If you are just joining our Camp Quarantine Series, catch up here! DIY Summer Camp
It’s been raining here. A lot. And I don’t just mean of the water variety. The world has been storming month after month . . . and hurricane season hasn’t even hit us yet (at least not here). Downpour after downpour, when will it end? We’re taking on water faster than we can bail it and there’s no time to row for the shore—even if we could see it. Maybe let’s just let go of the oars and bucket, at least for a while, and try and come up for some air, try to regain our strength, try to regain our courage, try to regain our sanity, try to regain our hope.
This first half of 2020 has not only been out of control, much of it has been beyond our control as well. And I don’t know about you, but I like being in control! I’m Mama! I like having a list and a plan and knowing what my tomorrow looks like. I find the feeling of not being in control downright agitating. But here’s something small (or maybe not so small) that is within our capabilities and control right now: planning and preparing a present and grounding summer in and for our families. Let’s set aside time and make the effort to invest in our children in this wild, hurricane of a summer.
I’ve laid out everything I could think of for you to easily mix and match to create your unique, personalized, DIY at home, camp-inspired summer. I’m embarrassed to admit how much fun I’ve been having. Feel free to incorporate as much or as little of my suggestions as you choose, again, you’re in control! I am confident that whatever you set an intention to do this summer in your family will make a lasting impression on your kid(s), because our presence and efforts in the lives of our children are never wasted. Let’s not forget that our children are the hope for tomorrow. It only takes eighteen years to change the world! Whoah, all of a sudden it looks like we may have a whole lot more control and influence on the world than we thought! Parent Power!
Camps may be closed, the world may look menacing and stormy, but we do not have to laze or worry the summer away in some kind of weird, helpless coma. So grab your clipboard (no, your phone is not a clipboard!) and join us in making the most of this summer with our kids; teaching them valuable life-skills, instilling in them strong morals and values, getting out in nature as a family and away from all those screens—ultimately creating memories together that will last forever. It may be corny, it may be weird, it may seem oddly timed, but I promise you . . . if you commit to an intentional and present summer as a family, you will be so glad that you did. So, let’s go to CAMP!!!
~Your CAMP QUARANTINE CLIPBOARD~
Step 1: THEME & NAME your Summer Camp, Campers, and Counselors!
Themes and names are a big deal at camp. Cowboy Camp, Space Camp, Nerd Camp, Classic Summer Camp. . . and the counselors and campers always have “camp names” too —often after types of birds (Owl, Chickadee, Meadowlark) or trees (Sequoia, Aspen, Willow). The theme for your Camp Quarantine can be whatever you like and should reflect your family’s style or interests. If you have more than one child and one loves dragons and the other unicorns you may be able to combine the two themes to create a unique fusion. But if your kids’ interests are too diverse, or if you are including friends or neighbors, your best bet may be to opt for a traditional, classic Summer Camp theme.
If you only have one camper (or only one who’s old enough to voice an opinion) then this will be easy. What is your child currently “into” or obsessed with? If something doesn’t immediately come to mind, ask your child! Our son is going through a major bug phase, so we have chosen to do a bug-themed camp and are calling it “Camp Creepy-Critter.” My son chose his name right away: “The Florida Blue Centipede,” and is insistent that his little sister be “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” He wanted me to be “Scorpion,” but that was a definite no. My husband and I are still brainstorming our perfect creepy-critter names.
Classic/Generic Summer Camp Names:
- Native American Names: Camp Agawam, Camp Wigwam, Camp Arapaho
- Camp + Your Last Name
- Camp+ Your Street Name
- Nature Names: Camp Fern, Camp Sequoia, Camp Coon
Common Alternative Themes / Focuses for Summer Camps:
- Camp Cowboy/Cowgirl (horse camp)
- camper/counselor names: “Lassoe Larry, Wild Billy, Cool Kate, Mustang Milly, etc.
- Space Camp (the world of outerspace)
- camper/counselor names: Jupiter, Comet, Flying Star, etc.
- Science Camp (the world of experimenting and inventing)
- camper/counselor names: Edison, Einstein, Catalyst, Beaker, Fluorine, etc.
Special/Personalized Summer Camp Themes/Names to get you started:
- Camp Creepy-Critter (bugs, frogs, lizards, bats, all things creepy and crawly)
- camper/counselor names: Dragonfly, Katydid, Grasshopper, Luna Moth, Queen Bee, etc.)
- Jurassic Park (the world of dinosaurs)
- camper/counselor names: Little T-Rex, Velociraptor, Studlysaurus, etc.
- Camp Pixie (the enchanted forest / fairy land)
- camper/counselor names: Tinkerbell, Thumbelina, Mr. Toadstool, etc
- Camp Unicorn (all things unicorns and rainbows)
- camper/counselor names: Fruity Pebbles, Sparkles, Leaping Leprechaun, etc.
