Summer Camp … at Home!

Summer Camp … at Home!

By Michelle Mady 

It has been a crazy year in an ever-changing cultural climate. The rules have been tweaked, the guidance changed, and the world is starting to reopen. Just in time for summer. The only problem is that when we had to sign up for summer camps, we were still living in such an uncertain time. And, with non-refundable deposits due months in advance, it didn’t seem wise to commit to something so much in advance. And now here we are, in the height of summer, with bored kids and parents who are … well, we’re over it, aren't we?

Honestly, I work full-time outside of our home. I have five children. There’s no way I can create a full summer program for them, never mind enforce and keep up with a schedule. And on top of that, I don’t want my children to feel overwhelmed by their summer breaks from school. I want them to have fun over the summer without pressure. So, I created a once-a-day summer camp at home. It is one day a week that we get silly, have fun and - most importantly - hang out together, forgetting the hustle of life. Here are a few activities that are on my list to prep this summer.

Have a Water Fight

I am a fan of a good old-fashioned water fight. We were using water balloons last summer, but I am still finding balloon pieces in my yard and am concerned about the environmental impact of waste. So, we have tweaked it. I bring out a few large buckets and fill them up with water.  Then, I grab some big car washing sponges, face cloths and bowls. We soak the sponges and face cloths then toss them at each other. Bowls are filled and water flung at each other. 

Build A House

OK, not an actual house - but a fairy house! In keeping with my environmental impact thoughts, make sure to use natural materials. Look around your yard, or a local park, for building materials. Grab rocks of various sizes and shapes, some leaves, sticks, and anything else that looks like a fairy may enjoy. Then, find a great place in your yard. Make a staircase out of rocks, a bed from a leaf and a roof out of tree bark. We have found our fairy houses get moved a bit overnight sometimes, leading us to create stories of the fairy’s adventures the evening before.

Camp In

At least once a summer we camp in our backyard. We have a fire, pitch the tent, and spend the night outside. Although being a camping family in general, the kids think it is a little silly, but they enjoy the perks of being able to run in and grab a cold drink balanced with the calm of the outdoors. We have had to move our camp out inside due to weather in the past, making a fort and bringing the sleeping bags into our bedroom. We watch a movie, have microwave s’mores and tell silly stories. So, no matter your outside space or comfortability sleeping in a tent, there are so many ways to make a “camp in” special.

When planning a summer camp at home, keep your expectations realistic. If your bandwidth allows for a new activity today, rock on! If you can carve out one activity a week, go you! Many of my least successful summers (or vacations in general) were because I thought I had to do too much. I expected myself, and my children, to be so into it, and make time somewhere every day. It simply isn’t realistic. At this point, I can guarantee I can make one day a week work.  Maybe that changes, and that’s okay.

The biggest thing to remember is that your kids just want you, so plan some activities that make you happy and don’t take too much stress to plan.


About the author: Michelle is a mom of 5 children ranging in age from 5 to 15.  As a toddler and preschool teacher, she shares experiences, activities and guidance to other parents, as both a parent and as a professional early childhood educator, at any stage of their parenting journey.

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