Camping is a great way to take the whole family on a fun holiday. It’s a chance to relax, make the most of the great outdoors and get to know one another without all the distractions you have at home.
If you are planning your family camping trip, as well as trying to remember everything you need to take with you (here’s a handy checklist you can use), you should also think about what you are going to eat while you are away. In between walks and games and relaxation, you will have to plan your meals a little more in advance than you might usually.
Building a campfire and cooking over the flames is a classic part of camping and your children will love it. There are all sorts of ways that you can make building your fire fun as well as educational and a large range of recipes that you can cook together.
Here are a few activities that you and your kids will love to try.
Preparation is the Key to Success
To make camping easier, you could make some of the meals at home and take them with you. Snacks like popcorn, trail mix, and dehydrated fruit are popular with kids and surprisingly easy to make at home and then take camping in Tupperware. Snacks are a great idea for long walks and in between meals.
If you are planning to cook over an open fire – and you really should give it a go at least once – then preparing a few ingredients beforehand will help get the meal to the picnic table faster. It will also mean that you won’t have to take things like chopping boards and vegetable peelers with you when you go. Think about the types of meal you want to have and then use Tupperware to store the ingredients and label them up ready.
Keeping your food safe from wildlife is a must while camping. A simple tip is to make sure that everything is kept in a sealed container and put back in the cooler and then in the car when it’s not meal time. It might be tempting to leave some food out while you go out to play for the day, but it is always better to put everything back into containers and store it in the car. DO NOT store any food in your tent or eat in your tent. This can attract bears.
Freezing is a good idea to stop food from spoiling. This will keep your food fresh for longer and if you pack frozen foods and drinks close together in a cool box, they will keep other foods chilled too. Think of it as making a sort of fridge.
If you are planning to camp in the open countryside, you should also make sure that you pack enough water for everyone for the whole trip. Relying on natural water sources is a risky business and you will need to make sure that you can purify any fresh water you plan to drink. This might be okay for adult campers who are more familiar with survival in the wild, but probably not something you want to consider with kids in tow!
Building a Fire
Be sure to check where are you heading to on their policy of gathering sticks, branches, and leaves to use as kindle or firewood. Many parks prohibit the act of gathering these items from the park. Also, do not bring your own firewood with you. It’s illegal to transport firewood over county lines due to the potential hazard of spreading infectious diseases from tree to tree. You could unknowingly be transporting a dangerous, destructive bug with you to your campsite. Many campsites will have firewood available for sale for a nominal fee or stop by a local gas station once you’ve arrived at your local destination and buy some there.
When you are ready to build your fire properly, this is a good skill for your kids to learn from you. Though you will obviously be dealing with the lighting and maintenance of the fire, this is a good chance to learn how to build a safe outdoor fire. If you are in a state or federal park be sure to use the fire pits. Not doing so could render you a hefty fine. Before you try building your own firepit look around to see if previous campers have left one around. You’ll be able to spot it by looking for a shallow hole in the ground with a ring of rocks around it. If you can’t find either then it’s time to start gathering rocks and build your own fire it.
If you are building your own fire pit be sure to be aware of the laws in the area you are camping in. Many require there to be so many feet from tents and picnic tables. They may also have requirements for how deep it needs to be.
When you are ready to start your fire, take kindling and dry leaves or paper, place it in the center of the pit and light it with a match. Then gently start stacking smaller sticks around kind of like a teepee, leaving plenty of airflow to the flame. If you pack the wood too tight you will smother the fire and it’ll go out. Once you have a decent flame then you can start placing a few logs on the fire as well.
A Family Cookout
There are some good recipes to make on your newly built fire that kids will love. One of the best recipes for kids is banana boats. All you need to do is slice a banana in half, being careful not to cut through the skin on the bottom of the banana and let your kids lose with chocolate chips and marshmallows. Then, wrap the banana boat in some foil and rest it on hot coals for 5-7 minutes. Open the foil carefully and let them cool a little before eating with a spoon.
Another fun recipe you can cook on your fire are hobo meals. You can prepare all the ingredients at home and then just wrap up each portion into a foil boat. Your kids will love eating these and, since they only take around 20-30 minutes to cook, they won’t be waiting too long for their dinner either.
When you’re camping eating and drinking warm drinks takes up quite a lot of your day and planning is important. Although many recipes are quick and easy, you still need to remember that building up your fire will take some time. Luckily there are lots of great gifts for outdoorsmen and family campers that will make this easier. The Kelly Kettle is a popular choice and you might also like to consider a burner stove for faster cooking too.
There are lots of recipes you can make over an open fire using pans and cooking pots that are probably aren’t suitable for children to help with. From steaks to roasted corn, you can actually eat really well while you are camping if you want to spend a little more. If you have already prepared some of your ingredients at home, these recipes will be a lot easier to do in the wild, but do take the opportunity to try new things while you can.
As well as plenty to drink, prepared foods and enough snacks, you should also consider taking some simple games like packs of cards or board games for the days when it rains and you can’t do all the usual stuff. Unfortunately, the weather doesn’t always play ball, so be prepared to spend some time under canvass is practical. It might be a bit frustrating for highly active kids, but engaging them in a game should help you all get along.
Camping is a brilliant experience and a great way to teach your kids some basic survival skills like building a fire and cooking simple meals. Kids love the fresh air and the opportunity to run wild so, aside from the food, you don’t really need to create a strict plan for your holiday. Just show them the things they can collect to go on the fire and let them get on with this main chore while you settle down with a nice coffee and a good book!
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