- Camp Comic (join Snoopy and the gang at Camp Remote, or have a TinTin Adventure Camp or a Calvin and Hobbes Imagination Camp)
- camper/counselor names: Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Peppermint Patty Woodstock, TinTin, Calvin, Hobbes, Garfield
- Iron Horse Ranch (the world of trains/Locomotives)
- camper/counselor names: The Flying Scottsman, Mallard, Old NO. 23, etc.
- Camp Coral (the world Under the Sea & mermaids)
- camper/counselor names: Hammerhead, Angelfish, Ariel, Anemone, Electric Eel, etc.
- Camp Squire (the world of knights, dragons, castles, princes, princesses, and magic potions)
- camper/counselor names: Prince/Princess ________________ (child’s name), or Sir/Lady _________________ (child’s name), or King/Queen _________________ (parent’s name), or a dragon name like Cauldron, Hoard, Flame, etc.
Step 2: Get Into Character!
You’ve got your names but what’s in a name if you aren’t in character? Camp will be way more fun if mom and dad stay home, trust me. You don’t have to wear a full costume (unless you want to!) but a funky hat or backwards baseball cap, whistle around your neck, perhaps a false mustache or some enormous and wild earrings . . . an accessory or two will do wonders. Also, make some effort to alter your voice and personality . . . adopt a silly accent and camp leader character—play the military general-type camp leader, or the nature-enthusiast, whatever floats your . . . canoe!
Step 3: Set up Camp!
*For each area of camp, put up a poster or paper sign (keep it easy and simple) that designates each area. That small effort will go a long way in making your Camp Quarantine memorable.
1.) Bunks / Cabins
Wait . . . we’re at home, remember? Well, “Sleep Away Camp” won’t feel much like a “Sleep Away” if everyone is in their own beds just like every other night! I suggest altering the sleeping arrangements in some way. Your Camp Quarantine should be an out of the ordinary experience for your kids. Plus, kids love “adventure sleeping” . . . my son even gets excited to sleep on a mattress in a closet when guests come to stay.
Here’s a few ideas to get you started on deciding where to bunk your campers:
- tent(s) in the living room or backyard
- hammocks in the sunroom or on the back porch
- mattresses on the floor in the living room, family room, or den
2.) Flag Pole / Ceremony Site
Traditionally, Summer Camp features a flag-raising and/or morning ceremony to start the day. This is a beautiful way to instill presence, reverence, and set an intention for a day of activities and family fun.
Here’s a few Morning Ceremony ideas to get you started:
- Flag-Raising Ceremony and reciting your country’s pledge or singing your National Anthem
- Morning Prayer
- Morning Moment of Silence or Lighting a Candle/Lantern
- Saying “Thankfuls” or singing a hymn
3.) Mess Hall
Ok, so this may just be the dining room . . . but I encourage you to think of some way to switch it up. Maybe you can have meals on your back porch, in a sun room, or in the back yard. Anything you do to switch up the normal routine and home environment will go a long way for creating your camp environment. However, at the end of the day, as far as the Mess Hall goes . . . what you serve is more important than where you serve it. I suggest you really go for the camp cuisine experience and cook up some camp-inspired classics . . . just maybe forego the meatloaf and shepherd’s pie, bleh! Of course, all camps are different, so you may recall entirely different meals if you went to Summer Camp. And for those of you tuning in from around the globe (hello dear friends!) I have no idea what camp fare looks or tastes like in India, or South Africa, or Nigeria, or Chile . . . but I sure would love to learn!
A few American Summer Camp Staples to inspire your Family’s Camp Fare:
- Breakfast: Pancakes, Waffles, French Toast, Bacon/Sausage and Eggs, Breakfast Burritos
- Lunch: Sandwiches, Pasta Salad, Mac N’ Cheese, Salad Bar, or leftovers from dinner (that’s my jam)
- Dinner: Sloppy Joes, Taco Stack Up (chili and taco ingredients layered on tortilla chips), Burgers & Fries, Hot Dogs, Fish Fry
4.) Snack Shack
Set up a small and super simple little snack shop. Stock your snack shack with some fruit, granola bars, maybe some cookies or a few frozen treats (nothing beats having a frozen lemonade on a hot day at camp) . . . Price the items if you want to and give your kids an allowance before camp starts (you can use real coins or Monopoly money).
5.) Mail Call
Designate something funky as your “mailbox” . . . a vintage suitcase, cartoony cookie jar, or even a gift-wrap covered or bedazzled cardboard box will do the trick. Place your mailbox in a specific place for “Mail Call”. We’ll cover the actual mail in a bit.
6.) Creative Corner
Arts and Crafts are a celebrated cornerstone of Summer Camp, so designate a crafty spot. It can be inside or out, you just need a large table and cover and . . . some art supplies! Don’t worry, I have an entire post coming up focused on just camp crafts and supply lists!
7.) Rec Room
Most camps will have a game room with fooz-ball, table-tennis, air-hockey, etc. If you already have a game room (woot), then this will be easy. For the rest of us, designate a space and set up some rec-room activities.
