a backyard campout / for excited little kids / with help from mommy
By Sarah Cottrell 

If your summer plans are shaping up to look a lot like last year’s — canceled vacations, too much time at home, feeling bored, then you’ll love this list of ways to create some whimsy in your own backyard. Maine summers are magical for many reasons; even if you’re limited in where you can go and what you can do, we’ve created a list of playful ideas to add some enchantment to your backyard this summer. 

Camp Under the Stars

On a warm and balmy summer night, there is nothing as magical as sleeping under the stars. Grab your family, a tent, some sleeping bags and get cozy in the backyard with fun campfire stories, and don’t forget the s’mores!

Catch (and release) Fireflies

There are 2,000 species of Lampyridae globally, but the one we love best is the sweet little flying Maine beetle called the firefly that appears at dusk every summer evening. Catch some in a Mason jar and watch them light up the glass. Just don’t forget to let them go; fireflies are becoming endangered. 

Water Balloon Pinatas

When it gets hot and sticky, and you’re looking for something to cool you down, try this fun idea — fill a bunch of balloons with water and hang them from tree limbs. Then, grab a stick and whack them in a fun game of water balloon pinatas.

Build a Pandemic Time Capsule

The possibilities of adding humor to this project are endless. Fill a box with mementos from the past year of pandemic living and bury your time capsule in the backyard. Have some fun with it and draw up a treasure map, including riddles and clues for future relatives to solve as they look for your buried treasure. 

Set Up a She Shed or Man Cave

This trend has been around for a while, and we can see why. Who doesn’t want an adults-only clubhouse to escape to in the backyard? Keep your shed (or cave) on a small budget or go big and buy a fancy gardening shed. Fill it with cozy seating, fun decorations like plants and string lights, and, of course, plenty of glasses and adult beverages. 

Create a Kid Nook

Kids will love having their own little nook in the backyard where they can read and relax. Create an open-air tent and fill it with pillows and books. String up some lights and invite your kids to lounge and sip lemonade on the lazy dog days of summer. 

Host A Garden Party

Invite a few vaccinated friends over for a lovely afternoon garden party! Create a luncheon menu of finger sandwiches, fresh fruit and sparkling drinks. Dress up for the occasion and have some fun photo props on hand for all the selfies and videos you’ll want to take. 

Build a Boujee Hammock

You’ve heard of glamping, right? We’re applying the same upgrade strategy to your basic hammock with mosquito netting, string lights, brightly colored fabric throws and even fancy pillows. Why not create a luxe spot to swing into a summer nap with style? 

Corn Hole

Corn Hole is taking over the universe because it’s good old-fashioned addictive fun. Create a family Corn Hole night and, if it’s safe, invite your neighbors over for some s’mores and bean bag toss. Invent a grand prize for the winner that can be repurposed every game like a goofy hat or a handmade trophy. 

Backyard Mini Golf

Sure, you can buy a boring plastic mini golf set online. But why not build your own epic backyard mini golf course using what you have on hand? Get creative and invent a maze of obstacles to putt around that will leave your family laughing and creating memories the whole summer. 

Backyard Movie Theatre

Movie projectors used to be expensive and bulky, but now you can buy a high-quality projector that attaches to your smartphone for under $100. Project a movie off the side of your house, or set up a screen using bedsheets and have your friends and family set up cozy spots on the grass to watch. Make popcorn and a batch of punch, and you’ve got one amazing summery night. 

Watch a Meteor Shower

Did you know that Maine gets a front-row seat for some of the best meteor showers in the universe? It’s true! Mark your calendars for some upcoming celestial events and watch as the stars shoot across the pine tree sky. The most famous and easiest to observe are the Perseids, which will arrive July 17 and stick around until August 26. 

Yard Salad 


If you’re looking for a new way to appreciate your backyard, try eating it. Yes! You can create your own yard salad by eating certain flowers and weeds. Make sure to use a reputable source to identify edible weeds, and if you plan to try eating weeds from your backyard, avoid using any chemical treatments on grass and shrubs. 

Midnight Margaritas

Nobody expected a pandemic to last as long as this one seems to be. So, why not create a new tradition to help spice up your summer? Throw a midnight margarita party with a friend or two —  just don’t wake your neighbors! Whip up a batch of your favorite summer drink, lit a fire, and share some stories under the stars. 

No matter what you do this summer, stay safe by wearing a mask, washing your hands frequently, using hand sanitizer and social distancing. With any luck and lots of effort to adhere to CDC guidelines, we’ll hopefully be back to regular summer plans next year.

See this Section as it appeared in print here