Camping Isn’t Just for the Grownups: Family Camping Tips

Dream Dinners Camping

Tis the season for family camping! It’s always a good recharge for the body and soul to get out in nature once in a while. This is especially true if you’re a city dweller and don’t see forested areas very often in your day to day life. Camping with your kids can seem daunting and maybe even overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be! With the right approach it can be a great time for everyone involved.

To start, if you haven’t taken your kids camping before and are worried about how they’ll like it, do a trial run first! Pitch the tent (with your kids’ help) in your backyard, and spend an afternoon playing outside and in the tent, even napping in it to see how they do in a different sleeping environment. That way when the “real deal” camping comes, both you and your kids know more of what to expect.

With every step of the way, get your kiddos involved as much as possible, even when it means that things will take longer. From having them help pack their own bags to gathering sticks for the campfire, involving them will allow them to be more invested in the activities and to feel that their contributions are valued.

One area that is a lot of fun to involve your kids is also our personal favorite: food! Ask your kids for their opinions on what to eat, and have them help with preparations before you leave. When planning your camping meals, think simple and think crowd pleasers. Foil meals and things you can grill over the fire, for example. On our May menu we have Campfire Grilled Pork Chops, and Tarragon Carrots. The pork chops, as the name suggests, would be perfect grilled over the campfire, and the carrots could be prepped before leaving and thrown in foil, also to be cooked over the fire. Check your nearest Dream Dinners location to see what menu items are available, and which would be best for your next family camping adventure.

A few other quick pieces of advice: make sure to do your research before you go, checking campsite details and regulations, etc., so you have less surprises along the way. Don’t forget to bring along toys and games for your free time at the campsite, and think positive but also plan for any potential challenges. Pack extra tarps in case of rain, extra layers so you’re ready for weather changes, and a first aid kit for cuts and scrapes.

Of course we’re only scratching the surface of all the possibilities! If you need more ideas for family friendly camping, there are plenty of resources available. REI offers some solid advice in this article, and this Lasso the Moon blog post also has a lot of fun tips and tricks. Research and preparation aside, what’s most important is to have fun! Camping with your family can provide you with great memories to last for the rest of your life, way after the bug bites go away and the s’mores are all devoured.

Springtime Family Fun: 4 Ways to Make the Most of the Season

A young girl and her little brother hike down a rocky trail looking over Tucson, Arizona.

Spring is in full bloom! With some creativity and a little planning, these ideas for Springtime family fun will help your family really savor the season.

Plant an herb and/or vegetable garden

Spring is a great time to plant a variety of veggies and herbs. The Urban Farmer Seeds and Plants website is a great resource in terms of how to go about planting everything, what to expect, when to start, etc. Your kids will love getting their hands dirty (without getting in trouble!) and the whole family will get to enjoy the tasty benefits of having fresh herbs and vegetables once your seeds have grown. Another bonus: your harvest could be added to some of your Dream Dinners meals!

Paint rocks together

This creative craft project starts with getting your family outside. The next time you go on a walk together, have your kids collect small rocks to bring back home to paint. Then let the artistic energy flow! If you’re in need of some ideas, this Color Made Happy page has a ton of inspiration, from silly faces to unicorns and minions.

Check out a new park & take a picnic!

If your family has gotten into a routine of visiting the same neighborhood park all the time, challenge yourself to visit someplace new. Make it an occasion, by taking a picnic along. Many of our Spring menu items would make ideal picnic meals – check your local store to see the full menu and find the most picnic-friendly meals available. If you’re stumped in terms of which parks to try out, here’s a few links for some of our regions. If you don’t see your city below, try visiting your local Parks and Recreation website for a list of parks in your area.

Make Spring cleaning fun

Last month we talked about self care Spring cleaning and there are plenty of ways to make Spring house cleaning fun and less of a chore for you and your family too.

  • Have your kids help you gather any and all papers that you no longer need into a bin: old newspapers, magazines, mail, etc. Then use what you’ve gathered to make a campfire that night! Find a neighborhood park with a fire pit you can use, and bring s’mores for added incentive.
  • Set up some friendly competition between your kids – who can clean their room the fastest, who can gather the most books/toys, who can find the most change in the couch cushions!
  • Turn it into a dance party clean-up! Play some fun, upbeat music and dance with that broom (and your kids!) between sweeping, dusting, or whichever cleaning tasks you’re tackling.

We hope these ideas spark some Springtime fun in (and outside) your home. Once you try an activity, don’t be shy – share your pics and stories with us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter!

Get Your Kids in the Kitchen

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Did you know that kids learn about food and eating at a very young age? That getting your kids involved in the kitchen can help shape their eating habits for the rest of their lives. Positive experiences about food early on in a child’s life may help them develop healthy eating habits in the future. A recent study found that children who are exposed to cooking through culinary classes or aiding a parent or family member in preparing their meals in their home will be more likely to choose healthier foods not only in your own home, but when they are outside of your home, too. Researchers also found that the children who were involved in meal preparation had a higher intake of fruits, vegetables and dietary fiber and an increased willingness to try new foods.

Need some fun ways to get your kids involved in the kitchen? Try these tips for all ages:

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5 Ways to Celebrate Valentine’s Day with Your Family

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Holidays | February 12, 2015 | By

Valentine’s Day isn’t just about romantic gestures for your significant other. It’s also the perfect time to show your family how much you care. Take advantage of the holiday weekend and try one of these special ideas that are sure to make their day and may even become a new Valentine’s tradition!

