Kids these days. They have so much at their fingertips. Between devices, shows streaming around the clock and a host of other distractions, it’s often impossible to get them outside to romp around in the dirt for a while. But resistance doesn’t mean you can’t introduce your kids to the wonders of nature.
Camping is a great way for the whole family to take a long break from the stresses and distractions of the modern-day household. Getting out into the woods to test their physical abilities and commune with nature can really help kids focus, find calm, and enjoy some fresh air, not to mention that boost of self-esteem that comes from helping Mom or Dad start a campfire!
But not all kids love the idea of sleeping in the dark woods at night on the ground, living among the bugs and other six-legged critters, or being exposed to the elements. So, how can you convince your kiddos that camping can be serious fun? We have some great ideas to help show your little ones just how great camping (and unplugging) can be.
Get them involved in the planning
First, you need to scout out your location. Sure, you could head to the nearest campground or ask around to see who knows of a good spot. But, if you want a real adventure, find somewhere that has a feature you can’t explore in your own backyard. Indiana Dunes State Park has the benefit of being situated right on beautiful Lake Michigan. If you’re up for the drive, there are tons of other campgrounds along the lakefront throughout Michigan. If closer to home is what you want, search for something that has a kid-friendly hiking trail, nature preserve, river, or other feature to keep them interested.
Have your kids pack things to keep them entertained by the campfire. Books, toys that you don’t mind getting dirty, and games are great options. Make sure they have all the appropriate clothing and footwear so they stay comfortable and warm (especially if you’re heading out when the nights are still a bit chilly). Before driving to the campsite, set up your tent in the backyard and have a close-to-home campout practice. Maybe you could even make it special by introducing them to the world of s’mores!
Bring the fun
Speaking of s’mores, camping food can be insanely fun for kids. Where else do they get to eat outside, straight off the fire, under a canopy of trees? Although every kid loves a good s’more and hot dog campsite combo meal, why not add a little pizzazz (while keeping it easy of course)? Try these recipes for a delicious meal in any camping situation.
Potato boats. Slice russet potatoes into disks and line them up in a packet of aluminum foil. Place ham, cheese, bacon or any other yummy goodies in between the potato slices. Close the packet and bake until potatoes are tender. Top with chives and sour cream and serve with some fresh fruit.
Pie-iron pizza. Pie irons are a great camping tool. You can use them to make grilled cheese or hand pies over the fire as well as pizza. Just take a slice of bread, top it with sauce, cheese and other goodies like pepperoni or olives and place another slice of bread on top. Then, transfer to the pie iron and stick it in the fire for a few minutes. Voila! Campsite pizza!
Walking tacos. Do you remember buying these from the concession stand as a kid? Use a cast iron skillet to brown taco meat and add in the seasoning. From there, you can open an individual-sized corn chip bag and top the chips with beef, cheese, tomatoes and lettuce. A delicious, no-dishes meal that’s a win-win for everyone.
Egg sandwiches. If your kids are a fan of fast food egg sandwiches, they will love having this sandwich for their first camping meal of the day. Toast an English muffin on a rack over the fire and top with a slice of fried Canadian bacon and a fried or scrambled egg. You’ve got a delicious meal that will give them enough energy to hike all morning!
Banana boats. Similar to potato boats, this dessert dish is made in an aluminum foil wrapping and placed in the fire. Start by peeling a banana and making a slice down the middle to divide it lengthwise. Then, stick some mini marshmallows, chocolate chips and (if you are adventurous) a smear of peanut butter into, around, and on top of the banana. Close the packet and roast in the coals of the fire for a minute or two, until the marshmallows are gooey and the chocolate is melted.
Camping together as a family is a great way to enjoy each other’s company and have a new adventure. Help keep your kids excited about your trip by making them a part of the planning process, preparing them in advance so they know what to expect, and coming up with a fun menu to keep their tummies full.