Ah, the backyard fire pit. Chances are it’s one of your family’s favorite destinations at home — and it’s easy to see why. There’s no better place to be on a lazy, dreamy summer night when the fireflies are out in full force. Or on an autumn evening, when the temperature has just begun to drop and that fresh, woodsy fall smell permeates the air.
Your blazing fire pit creates a soothing “campfire” ambiance after the sun goes down — especially when those flames are dancing and skipping across a bed of shimmering fire glass. It’s incredibly relaxing. But your fire pit offers more than just a captivating lightshow; it also provides a fantastic opportunity to gather with the people you love, spend quality time together, and make great memories.
So what can you do with your family around the fire pit? The possibilities are endless, and we’ve gathered a few to get your wheels turning. Enjoy!
S’mores / Toasting Marshmallows
Making s’mores by the campfire is one of those treasured memories most of us have from our childhood. It’s so simple — but so fun (not to mention dee-licious!). Instead of a campfire, try making s’mores over your gas fire pit. Yes, it’s safe to cook marshmallows over a gas fire pit. This activity is great for just the family or for a whole crowd of kids.
What you need:
- Graham crackers (any brand)
- Chocolate candy bars (like Hershey’s)
- Marshmallows (large)
- Take one whole graham cracker and break it in half to create two squares. Break your chocolate bar so that it fits one of the squares (you’ll use the other cracker as the top).
- Put a marshmallow on the tip of a stick or long skewer and hold it over — not in — the flames. Turn the marshmallow so that it’s heating evenly. How toasted you want your marshmallow to be is up to you! Some like it golden brown; others prefer it burnt.
- When your marshmallow is toasted to perfection, remove it from the stick, place it on top of the chocolate, and sandwich it between the two graham cracker squares. Watch the wonderfully gooey insides ooze out just a bit and the chocolate start to melt. Then, enjoy! Trust us, you will NOT be able to stop at one.
This is a super-fun campfire game the whole family will love. Here’s how it works:
- One person is designated as the “thinker” and thinks of a topic — a person, place, or thing. But they can’t share what they’ve come up with.
- The rest of the players take turns asking the thinker one question at a time. Players must be able to answer with a simple “yes” or “no.”
- After the thinker answers with a “yes” or “no,” the person guessing has one opportunity to guess the person, place or thing they’re thinking of.
- Each player will continue to take a turn — until one of two things happens: either someone guesses the topic correctly, or 20 questions have been used up. The winner becomes the thinker for the next round of questioning.
If no one can figure it out after 20 questions, the current thinker must reveal the topic they chose and a new round of the game can start.
Whether they’re seriously spooky or painfully cheesy, campfire stories (especially in October) are a fun way to spend time with your favorite people. Throw in a cozy blanket and some s’mores (see instructions above) and no one will want to go back into the house!
Here are some eerie tall tales to share around your fire pit. But don’t worry… none of these stories are true. Or… are they? (Cue scary music)
La Llorona (The Weeping Woman)
Based on Mexican folklore, La Llorona (pronounced la-yo-ROH-nuh) refers to the ghost of a woman who lost her children. According to legend, this sad spirit wanders aimlessly down near the river or the ocean, searching for her beloved babies. Many say that La Llorona mistakes other children for her own — and kidnaps them to help heal her broken heart.
The Rustling Corn
Derived from a poem called “Hidden by the Rustling Corn,” this story idea involves someone taking a shortcut as they walk home at night. They hear a strange rustling in the cornfield, but its source is not clear. What’s lurking behind the tall stalks? You decide!
The Big Toe
You may recall this story from the book “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” by Alvin Schwartz. In that version, a little boy happens upon a toe buried in the ground. He takes it to his mother, who decides to add it to the soup she’s making for supper. Imagine their surprise when the toe’s angry owner comes back to look for it!
This classic fright tale goes like this: A man marries a lovely woman who is always sporting a black velvet ribbon around her neck. When he asks why she never removes it, she tells him he’d be sorry if she did. The man asks repeatedly about the ribbon, always met with the same reply. One night, while his bride is snoozing, he cuts the ribbon himself with a pair of scissors. As the ribbon falls away, her head falls off her neck and hits the floor with a most horrifying sound.
The timeless tale of the disappearing hitchhiker has been told over campfires for generations. One night, a couple is driving when they see a girl standing by the side of the road. They pick the poor girl up with the intention of returning her safely home. She provides an address, and then grows quiet. When they arrive at the address she provided, the couple turns around to find the girl — gasp — gone! They ring the doorbell and are greeted by an elderly couple, who inform them that their daughter was killed in a terrible car accident many years before.
If you live a reasonable distance from the city, you can ignite your child’s curiosity by exploring the cosmos from your own backyard. Any clear night provides the perfect opportunity! Here are some tips for successful stargazing:
- Keep tabs on the moon cycle. The darker the sky, the better luck you’ll have spotting stars. (https://www.moonconnection.com/current_moon_phase.phtml)
- Do your sky-watching on a deck if you have one. The higher your elevation, the clearer view you’ll have of the constellations.