  1. Spend the afternoon crafting homemade Valentines with your kids. They’ll be so excited to share their creations with their friends, siblings and even grandparents! These ideas from Pinterest are simple and sweet, but you could also go all out with lots of glitter, heart shapes and lace doilies.
  2. Sneak fun Valentine-themed treats and a little love note into their lunch at school this week.
  3. From heart-shaped bacon to pink cinnamon rolls, a special Valentine’s breakfast is something the whole family will enjoy.
  4. Place a card at each family members’ spot at the dinner table and have each person write a special message in each card throughout the day. Then, when you sit down for dinner, you’ll each have a special note with messages of love from the whole family.
  5. Eating dinner by candlelight is an easy way to make family dinner extra special for Valentine’s Day. Pull out the pink and red decor, leave a box of chocolate on each person’s plate, light the candles and serve a delicious meal like Chicken and Shrimp Carbonara. This is a tradition you’ll come back to year after year!

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Create Your Own Hot Cocoa Bar

Christmas, Holidays | December 21, 2014 | By

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Inject a little extra holiday fun into your day by creating a simple DIY hot chocolate bar. This is perfect for kids (or adults) at a holiday party or even just to make your kids’ days a little sweeter while they’re home from school. We set up ours in the TV room so we could enjoy a cup of hot cocoa while watching our favorite Christmas movie.

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Halloween Week Meal Plan

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Holidays, Recipes | October 26, 2014 | By

Need a little help with meal planning this week? We’ve got a week’s worth of easy dinners perfect for busy nights and festive Halloween-themed meals all planned out. Be sure to follow our Fall Favorites board on Pinterest for even more ideas!

Sunday:
You might need a little extra time to make this Roasted Butternut Squash Spiderweb Soup, but the delicious fall flavors are worth it! Another option is to make your favorite creamy soup and draw a spiderweb on top for an easy, fun dinner.

Monday:
These Halloween Baked Potato Skin Pizzas are easy to throw together with a little help from the kids. Use pizza toppings such as pepperoni and olives to create everything from Dracula faces and mummies to spiders and jack-o-lanterns.

Tuesday:
How fun are these Jack O’Lantern Shepherd’s Pie Stuffed Peppers? They’re also deceptively simple to make. Just use a paring knife to carve faces in your orange bell peppers and fill them with mashed potatoes, browned ground beef, veggies and gravy.

Wednesday:
Surprise your kids with this spooky Halloween Spaghetti! A dose of black food coloring takes this recipe from your typical week-night spaghetti to a creepy Halloween treat.

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Get in the Game by Sprucing up your Table

Your family will love your extra effort to make life fun by adding a new look to your dinner table this month.  Here’s how to use what you have to honor your little athletes and celebrate the season.

  • Dig out your kids old jerseys and line them down the center of the table as a runner. Or, if you have team pendants on your walls, take them down and repurpose them for the month as a pendant runner.
  • Nothing says international like flags. If you have little ones, make placemats of different country flags and cover them with clear contact paper.
  • Make a centerpiece: fill a vase with cut greenery from your yard; pile a clear bowl full of pine cones/nuts/ or even prize ribbons, or, grab an old trophy and place it front and center.
  • Find those little outgrown mittens, hats, and scarves and arrange them around your centerpiece.

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Try these ‘Winter Game’ Contests and Join the Fun!

Parenting & Kids | February 15, 2014 | By

snow-day-tubingBeat the cold winter blues and throw a party for kids or adults. No Slope Style course or Half Pipe? No problem, use what you have and join the competitive spirit.

Start by grouping couples or families into teams each representing a different country and let the competition begin!  (You can have them draw the country from several you pre-select). Designate a judge to vote for game winners and to keep the games moving. Make a music play list to add to the competitive mood. Have fun!

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10 Activities to Get Kids Off the Couch

Parenting & Kids | September 13, 2013 | By

boys playing footballEnjoy the last few weeks of warm weather by getting your kids off the couch and movin’. Try one of these fun activities to help your kids stay active and learn some new things together as a family.

  1. Play a family game outside. Baseball, basketball, flag football, capture the flag – the choice is up to you!
  2. Go to a local farmer’s market or U-Pick farm for fresh fruit, produce, or berries.
  3. Bake a dessert together with the seasonal fruit or berries you bought!
  4. Fill up water balloons and dig out water guns for a fun family fight.
  5. Visit the zoo or children’s museum.

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Plan a Dinnertime Family Vacation

Family Dinner | August 16, 2013 | By

Take your family on a dinnertime vacation without leaving your home by serving Italian, Brazilian, or Mexican inspired dishes this month. Make it even more exciting by putting together a themed activity for your kids that goes with each locale.

Italian Stuffed ShellsFor an Italian feast, try our Italian Stuffed Shells with a Caprese salad, Polenta or seasonal vegetable as a side and gelato for dessert.  While dinner is cooking, you can set the kids up with an Italian children’s game such as “Strega Comanda Colore” or “Lupo Mangia Frutta.” Another way to share Italian culture with your children is by reading a book with them such as “Ciao Bambino!: A Child’s Tour of Italy” by Danna Troncatty Leahy.

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