As summer approaches, many of us begin scanning local magazines and websites or talking with friends about our children’s summer camps. There is a dizzying array of choices⏤arts, sports, technology, etc. When you begin digging into the details, you might realize that the costs are high, the schedules don’t fit your work schedule, or you cannot provide the necessary transportation to the camp. The hope of summer camp for your children might begin to dwindle. All hope is not lost! With a bit of creative thinking and time, you can recreate many traditional summer camp activities right in your own home. Plus, you will be able to experience some of these fun memories with your children.

Simple At-Home Summer Camp Ideas

The key to recreating summer camp activities at home is planning. Before summer begins, you can set aside a few minutes to pull together any supplies needed. Then, plan out a few simple activities to keep your children active and having fun all summer.

Water Games: When the temperatures outside rise, it’s no reason to sit indoors. Help children stay active and cool outdoors with a few camp-inspired water games. Classic water activities can include water balloons, playing and pouring with buckets, or running through sprinklers. If your children have never tried a sponge relay, it’s another fun game to play with friends. Each team fills their sponge with water, runs it to another bucket, and squeezes out the water. The first team to fill the bucket with water wins!

Arts and Crafts: No summer camp is complete without an arts and crafts area. The possibilities for summer crafting are almost endless. You can choose to make the crafts as simple or as complex as you prefer. Some simple, camp-style crafts that are always popular with children are threaded friendship bracelets, simple bead bracelets or necklaces, painting on canvases or rocks, tie-dye shirts or bandanas, and chalk art. These crafts require very simple, inexpensive supplies and minimal setup, so your children can complete them anytime the urge to craft emerges.

Group Games: Summer camp is always better with friends or neighbors. Grab your pals and join in some camp-themed games. Classic field games that children usually enjoy include tug of war and relays such as three-legged or sack races. If you are looking for a more creative game, encourage your children to devise an outdoor (or indoor, if you have space) obstacle course. They can use ordinary household objects as obstacles–chairs, ladder, pillows, buckets, balls, or ropes. Encourage children to think “outside the box” when creating their obstacle course. They can make it challenging with objects to jump over, climb up, crawl through, or run through and then challenge one another to a timed race.

Camping (of course): What’s a summer camp without the camping aspect? At-home camping can be just as much fun as camping in the great outdoors. If you have an outdoor space like a backyard, consider putting up a tent (or even just a tarp) and sleeping outdoors with your children. It’s a unique experience they will never forget. You could even use a small camp stove, grill, or portable burner to cook your food outdoors. If you prefer indoors, try recreating a camp-style setting by spending a night in sleeping bags or blankets on the living room floor. Turn off the lights and encourage your children to tell stories by flashlight. A real camp experience right at home!

Camp Food: Although summer camp is not usually known for its meal choices, there are a few fun food items that children would enjoy. Many summer camps offer an ice cream or snow cone social event during the experience. You can easily replicate this at home with unusual flavors of ice cream and all the fun toppings like sprinkles, whipped cream, and fruit. Additionally, some campers have the chance to make their snacks while at camp. You can recreate this at home, too, by allowing kids to develop novel snacks to eat at their at-home summer camp. Encourage children to make trail mix, fruit salad, or crackers with new toppings to keep on hand for snacking during the day. Lastly, camp cuisine often involves cooking over an open fire. While this might not be possible at home, you could try grilling food on an indoor or outdoor grill to go along with your at-home camp experience. 

Talent Show or Dance: Many summer camps end the season with a camper-led talent show or dance. This long-standing camp tradition would be a great addition to an at-home camp experience. You can encourage children to develop a talent and perform at the end of the summer. Children can really get creative with this idea. Talents could include anything from singing, playing a musical instrument, dancing, a comedy act, a theater performance, or a magic show. This is a wonderful way for children to showcase their skills and also become accustomed to performing in front of others. This activity is definitely more fun when more people participate, so invite friends, neighbors, or extended family to join in the show (or at least be the audience).

An at-home dance is another exciting finale to your summer. Help your children create a playlist of their favorite songs. For extra excitement, you could even decorate the house to make it feel like a real dance experience. Turn up the tunes and dance away!

While summer camp can be the source of many fond memories and wonderful experiences for children, it may be out of reach for some families. There’s no need to give up on the idea of summer camp. Many camp activities can be recreated at home and offer children a wonderful experience. Learning, fun, and creativity can all be part of summer camp activities at home.

The information provided on this site is NOT medical advice and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, provide medical or behavioral advice, treat, prevent, or cure any disease, condition, or behavior. You should consult with a qualified healthcare professional regarding your child’s development to make a medical diagnosis, determine a treatment for a medical condition, or obtain other related advice.

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