- Winter is the best season for planning your backyard stargazing adventures. This is because there’s less moisture in the air that can obscure stars’ light. There are also fewer leaves on the trees to obstruct your view.
- Use blankets placed on the ground or chaise lounges to avoid craning your neck.
- For starting stargazers, use regular binoculars on a tripod. If your child(ren) discovers they love astronomy, think about purchasing a beginner telescope.
- While any night will do, consider choosing a night when a special astronomical event is set to occur, such as a meteor shower. This will make your stargazing even more memorable!
Print out these free, downloadable charts to help your little stargazer find and identify constellations.
Playing cards is one of those classic activities loved by people of all ages. No Internet or electricity required! Grab a deck and gather your brood around the roaring fire pit for an evening of togetherness, laughter, and old-fashioned fun.
Here are some family card game favorites that are easy to teach kids.
- Go Fish
- Snip, Snap, Snorem
- Rolling Stone
- Old Maid
A quick web search on any of these will provide you with instructions on how to play and rules to follow. Use your outdoor furniture or set up a card table near your fire pit and you’re ready to go!
Quick Tip: While your campfire’s flames may burn bright, you may need an extra light source to see the cards. This could be a camping lantern or just a deck light.
Name That Song
Got a musician in the family? Then this is the perfect campfire game for you. Here’s how it works: Have your musician play a small segment of a song, whether they’re using a guitar, flute, saxophone, keyboard, or any other instrument — they can even sing. The other players are challenged to guess the name of the song as fast as they can.
This game can be played individually, or you can create two teams and compete against each other. The more obscure the songs are, the more challenging the game becomes!
Truth or Dare
While Truth or Dare can stray into “inappropriate” territory when adults play, it can also be made into a perfectly kid-friendly game. As in the grown-up version, players choose between answering a question honestly or performing a “dare.” These are both determined by the other players.
Trouble coming up with not-so-daunting dares for kids? Here are some suggestions:
- Bite into a fresh wedge of juicy lemon.
- Do a silly dance in your front yard for 5 minutes.
- Eat a giant spoonful of mustard.
- Ring the neighbor’s doorbell and ask if they have any toilet paper.
- Eat a cup of Jell-O without using your hands.
- Sing “I’m a Little Teapot” with all the movements.
Playing Board Games
Board games are a throwback to a time when there were no distractions like video games, cell phones, Internet or social media. Bring back this fun tradition by digging out your games from the closet and challenging your loved ones to a round (or two, or five).
Here are some of our suggestions — both old and new!
Clue: Considered one of the best family board games of all time, Clue is a murder mystery–solving game in which players are tasked with figuring out the location, weapon, and perpetrator in a scandalous mansion murder.
Catan: We’ve heard fantastic things about this adventure-based game, which has a fairly straightforward premise. Players battle to gather resources and build settlements on the island of Catan. Each person earns points as they erect different structures — and the first player to earn 10 points wins the game.
Operation: This old-school game requires patience and precision, and can be nerve-wracking! Players take turns being the “doctor” as they operate on poor, ailing Cavity Sam. One wrong move, and you get the dreaded buzzer. This is a classic game of concentration.
Trouble: This highly addictive game is perfect for families with younger children. Players compete to be the first to move four pieces all the way around a board. Pieces are moved according to the roll of a popping die.
Monopoly: Monopoly has stood the test of time and it’s a must-have addition to your family game collection. The objective is to acquire as much property as possible and become the richest player as you move around the board. This game can take up to several hours to play.
Pandemic: This game is one of the latest crazes to hit the modern world of board games. It involves cooperative play, in which players work collectively toward a goal instead of competing against each other. The objective of Pandemic is to stop the spread of disease to save the world from certain doom.
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Everyone knows about Charades — a classic party-pleaser that blends performance, focus, and guesswork. Here’s a simple way to play it with kids around your backyard campfire. All you need for this basic version is a pack of charade cards with words or phrases on them.
- Place the charade cards in a hat or bowl.
- One person selects a card from the bowl. This player must pantomime to represent the name, word, or object shown on the card they chose. For example, the word “drink” might be acted out by pretending to lift an imaginary glass to your lips. Absolutely no verbal communication is allowed — and no pointing at objects for clues!
- The first player to correctly decipher what the other person is acting out goes next.
Quick tip: You can indicate a certain number of words by holding up that many fingers to your audience. Also, to act out a word that rhymes with the word you’re trying to get the other players to guess, you can give your ear a light tug. \
Singing Campfire Songs
You don’t have to be the next winner of “America’s Got Talent” to break into song around your fire pit. A family sing-along, no matter your ability, is sure to lift everyone’s mood — and entertain your neighbors!
We’ve included some time-tested, family-friendly tunes below. A quick web search on the song titles will bring up lyrics and videos that can help you teach your children.
