Consider our simple trick for turning campfire-building into a collaborative effort that reinforces basic fire principles and campfire safety. All you need is snack food and an appetite for knowledge.
While you build the real fire, encourage your child to follow along by building a mock fire out of food. You can choose to make the mock fire out of vegetables or use snack foods to take the fast track to dessert. For each part of the fire, consider gathering the following ingredients:
- Fire ring: Grapes or M&M's
- Tinder: Shaved Carrot or Shaved Coconut
- Kindling: Thinly Sliced Cucumber or Thin Pretzels
- Fuel: Carrot or Mini Candy Bars
- Water to Put the Fire Out: Salad Dressing or Chocolate Syrup
After you have gathered your ingredients, walk through each step of the process.
1) Begin With The Fire Ring
For this step you might say, "The first thing we need to do find an existing fire ring. It's important to minimize our impact and use the fire rings that are already in place for us." Then hand a plate to your child with a fire ring already constructed out of the M&M's or grapes.
2) Make a Tinder Nest
Next, demonstrate how to make a tinder nest. Your child can follow along with the carrot or coconut shavings. Mention the natural fire-starting materials that can be found in the area. During this step you can have your child tag along as you gather the actual tinder for the fire.
3) Discuss Which Fire Construction Method to Use
Are you going to be building a log cabin, teepee, lean-to, upside down campfire, or are you going to use some other method? Once you have decided on a method, explain the principles that make the method work. All fires need oxygen, fuel, and heat. Describe how you want to prepare your materials before you start the fire. After all, a successful fire depends heavily on proper preparation.
4) Light the Fire, Add the Fuel, and Talk Campfire Safety
Light the tinder, and add the kindling first. Then, add the fuel slowly. Instruct your child to follow along and explain how you don't want to add the big pieces too fast, otherwise they might smother the flame. Now is also a good time to explain that small pieces of wood, smaller in diameter than an adult's wrist, are the best size to use. Burning smaller pieces of wood ensures that the fuel can be completely reduced to ash.
It's important not to move firewood over large distances, because it might introduce a tree-killing insect to a new area. Demonstrate a good size fire to have and emphasize the risks of building a fire that's too big. Stress campfire safety and explain the consequences of careless choices.
5) Drown Out Your Fire
Show your child how to douse the fire out. They can use the dressing or chocolate sauce for this step. Pour a little on the food and then illustrate how you need to stir the water into the ashes. Then, add a little more syrup or dressing. Describe what the fire should feel like when it's completely out. It should be completely cool to the touch. Since extinguishing a fire completely is such an important part of campfire safety, it's good to place extra emphasis on this step.
6) Enjoy Your Work
Gather the family around the campfire, tell a story or two, and let your child eat their mock campfire.