Just building and helping to keep a fire going is great fun for kids of all ages. There is something magical about being near an open fire. A fire is even more of a happy time when incredible edibles are created even by closely supervised toddlers.
Depending on what is being cooked, different tools are available. A simple stick will do for marshmallows or wieners and slightly more complicated steel-mesh baskets can be used to make anything on the fire, although they may be too heavy for younger kids.
A combination of a long-handle and a low fire are best for youngsters. Simple twisted wire wiener sticks can be made safer by bending the straight tips back facing the handle to minimize chances of pokes in the eye.
The most basic fireside treat are marshmallows. One or two can be placed on the tip of the stick or wire cooker and just held over the fire. They can be done to a nice brown complexion or more typically blackened and flaming when removed from the fire. The secret of course is to hold the ‘mallow near the heat but not in the intense flames – but children rarely learn this skill because it is more fun to have it flaming. Marshmallows are gooey and very hot when they come out of the flames so care and supervision is necessary to prevent burned lips or fingers.
S’mores are the next step up from the straight marshmallow. To make one s’more you need two graham crackers, some chocolate (or chocolate covered graham crackers (which is easier) and two marshmallows. Place the chocolate on the crackers and place the marshmallows between the crackers. You can balance this on a forked stick, but this is better done with a half of one of those wire-mesh baskets to prevent dropping all or part of it into the fire. More than one at a time can be made depending on the size of the basket.
Fireside pies can be made with a pie-maker, which is a long-handled clamshell device sized to fit two slices of bread sandwiched on top of one another. Canned pie filling or even jam can be slathered between the bread slices, closed into the two sides of the clamshell and held over the fire until hot and the bread is toasted. Grilled cheese sandwiches can be made the same way. The tool will be hot when it comes away from the heat.
Wieners, smokies, bits of salami or bologna that do not require cooking, just heating can be done either on a wire stick, a real stick or in a basket. If partially split lengthwise before heating, cheese strips or chopped onion can be inserted into the split near the end of the heating time. If serving on a bun, heat the bun on top of the basket while meat is is being done.