Growing up our vacations were often spent camping. Whether it was in a tent, cabin or camping trailer didn’t matter as long as we got to do it. Sometimes we would take the whole family and another family along with us which was always the most fun as we had even more kids to play with. My mom and her friend were experts at camping. In fact you can read about Peggy and her famous artichoke dip (which is so darn good) and how she passed away just a few years ago. Now that all of us kids have moved away and started our own lives we still talk about our fond memories of camping. So, this summer we packed the kids up and went camping with my family to teach them what it’s all about and I wanted to share our camping food ideas and kid activities because trust me, my mom does it right.
First we have the food because heaven knows that it’s the best part about camping. Or, maybe just to me it is. 🙂 Fancy that, right? Anyway, we don’t just make lame hot dogs over the fire twice a day, we really get into the food. We have different recipes like our augratin potatoes, bbq brisket, and cobbler or crisp. All of which are done in a dutch oven and after a fun day outside and then working hard to start a fire and fix the food tastes like the best food ever. These meals are fantastic for dinner and dessert but what about those who don’t want to do too much in the dutch oven?
Second, how to build a cardboard oven and make all sorts of deliciousness, especially english muffin pizzas. We prefer to take along Thomas’ English Muffins or Bagels with our favorite toppings because they taste the best and no dough refrigeration is needed. I was shocked to learn that Cade had never built and used a reflector or cardboard oven growing up. It was a staple on our campouts. And buddy burners, but those were always more lame in my book. Anyway, here goes.
How to Build a Cardboard Oven
Use a heavy cardboard box for the oven. . Tape the top closed. Make a door by cutting one side across the bottom and up both sides, leaving it attached at the top. Line the whole box with heavy duty foil. Use duct tape or vent tape rolled up to stick the foil to the inside of the box so that the tape is between the foil and the box. Measure 2/3 up on both ends of the box and mark. Poke two holes through the box at the 2/3 mark and stick two rods through to make a shelf. You can use a wire clothes hanger straightened out or buy metal rods from a hardware store. Place a small cookie sheet on the rods and bake whatever you want! Place two or three rocks in the bottom of the stove to elevate the pan with the coals a little so the bottom of the box doesn’t burn. Close the door and place a rock against it to hold it shut.
Then there’s the activities. Well, in our family things are a little bit adventure, fun, silliness, and quiet spiritual moments. We are in the mountains so of course we have to do a little exploring on nature hunts, hikes, and playing in the great out doors. But after all of that is said and done we need a little more to keep the kids happy and to help the adults unplug and let loose so we play card games and laugh about stupid things. Then we also have “camp songs” like, The Spider Fighters, “I’m a Nut”, 3 Sharp Toothed Buzzards, Squirrel, and oh, so many more that I won’t even name. It’s really quite ridiculous to see adults and children all singing these songs but it really is so fun.
The campfire is a huge deal for us. It’s not like we stress about it or build it up or anything, it’s just something we all look forward to. Different people take turns sharing a little devotional after the singing, s’mores and chit chat. It really helps to quiet the kids down and bring things into perspective about why we are out there together. Plus sharing things as a family brings you closer together. Trust me, have a campfire that’s meaningful every night. Your kiddos will remember it forever.
Camp Beads. I should have started with this one because it’s how we start our trip. My mom is so thoughtful about children and her attention to detail is amazing. On our camping trips we would make little leather bracelets that we would wear for months after a camping trip and it reminded us that we were a family and the fun times we had. But there were also the camp beads. Oh man, if you even knew how much the grandkids love and still wear their necklaces. Mom and Dad make “wood cookies”, basically a wood circle, and the girls get to decorate it. This time they used stickers. Then they get to put a few beads on to make it look nice and the rest have to be earned. And it’s not just for girls. The boys love earning rewards as well!
Camp beads can be earned for whatever you’d like and it keeps everyone busy and accomplishing things through the whole trip. Some ideas are, find an interesting bug, see wildlife, attend camp devotional, help prepare a meal, give service to someone, singing songs, camp prankster, cheerful hearts, etc. Then every night right as campfire is starting out you can have a little bead ceremony and give them their beads. If you have toddlers you may want to do it as they go so they learn that immediate gratification and can start to connect what you’re having them do. As they get older you can make them wait. Either way, they take no time to prepare and the kids feel so awesome earning them.
Flashlights. Kids feel so grown up and a lot more safe when they have a flashlight so get each one their own. Trust me, they will adore that flashlight.
Bedtime. My mom always told us a little story and gave us a “kiss” (a hershey kiss with a real one) as she put us to bed. It helped us feel safe and secure in the middle of the woods and worked like a charm with our little ones as well