You don't have to head for the hills. Sometimes camping in the backyard is just as fun!
There are a number of reasons why you might decide to camp in the backyard as opposed to trekking to some designated campsite or way up into the mountains. Perhaps you just can't find the time to make the trip. Or it could be the first camping trip with the kids and you're not sure if they will love it or be terrified. The key, of course, is to act as if you're really camping for just about everything. I, personally, make an exception for potty usage but that really depends on you.
Regardless of the reasoning, camping in the backyard can be a very fun and rewarding experience. If kids are involved, you ought to involve them in as many aspects of the experience as you can. Admittedly, you may have hard time having your three-year-old help pitch the tent, but be logical and creative: I bet the little one can hand you the tent stakes! Kids do seem to enjoy things more when they are involved and this is especially true if it's made to be fun and not a chore.
Not everyone can start a campfire in their backyard, but some people can. It's mainly dependant upon local ordinances and the type of yard you have. If you can then go for it, if you can't then don't worry about it. Contrary to popular belief, a campfire is not a prerequisite to enjoying a camping trip. If you're curious about local laws, check with the local fire department. While I generally believe that it's easier to seek forgiveness than permission, I don't subscribe to that theory in this situation.
If you can't go the campfire route, get a portable grill or just use a barbeque. Grill up some hotdogs and maybe aluminum foil wrapped potatoes. Roast marshmallows and make s'mores (yes, this is possible without an actually campfire.
The important aspect to camping is the time you spend with each other. Chit chat, tell stories, play games...it doesn't really matter what you do as long as you do something together. It's too common, in this author's opinion, for everybody to break off into their own little splintered factions while camping: reading a book, playing a portable video game system, staring off into space, etc.
Think back to when you went camping as a kid; what did you find fun? I remember playing blackjack with my mom on camping trips which was how I learned basic mathematics before I entered grade school. This may say something disturbing about my childhood but, regardless, it's a memory I have and cherish.
The real goal of camping is to get away from reality and escape from the mundane reality of everyday life. To achieve this you need to turn off your cells phones and act as if you really have traveled up into the wilderness.