cloth napkins, red checkered tablecloths, lanterns, and coolers. If you need some inspiration, check out Max Humphrey’s new book, Modern Americana, for ideas on creating memorable living spaces using nostalgic camping gear such as old metal coolers, stacks of classic camp blankets, and chipped metal lanterns layered with the likes of plaid, gingham, and bandana prints. 

Camping gear makes great decor, but there’s no reason you can’t amp it up a little. Small touches here and there can make your campout feel even more special, and you don’t have to do all the work yourself. Task the kids with collecting bits of herbs, flowers, and little branches to stuff in Mason jars for the table. If you have birthday tassels or bunting around the house, hang them up! String cafe lights or paper lanterns from trees. Create different areas to hang out by hanging hammocks, putting out chairs and cots, or throwing down picnic blankets. Switch on the bubble maker for some added ambiance and put an Instax instant camera out so that the kids can capture their own special moments throughout the day. Then throw some drinks on ice and have the lanterns ready if your campout will last after the sun sets. 

Enlist help from the kids by making signs for each of the areas. If you have some scrap wood, cardboard, or even construction paper, ask the kids to paint the names of different areas such as “s’mores station,” or “crafting area.”

Let them burn off some energy with camping games.

Nothing amps up a family camping trip like a little competition. Here are eight ideas for games to play for almost any age.

  1. Nature scavenger hunt: Put a list (or a list with icons) together based on objects kids can find around your yard. They can collect them in old egg cartons and guests can even easily take them home this way. 
  2. Archery: Paint a target on a piece of wood, cardboard, or paper and hang it in on a fence. Don’t worry — there are plenty of safe archery options for children, like this set
  3. Horseshoes: Choose a lightweight ring toss and horseshoe options for kids, like this festive summer set. We love this version for the adults to play. 
  4. Giant Jenga: Chances are, someone you know has a set. Ask around on your local Buy Nothing Group if someone has one to lend you. 
  5. Bingo: There’s nothing like the anticipation of those numbers and letters rattling around in that metal cage. This version is a classic. 
  6. Tug-of-war: Simple, but this challenge always gets the crowd riled up in the best possible way. 
  7. Charades: To make it easier on the kids who might not know how to read yet, you can draw icons, words, and phrases around a camping theme such as fishing, putting up a tent, and rolling up a sleeping bag. Or go with birds, animals, and reptiles you may see in the wilderness. 
  8. Other breakout games and activities to have on hand: Hula hoops, jump ropes, Frisbees, bubbles, memory, Go Fish, and UNO. 

Create an outdoor crafting studio.

Let them go to town with friendship bracelets, painted rocks, tie-dye T-shirts, nature watercolors, and God’s Eyes (a woven decoration wrapped around a pair of Popsicle sticks)! Crafting is iconic when it comes to summer camp, and it’s also the perfect souvenir to take home. 

Kid Made Modern has tapped into this, creating all kinds of camp-inspired kits perfect for camping or summer at home. You can purchase the materials individually or purchase a kit. Here are some of our favorites.

  • Rainbow Tie-Dye Kit and Pastels Tie-Dye Kit: Each includes dye, squirt bottles, rubber bands, and instructions. You bring the socks, T-shirt, dress, or undies (we aren’t judging!).
  • On-The-Go Friendship Bracelet Kit: Your friends will always know you love them with this kit, complete with thread, beads, and BFF charms. 
  • Summer Camp Kit: This kit has a little bit of everything — materials for God’s Eyes, beaded tassels, bracelets, animals, garlands, and more. 

Remember to designate a craft area and, depending on the crafts, some old newspaper as a work surface. Even if kids are using a craft kit, it definitely won’t hurt to bulk up the area with a few extra essentials such as scissors, crayons, and pencils. 

If you’re hosting other kids, let them take their crafts home, along with some treats and a little bandana to remind them of their epic backyard camping adventures. We love (fun!) but practical party favors, so if kids are sleeping over, consider gifting a pair of soft and cozy Pendleton kid’s socks that come in a trio of classic National Parks designs. 

Make an extravagant s’mores bar.

You can’t go wrong with traditional s’mores; they are pretty much the main event of any good camping trip. But we’re in the camp where the good ol’ trio of graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate can always be improved. Here are some suggestions for pulling together a delightful s’mores bar.

  • Fudge striped cookies
  • Coconut cookies
  • Mint cookies
  • Pretzels
  • Nutella
  • Peanut butter
  • Strawberry jam
  • Toasted coconut
  • Peanut butter cups
  • Caramel
  • Dark chocolate bar with almonds
  • Rice crispy chocolate bar
  • Sliced bananas and strawberries
  • Marshmallows

But if you don’t have access to a fire, you can still recreate the magic of the s’more. Try these ideas.

S’mores trail mix: Put out large bowls, filling each with graham cracker cereal, semi-sweet chocolate chips, dark chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, peanut butter chips, dried cherries, shredded toasted coconut, mini marshmallows, and whole or sliced almonds. Add a mini scoop to each one and put out 4-ounce glass Mason jars or compostable sandwich bags. Guests can design their own mix for the party or take it to-go. 

S’mores ice cream: This takes a bit of prep work, but a s’mores ice cream in a bowl or plopped atop a sugar cone can really do the trick. If you have an ice cream maker, start with a vanilla ice cream base and add bits of smashed graham cracker, dark chocolate hunks, and cut-up marshmallows. 

If you don’t have an ice cream maker or the time, simply scoop store-bought vanilla ice cream into bowls and top with crushed graham crackers or cereal grahams, mini marshmallows, chocolate sprinkles, and chocolate syrup. 

Safety first — and last! 

Remember: If you decide to roast marshmallows over a fire, make sure that an adult is present at all times and don’t forget to keep a bucket of water handy nearby. 

That said, we’re parents, so we love being prepared for everything and anything. Even though you might not be going far from home, you should still have some essentials on hand for safety and convenience. You probably have these at home already, but check your first-aid and emergency kits to see if they’re in need of a refresh.

  • A few flashlights and extra batteries
  • Bug repellent
  • Sunscreen 
  • Ice pack
  • Band-Aids 

Please note that products from Kid Made Modern, Dandies, and Cinemood were gifted. All of the opinions stated in this article are our own, and we will only recommend products we believe in.