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A Backyard Camp-Out Party

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James Baigre

Sometimes the simplest birthday celebrations are the most fun, especially a slumber party with good friends. For an unforgettable backyard camp-out, all you need are a tent, a few games, and a menu of hearty outdoor fare. "Camping appeals to kids of all ages," says Child food editor Laurie Goldrich-Wolf, who planned a similar party for her 7-year-old daughter, Olivia. "Guests get a feeling of adventure without leaving home, and the food is easy to prepare and serve."

Begin the party in late afternoon with activities: mining for gems and a scavenger hunt in which clues lead to a stash of small prizes. Then let kids chow down on a supper of beans and franks, roasted corn with salsa, and birthday cake. As the sun sets, campers can don hardhats and play flashlight tag, then settle in to tell ghost stories, make flashlight shadow puppets, and snack on trail mix and Parmesan popcorn. If you don't choose to chaperone an all-night camp-out, have the kids bring their sleeping bags inside at bedtime and pop in an outdoor-themed video such as A Bug's Life, Davy Crockett, or The Jungle Book.

The next morning, young adventurers will delight in designing their own alfresco breakfast featuring warm-from-the-griddle pancakes with delicious fillings rolled inside. Offer a choice of fresh fruit and chocolate chips, which soften and melt when placed in the pancakes. "Even kids who don't like breakfast love pancake roll-ups," says Laurie. As the guests depart, don't be surprised if your happy camper begins plotting the date and activities for next year's outdoor slumber party!

Panning for gold (actually, assorted rocks and minerals hidden in the yard or, in this case, on a nearby beach) gives guests the chance to make their own party favors while learning about gems. "It's the ultimate discovery party game," says Laurie. Gather an inexpensive stash of turquoise, malachite, copper, quartz, and other colorful gems from a craft or nature store, plus a small shadow box for each guest. Give the kids a sieve and let them collect a dozen or so items, then glue the gems in their boxes. The fun continues as they identify each item with the help of a visual guidebook such as Rocks and Minerals from Dorling Kindersley.

Dinner

  • Franks & beans
  • Roasted corn with salsa
  • Treasure cake
  • Strawberry lemonade

Snack

  • Trail mix
  • Parmesan popcorn

Breakfast

  • Pancake roll-ups

Franks & Beans

Serves: 6
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 28 oz. can vegetarian baked beans, such as B&M
  • 2 Tbs. Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbs. barbecue sauce
  • 1 Tbs. dark brown sugar
  • 6 poultry hot dogs

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Step 1. In an oven-safe casserole dish, combine all ingredients except hot dogs. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until top gets dark and bubbly.

Step 2. Meanwhile, grill or cook poultry hot dogs according to package directions. Slice hot dogs; add to bean mixture. Serve hot.

Each serving

218 calories, 13 g protein, 30 g carbohydrate, 7 g fat (2 g saturated), 7 g fiber, 40 mg cholesterol, 128 mg calcium, 2 mg iron, 1,168 mg sodium. (Use low-sodium products to reduce the amount of salt in this recipe.)

Roasted Corn With Salsa

Pull the husks down from 6 ears of corn without detaching them. Remove the white silks. Wrap corn in foil and grill for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove corn from grill and peel husks. Return to grill without foil for 1 minute. Serve with a dollop of mild salsa.

Each serving

90 calories, 3 g protein, 21 g carbohydrate, 1 g fat (0 g saturated), 3 g fiber, 0 mg cholesterol, 2 mg calcium, 1 mg iron, 226 mg sodium.

Strawberry Lemonade

Combine 1 quart of your favorite lemonade, 1 cup red cranberry juice cocktail, and 2 cups sliced strawberries. Mix well. Makes 6 cups.

Each serving

107 calories, 1 g protein, 27 g carbohydrate, 0 g fat (0 g saturated), 1 g fiber, 0 mg cholesterol, 14 mg calcium, 1 mg iron, 6 mg sodium.

Parmesan Popcorn

Air-pop 1/4 cup popcorn. Toss with 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Allow to cool before serving. Makes 10 cups.

Each serving

76 calories, 5 g protein, 7 g carbohydrate, 3 g fat (2 g saturated), 1 g fiber, 8 mg cholesterol, 138 mg calcium, 0 mg iron, 186 mg sodium.

Makes: 6 cups
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 0 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups low-fat granola
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 cup rice cereal
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Instructions:

In a large bowl or plastic bag, combine all ingredients. Toss to mix. Store in an airtight container for up to a month.

Each serving

Each CUP 338 calories, 6 g protein, 78 g carbohydrate, 3 g fat (0 g saturated), 5 g fiber, 0 mg cholesterol, 23 mg calcium, 4 mg iron, 132 mg sodium.

Makes: 18 roll-ups
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbs. sugar
  • 2 Tbs. canola oil
  • 2 Tbs. melted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups low-fat milk
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries
  • 2 bananas, thinly sliced and drizzled with orange juice
  • 1/2 cup fruit spread
  • 2 peaches, pitted, thinly sliced, and drizzled with orange juice
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Instructions:

Step 1. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, oil, butter, milk, and eggs until batter is almost smooth. (You will see a few slight lumps.)

Step 2. Heat a non-stick skillet on medium. Ladle pancake mixture onto skillet by 1/4 cupfuls. Cook on one side until bubbles appear; flip and cook remaining side for another minute.

Step 3. Put three pancakes on each child's plate. Allow children to roll their own pancakes using the remaining ingredients as fillings.

Each serving

411 calories, 9 g protein, 70 g carbohydrate, 12 g fat (4 g saturated), 3 g fiber, 84 mg cholesterol, 103 mg calcium, 3 mg iron, 65 mg sodium.

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Copyright @ 2002. Reprinted with permission from the September 2002 issue of Child Magazine.