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First Campout with Your Family: Make it a Winner

If your family has a long history of camping and is totally outdoor-savvy, then read no further. But if your children haven’t been camping before and you’d like to take them, there are some important points to take into consideration. There are so many good reasons to get out into nature: learning about the flora and fauna of an area, relaxing in the company of your family, and building healthier bodies and minds. Camping is a great thing to do.

As you begin to think about your family camping trip, you’ll want to ask yourself:

Where? A first-time venture probably should be relatively close to home and shouldn’t be overly challenging in terms of comfort and endurance. Perhaps it would be best to choose a place with bathrooms and showers, and maybe even a children’s play area. After all, you want your children to have a good time and a Spartan trip, especially if the weather doesn’t cooperate, will only ensure that it’s the last camping trip for your children. When you’ve found a suitable place, be sure to include some bona fide camping experiences such as day hikes, fishing, boating, and traditional evening campfires.

What to do? Taking some time to plan for this first camping adventure will pay dividends. First of all, plan activities for the drive. A small game to play in the car or games such as ‘find the licence plate’ will keep your children occupied during the drive and you will avoid the cringe-worthy question from your kids, “Are we there yet?” Plan quick and easy meals and include recyclable or biodegradable plates and cups, etc. If you want to be even more ‘green,’ make the cooking and cleanup including washing up dishes part of the fun using biodegradable camping soap. Perhaps there could be partners: one adult and one child responsible for cleanup of each meal.

Remember how much fun evening campfires can be with songs, stories, and special treats like s’mores. Some of the larger campgrounds have park rangers who will lead daytime activities or have evening slideshows and talks. Be prepared if the weather turns bad. Simple rain gear can be a lifesaver as well as games and activities to do inside the tent, if necessary.

Now enjoy

When you’ve done all of your planning for your first camping trip, be sure to take along plenty of enthusiasm. Children will pick up on the fun if you are eager and ready to have fun, too. Be creative with your camping adventure - maybe you’ll see some wildlife or catch a trout or spot a certain bird or butterfly. Incorporating your children’s hobbies and interests may help you to plan things they will be sure to enjoy. This is also a great time to share your areas of expertise. Do you know all about wildflowers or can you teach the children how to paddle a canoe?

You’re all set! Be sure to take along a camera to document all of the fun. Kids are certain to enjoy the camping event and all of the stories and memories of their first camping experience as a family.

Quick and easy meals for campers

English Muffin Pizzas - Use English muffins, squeezable pizza sauce, and shredded mozzarella. Toast muffin halves on oiled grill. Turn the halves over and spread with sauce, cheese, and any toppings your family enjoys. Serve when the cheese melts.

Grilled PB & J - This one is a cinch. Choose a hearty bread and be generous with the fillings. Butter on both sides and toast on your grill. These grilled sandwiches will stick to your ribs.

Coffee Can Stew - Cut stew meat into small pieces. Place meat in a clean coffee can with 2 Tablespoons of butter. Brown meat over the fire. Add red potatoes, baby carrots, and onions with 2 Tablespoons of more butter. Cover with foil and place in the fire for 20 minutes.

Banana Boats - Slit unpeeled bananas lengthwise without cutting through. Fill the opening with mini-marshmallows and chocolate chips. Sprinkle with brown sugar, wrap in foil, and place either on a grill or in the coals of your fire. They’re ready in just seven minutes.

Eggs in a Hat - Try this fun recipe if you want a change from morning cereal or pancakes. Grease a hot griddle. Cut a hole in pieces of bread using a cup or a glass. Toast the bread on both sides and crack an egg in the hole. When the egg is solid, flip the bread. Top with a slice of your favorite cheese and a slice of ham. Serve when cheese is nicely melted.

Jan Pierce, M.Ed., is a retired teacher and freelance writer. Find her at




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