Outdoor activities with a healthy dose of curiosity, brought to you by Laure Latham
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Our family loves camping and our girls are the first ones to enjoy sleeping in a tent surrounded by nature. It’s even more fun when we meet up with other families at night, build a fire in the woods and roast popcorn in aluminum tins (for the record, it burns but it’s still exciting). If you’re planning a family camping trip soon, make sure that you’re ready for the outdoors with these camping hacks for kids. Beyond the gear list and the essentials, these camping hacks are little things and tricks that can go a long way in making camping fun for kids. If they’re excited before you leave, it’s already half a successful camping trip.
This is our favorite easy camping DIY as it requires very few materials and materials that we already have at home. Therefore, it’s free! Throughout the year, I collect old candle stubs and lint from our dryer into a ziploc bag until it’s full just to make camping fire starters. Dryer lint being highly flammable, it makes a great base for a fire starter and kids can make these fire starters with minimal adult supervision.
Fill the holes of empty egg cartons with as much dryer lint as you can. Melt the candle or crayon wax in a double boiler (use an empty clean tin can in a bigger saucepan) and soak the lint with melted wax. It’ll take quite a bit of wax. When it’s cold and dry, cut the carton into individual fire starters. To light a fire, light the carton edges to get the fire burning. The video below shows how it’s done in simple steps (start at 2.32 if you’re in a hurry).
Note: dryer lint can be replaced with sawdust, cotton pads or paper towels soaked with bacon grease (if you microwave your bacon on paper towels). Also, cotton lint burns better than polyester lint.
When my youngest daughter saw this idea, she immediately asked me when we were camping next. Grilled sausages on super-cute mini-grills can be incredible motivations for the outdoors. If you can’t light a campfire or you don’t have a camping grill, that’s the answer for you. I love the idea of this simple homemade mini-grill that uses cheap materials and can be made by older kids who are confident with sharp knives.
Using only 2 aluminum bread pans, a wire clothes hanger, small binders, sandpaper and a pair of pliers, the mini-grill can be ready in minutes to grill anything with charcoal. Since it grills one sausage at a time, make one mini-grill per person or be ready for mutiny.
Everybody knows that s’mores are the ultimate campfire treat, but did you know that Starbursts could be grilled just like marshmallows? Yes, absolutely. Just grab a metal skewer or a stick, pick your favorite Starburst color, hold the candy over hot embers until it caramelizes and voilà! Crunchy outside, gooey inside, the roasted Stardust is camping indulgence for candy lovers.
Glow sticks are the main secret of these awesome glow jars, super easy DIY lanterns that illuminate camping nights without batteries or fire. My girls love sleeping in a tent but my little one still likes the comfort of a nightlight and a glow stick usually does the trick, but a glow jar is definitely an upgrade.
As shown in the video by these teen girls, you can add glitter or tulle inside the jar for added special effects.
(via Brooklyn and Bailey)
Baking a cake in an orange is a super fun activity to do with kids around the campfire after a long day out. It’s also a sneaky way to introduce a fresh fruit into your camping menus and almost counts as a healthy alternative to outdoor junk food.
All you need to do is cut an orange in half, empty each half with a spoon (eat the inside later), fill one orange half with chocolate cake batter (use cake mix for speedy results), cover with other half, wrap in foil and cook around 10 to 15 minutes in the hot embers of a campfire.
For a gluten-free recipe from scratch, check out Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary.
To light your camping night, how about an easy DIY lantern made with milk jugs? If like our family, your family consumes big quantities of milk (or other liquid) every week, this is a great upcycling project for empty bottles. All you need is a flashlight or a headlamp and an empty plastic jug.
At the campsite, simply fill the milk jug with water, screw the lid on and wrap a headlamp around the milk jug with the light facing in. Tada! A variation consists in using a flashlight that you attach with duct tape at the top of the milk jug through the opening (without touching the water). Another Halloween variation comes in the form of camping milk jug ghosts (check out eighteen25 for inspiration). Last but not least for the artsy types, painting or decorating milk jug results in fancy decorated camping lanterns.
If you don’t have a headlamp or a torch, use battery-operated LED fairy lights inside an empty milk jug for similarly stunning results.
I love this girl scout trick to roast mini marshmallows on tealight candles with toothpicks. It’s almost as good as the full s’mores experience if you’re stuck in a spot where you can’t have a campfire–or if you forgot graham crackers and chocolate. We tested this camping hack at home in our kitchen and it was a roaring success. It was even too successful on a school night after dinner, but at least we now know that you can skewer up to 4 mini marshmallows on a single toothpick.
You guessed it, all you have to do is light the candles, skewer the mini marshmallows and hold them above the flame until they get brown (or catch on fire). Like So Festive!, you can even turn them into mini s’mores with chocolate chips and graham crackers.
Once it’s dark outside, your kids are ready to practice some dark arts while camping without getting into trouble with Professor Snape. Drawing is fun but drawing in the dark is even better.