A few ideas for your Rec Room:
- board games & puzzles
- make-shift bowling alley
- funky mini-golf
- nerf-gun course
- laser-tag course
- workout / yoga / weight corner
8.) The Field, and . . . “Lake”
Ok, so if you have a yard (hurray!) that may be your field. Otherwise, a nearby park may work nicely. Now for the lake. Welp . . . most of us don’t have one. If you live close to a lake, or the beach, this may be a great option for you. A pool will also do nicely. Otherwise, you will want to facilitate some kind of water fun to sub in for the lake experience . . . which is a pretty important one as far as camp is concerned. A few options would be: a blow-up pool, slip n’ slide, sprinklers, etc. Stay tuned for my upcoming post all about camp recreation for plenty of wet and wild ideas.
9.) Campfire Circle
Fire is a must. Camp just won’t be camp without it. Roasting hot dogs and marshmallows and singing silly songs in the firelight glow . . . this is often the most memorable of all the camp activities and experiences. You’ll need a fire-pit or place to build a bon-fire plus some stools or chairs. Don’t forget the firewood, kindling, and matches or lighter! If a fire is absolutely out of the question, a virtual one is better than nothing . . . but virtual marshmallows will never do.
Step 4: Delight in the Details
1.) Pack your Bags!
Have your kid(s) pack their bags for camp. I’m serious!! Tape off their drawers or lock their bedroom doors. Planning out a packing list and learning to live out of a pack or suitcase is an important life-skill. Plus, it will really infuse a little theater-borne-realism into the whole Camp Quarantine experience.
2.) UNPLUG (with style)!
Decide ahead of time what role screens will play in your DIY Summer Camp. I highly recommend they play as little role as possible (I bet you saw that one coming). A family movie is acceptable, in my opinion, but really and truly if it were up to me . . . I vote to rope off and/or lock up all electronics other than those in the kitchen and some audio such as music, audiobooks, or nature noises. Also, I say turn off the internet and power off your phones! Set up a phone booth if you must, but make it a quarter pay phone for every 5 minutes with a 15 minute cap. If you really want to go for it of course, you could do a week with no electricity at all! That’s intense even for me! The bottom line: choose your style, and commit.
3.) Fool the Senses!
Plan to be outside as much as possible and bathe in the sights, sounds, and smells of nature. For most of us, however, our Camp Quarantine may require a good amount of indoor time. Turn on forest or lake sounds, and diffuse some pine or cedar essential oils. I know it sounds silly, but the effect will be soothing and satisfying.
This does not need to be expensive, extensive, or time-intensive. Put up a few things here and there but keep it simple. I’m putting up birthday decorations from my son’s past birthday parties that have elements to do with our Bug Camp theme. Use what you have . . . give yourself permission for it to be funky and random . . . the best camps always are.
5.) Bugles, Bells, and Blaring Megaphones
Punctuate your DIY Summer Camp with bugles, bells, and a megaphone or air horn, and your kids are sure to never ever forget Camp Quarantine. It’s hard to forget being woken up by a bugle, trust me! As for recreation, there are certain field games that I can’t really separate from the sound of an air horn. And can anything compare to the soothing clang of a bell coming through the trees, inviting you to dine? I’m not suggesting you purchase a Bugle (or learn to play it), a Camp Bell, or even a Megaphone if you don’t already have them laying around. Sound effects will do fine. Remember, it is the spirit of Summer Camp that matters most.
6.) Letter Writing
Mail Call with no mail really sucks. So, get the word out to Grandma and Aunt Ruth (we all have one, don’t we?) that your kid is heading to Summer Camp. Ask them to write a good old-fashioned, ink and envelope, stamped and snail-mailed letter. Ahhhh, the good old days. Pings on a phone just can’t compete with a stack of colorful, handwritten letters. Even if you have to write a letter yourself to your kid as “mom”, “dad”, or as a hilarious make-believe Pen-Pal . . . your kid(s) will love it even if there is an eye roll or three. And while you’re at it, give your child some stationary, envelopes, and stamps, and teach them how to write and address a letter of their own! For very young kids this may just be letting them color or draw a picture to send to Grandma or the cousins and helping you put a postage stamp on the envelope. But for an older child, print out a letter sample or template on Google, or make one yourself, and walk your child through the timeless skill of writing a letter.
Step 5: What about Supplies?
Go ahead and plan what your family will eat for your Camp Quarantine and have that meal plan ready to go. As for Arts & Crafts, Recreation, and Campfire Circle . . . stay tuned! I’ve got you covered with ideas, kits, and supply lists.
Thank you so much for reading! Happy planning, happy prepping, happy camping!
I hope you and your family will join us this summer in building Camp-Inspired Heritage through experiences that are skill-strong, character-deep, and value-rich
Love, ~Our Holistic Homeschool~
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