How To: Camp Cooking With Kids

Summer is here, and that means it’s time for weekend outings into the woods, whether that means backpacking several miles a day or just taking your tent to the lake for a weekend under the stars. And with school out of session it’s the perfect time for family camping trips – there’s no better way to instill a love of the outdoors in children than to bring them with you on camping trips from an early age! However, being outside for a weekend requires a bit of planning and smart packing, and that can be even harder with little ones.  While we don’t have much advice on how to help kids get better at packing (make sure they bring more than one pair of socks!) we do have advice on camp cooking with kids, and ways to make sure kids learn useful outdoor skills from an early age. All you need are some basics like a portable grill (or portable firepit) some kid-friendly groceries, easy-to-use tools – and a bit of extra patience!  

Tip 1: Always Make a Little Extra 

When it comes to camp cooking with kids, it’s okay to make mistakes – heck, that’s how you come up with new recipes sometimes! But when you’re with kids, you should count on a few more mistakes than usual, and cook a bit more food than you’ll need. That way, if small hands end up dropping a pan, or forgetful kids get distracted and end up making something a little more blackened than you’d like, you’ll have plenty of food left over for a second attempt. If you need more cooking space than your campsite provides bringing a simple portable fire pit is a good way to ensure you have plenty of cooking space without being cramped.  

Tip 2: Choose tools and equipment that are easy for them

When you’re choosing which gear to take, make sure it’s easy for kids to use – not too heavy, not too complicated, and easy to understand. Our simple Grillput Portable Grill is lightweight and easy to put together. You could even bring two and have a special stove just for kids to cook on! It’s like the kids table at Thanksgiving – only even better, because it’s out in nature. For cooking tools, choose lightweight tools with rubber, easy-grip handles. Kids have smaller hands and you don’t want them using heavy tools or any materials that may get too hot on the grill.  

Tip 3: Make Them Feel Helpful (they’re sort of helping, right?) 

Don’t just ask kids if they want to help – tell them you need their help! Nothing will make kids feel more grown up or more excited about campfire cooking that knowing a meal wouldn’t have come together if it wasn’t for their help. Really make sure they know how much their help is appreciated goes a long way. After all, what chef doesn’t like to hear compliments? 

Tip 4: Cook Something They Already Like 

Yes, adults may love a tasty campfire paella or protein-supplemented breakfast oatmeal, but kids probably ….won’t. So when you’re camp cooking with kids, find versions of recipes they already love, like macaroni and cheese, tacos, or even pizza. When kids are excited for what they’re going to eat, they’re much more likely to want to help. You could even have them go with you to the grocery store to help shop for your camping trip, and ask them to come up with creative ways to make their favorite foods out in nature. Don’t forget to bring a few healthy snacks they already love (organic fruit snacks, peanut butter and crackers) just in case they get a little hangry while waiting on dinner.  

Tip 5: Let them Build Their Own  

Whether you’re making pasta or fancy s’mores, letting kids add their own toppings and customize their meal is always fun. For example, if you’re making campfire quesadillas, let each kid add his or her own cheese, veggies, beans, and more. This works especially well for dishes that are cooked wrapped in tin foil – if kids overfill their dish, the tinfoil keeps it in place. Plus, each kid can watch his or her own cook and keep an eye on it to make sure it get cooked just the way they like it.  

And because we know freeze-dried meals don’t exactly hit the spot with most kids, we recommend trying a few of our favorites below! 

First, let’s start with dessert, with Campfire Banana Bowls. 

S’mores are fun, but what kid hasn’t made them a thousand times already at summer camp? Upgrade your dessert game with making some family-friendly s’more alternatives that allow every kid (and adult!) to build the perfect tasty treat. Camp cooking with kids doesn’t need to be hard!  

Ingredients: 

  • One banana per person 
  • Large sheets of tin foil large enough to cover the banana  
  • Your choice of toppings, like: 
  • Chocolate chips 
  • Caramel chips  
  • Candybar pieces (or M&Ms) 
  • Sprinkles  
  • Chex mix  
  • Nuts 
  • Cinnamon 
  • Marshmallows 
  • Crumpled up graham crackers  
  • Sugar  
  • If you’re feeling really decadent – chocolate sauce! 

Steps: 

  1. Slide each banana longways down the middle most of the way (sort of like a taco.) 
  2. Wrap tin foil around each banana with a little left to fully cover the top 
  3. Pull the sides of the banana apart and pass to each kid (or adult!) 
  4. Go crazy! Kids can top their bananas with whatever they like best – just remind them that a little goes a long way! 
  5. Finish wrapping up each banana in tin foil so it’s completely wrapped 
  6. Place on your grill – not directly into flames. If you need an easy way to stay above the flames, try a lightweight portable grill like this one.  
  7. Rotate each banana after about three or four minutes on one side.  
  8. Remove bananas from fire, unwrap, and enjoy melty goodness! If you take your banana off too early, no problem – wrap it back up and put it back on the grill!  

Tip: To reduce how many toppings kids use and make these a little less unhealthy, ask them to use chocolate chips and nuts to make patterns on their bananas – it’ll make them use fewer toppings instead of just dumping them on.  

(Oh, and PS – this can also work with peaches!)   

For a tasty dinner…..Campfire Grilled Cheese tastes way better than a normal grilled cheese and is super easy to cook with kids.   

Ingredients: 

  • French bread – the crust gives it an extra crunch!  
  • Large sheets of tin foil to cook them on  
  • A few different kinds of cheese slices  
  • Butter or cooking spray
  • Meat, if you want: ham and bacon work well  
  • Tomatoes, avocado, and other veggies kids like  

Steps: 

  1. Slice french bread and prepare each sandwich open-faced 
  2. Hand to kids and let them load up with what they want for meat and cheese! 
  3. Spray a til foil sheet with cooking oil or butter (cooking oil won’t burn as quickly as butter.) 
  4. Place your tin foil sheets on the grill (you want want to fold them to make them a little firmer) with sandwiches on top (you can also use a skillet) 
  5. While sandwiches are cooking, cut avocado and tomato slices  
  6. Cook open-face until cheesy is melty and/or bubbling  
  7. Remove sandwiches and let kids add their toppings
Also Read:  Fire Starting 101 - Lesson 1 - The Basics of Starting a Fire

To give the sandwich a little more crunch, we recommending adding thin, fresh apple slices. For this recipe, each sandwich needs enough space to be cooked open-faced, so plan ahead – you may need an extra portable grill surface to make more space.  

Don’t let this summer pass you by without enjoying at least one meal under the stars!