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The perfect campfire

Learn how to build and light a campfire, then sing around it, to give everyone a warm welcome to a Scouts tradition.
Plan a session with this activity

You will need

  • Kindling (for example, small sticks)
  • Firewood
  • Buckets
  • Access to water
  • Matches

Plan your campfire

  1. Read the safety rules, and make sure everybody knows how to be safe around a campfire.
  2. Decide who will make your campfire, and when they’ll make it. Do you want it to be burning before you start singing, or do you want to sing as the fire is lit and the first piece of wood is added?
  3. Find out who will be at your campfire, and how long the entertainment needs to last. It may be best to plan some extra songs in case time passes quickly. We’ve included some suggestions for songs, in case you get stuck.
  4. The beginning of a campfire should have songs that draw people’s attention, or songs that people might recognise, so everyone is encouraged to join in. Choose two or three songs to begin your campfire.
  5. The middle of a campfire should have songs to get everyone energised. Choose songs that are lively and funny, so everyone can join in – songs with repetition and actions are perfect.
  6. The end of a campfire should let people wind down from all of the fun and excitement. Choose calmer songs – are there any that help people to reflect?
  7. Think about how you’ll lead the songs – do different people want to lead different songs? Will you print any words, or teach people as you sing?
  8. Once you’ve planned your songs (and perhaps some refreshments), you’re all set to host your campfire.

Build your campfire

  1. Fill a large bottle or bucket with water. Keep it within reach at all times, in case of an emergency.
  2. Check the area. It must be somewhere you know you’re allowed to light a fire. It should also be flat and clear from anything that’ll burn – and you should think about where the smoke will blow, too.
  3. Collect lots of dry wood or a variety of sizes – get more than you think you’ll need.
  4. Split your wood into four piles. The first pile should contain pieces of wood about as thick as a matchstick. The second pile should contain wood that’s a bit thicker – two or three matchsticks thick. The third pile should contain twigs and sticks that are even thicker – about the size of a thumb. The fourth pile is for any wood bigger than this.
  5. Start with a dry base. A good way to create this is by putting down bark.
  6. Put a large stick onto the dry base. Take the first pile of kindling (the wood pile with the smallest pieces), and learn the whole bunch on the large stick. You need to leave space underneath for your tinder to sit, without being squashed.
  7. Take your tinder. If you’re using cotton wool, tease it out so it takes up more space and has plenty of air mixed in. Put it in the space underneath the kindling, but slightly to one side so that you can easily get your hands out of the way once it’s alight.
  8. Use your matches (or flint and steel) to light the tinder. Make sure you move your hands out of the way quickly. The tinder will burn and set the kindling on fire. Watch until the flames come through the top of the bundle of kindling.
  9. Once the flames have come through your first bundle of wood, lay the second pile on top at a slight angle. Wait for the flames to burn through the top.
  10. Once the flames have come through, add your third bundle of thumb-width sticks on top at a slight angle.
  11. Once the flames have come through this third pile of wood, you can be confident that your fire is burning. Add bigger and bigger pieces of fuel, making sure not to squash or suffocate the flames. Get ready to sing (and make snacks).

Enjoy your campfire

  1. Remind everybody how to stay safe around a campfire.
  2. Everyone should join in with the entertainment in whichever way they feel comfortable – people may want to sing, do actions, both, or neither.

Finish your campfire

  1. Make sure the fire is completely extinguished before leaving it. The coals can still be hot even after the flames have stopped – pour plenty of water over the coals, and stir round some earth with the ashes.

Reflection

This activity helped you to build friendships. Did you feel closer to people in your community when you shared the campfire with them? Did you make any new friends? Did you strengthen friendships by sharing memories?

This activity also helped you to be responsible. Were you trustworthy around the fire? What does it mean to be responsible and trustworthy around fire? Did you help others to stay safe and be responsible?

Safety

Food

Check for allergies before you begin. Make sure you have suitable areas for storing and preparing food and avoid cross contamination of different foods.

Fires and stoves

Make sure anyone using fires and stoves is doing so safely. Check that the equipment and area are suitable and have plenty of ventilation. Follow the gas safety guidance. Have a safe way to extinguish the fire in an emergency.

Cooking

Teach young people how to use cooking equipment safely. Supervise them appropriately throughout. Make sure it’s safe to use and follow manufacturers’ guidelines for use.

All activities must be safely managed. Do a risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Always get approval for the activity and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.