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.
Serves: 6Prep Time: 10 minutesCooking Time: 40 minutes
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.
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.)
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.
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.
Combine 1 quart of your favorite lemonade, 1 cup red cranberry juice cocktail, and 2 cups sliced strawberries. Mix well. Makes 6 cups.
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.
Air-pop 1/4 cup popcorn. Toss with 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Allow to cool before serving. Makes 10 cups.
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 cupsPrep Time: 10 minutesCooking Time: 0 minutes
In a large bowl or plastic bag, combine all ingredients. Toss to mix. Store in an airtight container for up to a month.
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-upsPrep Time: 15 minutesCooking Time: 15 minutes
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.
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.
Copyright @ 2002. Reprinted with permission from the September 2002 issue of Child Magazine.