- “Home on the Range” — A bona fide cowboy classic. ‘Nuff said.
- “Camp Granada” — With its famous lyrics of “Hello, muddah, hello, faddah,” this novelty song from the 1960s will have you and your kids roaring with laughter.
- “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” — This is a classic folk song turned into a book by the same name. Bear hugs all around!
- “Ants Go Marching” — Get up off your feet and march around your fire pit as you sing. This tune is great for helping kids with their counting skills, too.
- “Baby Shark” — Sorry, parents! Young kids adore this shouty, catchy tune that’s accompanied by lively physical movements.
- “This Land Is Your Land” — What’s better than an old, rousing folk song when you’re basking in the glow of a blazing campfire?
- “On Top of Spaghetti” — All parents will remember this school days classic. Kids love the silly lyrics.
- “I’m Being Swallowed by a Boa Constrictor” — Written by Shel Silverstein, this “campy” tune is a play-by-play of someone being eaten by a giant snake. As a bonus, it gets louder as the song goes on!
Watching a Movie
No, we don’t mean you have to hook your TV up to a very long extension cord. Nowadays, you can easily watch flicks in your backyard using a laptop or inexpensive (around $100) cordless projector along with some decent speakers. Here are some tips to make it a success:
- Make a no-cost “screen” out of a white bedsheet hung on a clothesline and anchored down with rocks.
- Set up a popcorn bar that includes mix-ins like chocolate chips, nuts, and candy.
- Hang a couple of strings of twinkle lights over the screen to lend some movie-theater magic.
- Set up sleeping bags and pillows on the grass to make it even more cozy.
Whether you and your clan prefer Disney movies, classic comedies, or heart-pounding action-adventures, having a movie night near your fire pit can turn an ordinary Saturday night into a party!
Who doesn’t love crooning along with their favorite song every time it comes on the radio? With karaoke, you and your family members take turns singing popular tunes into a microphone backed up by pre-recorded instrumental tracks.
But don’t fret — you don’t need a fancy karaoke machine to have your very own Family Karaoke Night by the fire pit! Just keep it simple. Here’s what you need:
- Laptop or smartphone with an Internet connection and good, loud speakers
- A “microphone,” which could be a toy mike, your hand, or a broom!
- Karaoke videos on YouTube that stream lyrics with backing tracks (you’ll find all your favorite tunes on there with a quick search)
If you want to spice things up, add in glamorous or silly wigs, costumes, sunglasses, and hats. Let everyone unleash their inner superstar! Laughter will abound once things get rockin’. Who knows — maybe you’ll discover the latest singing sensation right in your own backyard!
Two Truths and a Lie
This simple but fun (and eye-opening!) game requires nothing but some quick thinking. Here’s how it works: Have your family sit around the fire pit and designate one person to announce two truths and one lie about themselves.
Everyone else gets one chance to guess which is the lie. The person who guesses correctly becomes the next one in the “hot seat.”
How well do you really know your family members? You just may be surprised to find out!
Create imaginative stories with the people you love as you enjoy the beauty and warmth of your campfire. This is how you do it:
- Choose one person to start the story using 2 or 3 sentences.
- Go around the circle, with each person adding a few more lines to continue the story.
- End the story after one or two rounds and then start another. Be sure to write the stories down — you can even create a Family Stories Scrapbook that you can revisit for years to come!
Don’t be afraid to get creative — or crazy! You’ll love seeing each narrative take shape as every family member contributes their own unique twist.
This is an entertaining campfire game that always brings lots of laughs. Here’s how to play:
- The first player gets a story started by making a statement that’s either “fortunate” or “unfortunate.” For example:
Player one: “Fortunately, it snowed this morning and school was cancelled.”
Player two: “Unfortunately, Dad made me shovel the entire driveway.”
- Each player contributes a new statement, alternating between positive and negative. Continue this until the story draws to a logical conclusion. How long it gets is up to you!
Ready to giggle until your sides hurt? This classic game — played at kids’ sleepovers for generations — has a simple premise. One player quietly whispers something to the player beside them. The recipient then relays the message (in a whisper) to the person seated next to them.
This secret message is passed around the circle until it reaches the last person, who announces it out loud. Typically, the original message has gotten lost in translation and the new version is riddled with hilarious errors. Give it a try!
Make Me Laugh
Here’s another game to get you rolling with laughter. This is how it works:
- Split your family into two teams. Designate one team to be the “performers.”
- Choose one person from the other team to be in the “hot seat.”
- Set a timer for 2 minutes.
- The performing team must then do anything they can to make the person in the hot seat laugh.
- If the person in the hot seat laughs, it’s their turn to perform. But, if they’re able to maintain their composure, they earn a point for their team.
- The team with the most points wins!
Quick tip: To avoid unnecessary family squabbles, set clear-cut rules for what it means to “laugh.” For example, snorts don’t count, but showing your teeth does.
Disclosure: Celestial Fire Glass is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.