Camping is one of those childhood activities that nearly all of us have memories of, and that many hold dear. Camping out in nature is a thrill for children: to sleep under the stars, tell stories around a campfire, and eat a meal freshly cooked from a fire built by their own hands. Camping allows us to explore and connect with nature in a deep way, and to find hidden spots and magical lands all our own.
Throwing a camping party is a great way to celebrate the change in seasons, and to enjoy those last few days of nice weather. A simple menu, a few fun crafts, a raging bonfire, and a collection of handmade stories can turn a simple gathering in nature into a party to remember for years to come.
A party outdoors should always be a simple task for those doing the planning, and a good way to practice the principles of zero waste. Teaching children that they can enjoy their friends and fun in a natural setting, while leaving the smallest footprint possible, is a lesson they will not soon forget.
For my boys, a few sticks, some marshmallows, and their friends would have sufficed as a cool party, but I encouraged them to come up with a few activities that they could enjoy together, and while I planned the menu, they planned the rest. My oldest has always been fascinated with telling stories, and off he went into the art room to create story book covers for each guest. His ideas centered around each guest creating a story all their own, and then telling hours worth of action, adventure, and fairytale stories around the campfire.
The younger of the pair chose a scavenger hunt, a list of treasures from nature that they could explore, observe and document. The idea of six boys heading off into the woods to gather items like “something alive” left me wondering what we were in for, but let’s just say that there were a lot of caterpillars joining us for the evenings festivities.
As for me, I stuck to some simple recipes that were easy to transport, a cinch to set up, and yummy for all. Steak tacos with roasted peaches and basil aioli, herbed popcorn, honey corn bread, and a fun twist on smores filled everyone’s bellies.
The boys enjoyed hours of fun, good food, new adventures, and a few fun tales to come home with. A camping party is a great way to say goodbye to summer, and see in autumn.
Recipes and Tips
Camping helps develop a closer relationship with nature, so use as many natural materials for this party as possible. Try eating with sticks as utensils, using tree stumps or large branches as seats, and having your only light source be from the campfire.
Try and use plates, cups and utensils that are zero waste, either compostible or reuseable.
Choose a campsite away from cars, other campers and city lights if possible.
Have the campfire set up in a enough space for all of the children to sit in a circle, facing each other. You can space their tents out in the same configuration.
Steak Tacos with Roasted Peaches and Basil Aioli
8 oz Flap steak or London broil
½ cup Braggs amino acids or soy sauce
3 garlic cloves minced
½ cup sherry
4 peaches, halved and pits removed
To roast the peaches: place them in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes.
For steak tacos:
Place steak in a large glass baking dish. Using a fork, score the steak. Place the minced garlic on the top of the steak, and cover with the sherry and amino acids or soy sauce. Allow to marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
Grill the steak and allow to rest for five minutes. Cut into strips.
Assemble the tacos with the steak, peaches and basil aioli right before serving.
Honey Butter Cornbread
½ c honey
1 tsp salt
½ c butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 ½ cups all purpose flour (since we are gluten free, I used Artisan Superfine Brown Rice flour, but any all purpose flour will work.)
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 ¼ cup cornmeal
1 ½ cups milk (almond, soy or whole milk)
Preheat over to 400 degrees
Cream the butter, salt and vanilla extract until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time and mix just till combined. Add the honey.
Sift the flour, baking powder and cornmeal together, and alternate adding to the butter mixture with the milk.
Pour into a greased 8 x 8 pan and bake for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Makes 15 cups
15 cups of unsalted popcorn
¼ cup butter, melted
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried basil
Combine the melted butter and herbs. Pour over the popped popcorn and mix. Add the salt and pepper to taste, and serve.
For the campfire, you can make the popcorn the day of the party, then melt the butter over the campfire and combine with the herbs.
Heather Fontenot, co-editor and publisher of Rhythm of The Home, lives with her family on the Front Range of Northern Colorado. As a writer, doula and yoga teacher, Heather has a passion for natural and creative living, and spends as much of her time outdoors as possible. She loves to knit, sew, garden, photograph, read and homeschool her three sweet little ones. She writes the blog Shivaya Naturals, where she chronicles her life as a mother, artist, and gluten-free baker.