Family Fun Lifestyle

No Camp? No Worries

5 tips on how to create a home camp for your kids

As moms, we go by many names: Chef, Carpool Coordinator, PTA President, Wife, House Cleaner, and now a new one: Camp Counselor. No matter where you live, summer camp plans are either up in the air or looking very different this year. And if you just found yourself ordained as a camp counselor, fear not: We’re here to give you a crash course in everything from navigating the great outdoors to coordinating a kids baking challenge! Throw on your sneakers and sunscreen (bug spray, too!) and prepare yourself for a summer you and your kids will never forget!

In this story you’ll find:

Acceptance

Not overcome with excitement just yet? That’s normal. Accepting that all of your summer plans have all been canceled and you’re in charge of entertaining your children is no easy feat. Give yourself time to digest the information and talk with your significant other about it. It’s important to release feelings of stress, anxiety and uncertainty before moving forward and sharing your revised plans with the kids. Your daughter may not have the “dance camp” she was anticipating, but she might find she enjoys baking or water colors just as much. When sharing this news with your children, present it as a new opportunity they get to do, rather than “breaking” the news about what they will not be doing.

Parent to camp counselor: If you’re “home-camping” this summer, make the best of it, use your imagination and have fun!

How to plan a DIY Camp at home:

Plan your summer schedule 

It’s time to sit down with your pen and calendar (or scheduling app of choice) and begin finding ways to fill your days. Keep in mind, most camps are meant to serve two purposes. 1) Have fun and 2) Learn something new. We recommend breaking your “camp” down into weekly themes. This will avoid boredom and provide you with more opportunity for various activities. As you begin brainstorming themes and activities, find out if the camp provider that you might have lined up, will be providing any at-home alternatives and resources. To avoid stressing over the entire summer, consider planning activities on a weekly basis. Use this PDF  to create Summer Camp Planner to help you stay organized and plan the week, one day at a time.

Execute your plan

It’s Saturday night and you’ve got your planning pages laid out on the table. This is go time! Start by making a list of weekly themes. You can reference this list each time you complete your planning pages. Remember, not every day and every activity has to be related to the theme. Choose at least 1 to 2 projects such as hiking at a nearby trail and setting up a tent in the backyard for camping week. If it’s cooking week, aim to make at least one new recipe each day, in addition to teaching them about responsibility in the kitchen. Here are some ideas.

  • Cooking 

    • Teach them how to use measuring cups
    • Learn about kitchen safety
    • Make Frozen Fruity Yogurt Bites

      Frozen Fruity Yogurt Bites are a great way to get the kids busy in the kitchen making a healthy snack.

  • Camping

    • Set up a tent in the backyard
    • Learn about North, South, East, West and using a compass
    • Make s’mores over the campfire

      Get outdoors! Set up camp in your backyard including a fun hammock.

  • Water
    • Put out the sprinkler or spend time in the pool
    • Learn about the different bodies of water such as rivers, streams, lakes and oceans
    • Make water balloons for a water balloon toss
  • Sports
    • Create obstacle courses
    • Learn about professional athletes
    • Make gold medals to wear around their necks
  • Animals
    • Drive to a nature preserve and see how many animals you can observe as you walk the trail – be on the lookout for birds, squirrels, turtles, chipmunks and more!
    • Learn about the animals that live in your region 
    • Make animal themed puppets out of paper bags
  • Art
    • Create chalk art on the driveway and sidewalks
    • Learn about famous artists
    • Make a paper plate maraca, filled with rice or beans

      Kids love to paint: spread newspaper or tarps on the floor and join in the fun with them.

  • Around the world
    • Write out a list of the places you have been and a list of where you would like to go
    • Learn about various counties 
    • Make a snack that is popular in another part of the world
  • Hawaiian
    • Create Hawaiian leis
    • Dance to Hawaiian music
    • Serve pineapple Crispy Fruit and juice topped with an umbrella straw
  • Science
    • Make slime or homemade Play-Doh 
    • Learn about famous scientists
    • Create a shooting pop fountain. Drop a roll of Mentos candy into a bottle of diet soda to make a fountain that shoots soda into the air (best done outside!).
  • Pirates
    • Make and wear eye patches
    • Learn about the history of pirates
    • Serve yogurt cups with Crispy Green fruit, aka “buried treasure” stirred in
  • Wild West
    • Play pin the tail on the horse
    • Supply your kids with animal crackers, markers and glue to create their own “wild west” scene on a paper plate
    • Create a snake made from cut up paper towel tubes. Paint the tubes then thread on a string of yarn.

 

Supplement with virtual camps 

If you’re exhausted just pondering all these ideas, never fear! There’s a slew of online camps out there to supplement your efforts. They range from STEM-based curriculum to literacy programs sponsored through your public library. Online camps run the gamut: computer coding, music, geography or science. Girl Scouts, PBS and the National Center for Families Learning are just a handful of organizations offering free classes, many of them targeted to specific ages. Many of these online programs encourage outdoor activities, such as Girl Scout badges, so online doesn’t have to mean no physical activity. 

Relax and Reminisce

Above all, remember that the days are long, but the years are short. Before you know it, summer will be over and all of the prepping and pool time will be over. Your role as camp counselor isn’t to receive an all-star employee review, but to create lasting memories that you and your children can enjoy each day, as well as into the future.

–Megan Meisner

An ISSA Certified Fitness Trainer, with more than 10 years of experience, Megan specializes in fitness for moms and youths. Her site, Megan Meisner Fitness focuses on activity, nutrition and restoration, with an emphasis on progression, not perfection.