It isn’t camping without a campfire according to my children. All campgrounds, even primitive ones [without electricity or water hookups], have fire pits or rings, usually old truck tire rims, in which to place seasoned firewood purchased at the camp store. Star gazing is another nighttime camping family favorite. The two go hand in hand, and both need to be performed BEFORE the children become too tired to enjoy them…and the parents become too tired to put up with the children enjoying these activities.
The best time to start a campfire is right after dinner clean-up, while it is still light out. And once again, everyone needs to be involved for family fun to happen. Even when the twins were three, they gathered sticks and twigs for Dad, the guardian of the fire, to feed the fire. The best sticks became marshmallow sticks. The older children gathered dry leaves and bigger kindling while I offered a few left over used paper plates from dinner.
The fire needs to burn a while and settle a bit before S’mores can be attempted. This is when we discuss the day’s adventures, play charades, and gather the S’mores supplies. You remember S’mores. Our children love them. First the children eat all the chocolate, usually on the sly so that when Mom looks for chocolate for her S’more, there is none. Then the children eat all the graham crackers…again without Mom’s knowledge. And finally, the marshmallows–usually untoasted. For some reason, the children believe that it is the stick that makes the marshmallow “toasted.” If the marshmallow is on the stick, it is toasted whether it is near the fire or not. Then the children become full but still wish to “toast” marshmallows, so they prepare them for Mom and Dad.
However, we prefer the marshmallows a little darker…okay, actually toasted. So we attempt to demonstrate to the children exactly how to toast marshmallows.
“The marshmallows need to get warm,” Dad explains to the children.
“But not catch on fire,” I added as our oldest daughter’s marshmallow becomes flames and she drops it into the ashes of the fire.
“Patience,” Dad cautions as he holds his daughter’s hand with the stick and marshmallow a little closer to the coals.
Once my husband and I have our fill of the charcoaled wonders made especially for us by our beloved children, I announce that it is time to star gaze, which usually distracts the children long enough for my husband and I to discard some of the more ashy-type marshmallows. We douse the fire with a few pots of water to be sure it is completely out.
With less light pollution, the night sky opens up and God fills it with a few billion twinkling stars. We usually take a blanket or beach towels to the lake beach or field, whatever the campground has to offer, and just lie there in wonder, pointing out particular constellations that seem so clear while camping. We purchased a star chart and take it camping with us. We keep it in the tent trailer to always have it on hand.
Then after the children brush their teeth, wash their faces and hands, change into p.j.’s, and the family says prayers together, it is story time. Mom or Dad recounts life as a child or tells a story about the children as babies. A bit of family history to close out the night.