DIY Summer Camp

By Meg Brunson, Macaroni Kid Pittsford - SE Rochester April 7, 2018

Not everyone is planning to send their children to a formal summer camp program, and even if your kids are going to summer camp, there will be days, or even weeks, at home.  Macaroni Kid to the rescue! Here are some tips on how to run a Do It Yourself Summer Camp - right from the comfort of your own home!

Get excited! If you are excited, chances are better that your kids will be excited too! Name your camp - the obvious choice being Camp [Your Last Name], but you can get creative too. One thing that really kicks off the camp experience is an official t-shirt - so make your first project designing your camp shirt. You can make them look fancy and professional, or let the kids tie-dye and decorate them themselves!

Who will participate? My first thought was just to schedule a couple of themed days/activities with my kids. But you could also run a co-op camp. Get a group of friends and plan it together. Each mom will take a turn holding camp at her house for all the children involved.  With more kids at your camp, the possibility of playing games that require more kids than you may have in your family opens up.  And, you get a break on the days that you are not holding camp!  You could do this with any number of families/children. Even partnering up with one mom would be fun and give you a break a couple of days throughout the summer!  

Choose Dates. Find some time to devote to your summer camp. It could be one day a week, every day for a week, or whatever works for your schedule.

Pick a Theme(s).
I like the idea of focusing on one theme per day. Try to pick themes that are interesting to you and your kids. (I have included a list of theme ideas at the end of the article!)

Expand on your Theme and research activities.
I like to keep all my ideas in one place, like a binder or notebook.  For each theme, write down your thoughts on what types of activities you can do that relate back to your theme.  Consider: what you want your kids to learn, books to read, food to cook/eat for snack, music to listen to or create, art/crafts projects, games, science experiments, and both indoor and outdoor activities. 

Gather materials.  When you are running your DIY Camp, being frugal is goal #2 (having fun is goal #1!). Look around the house for materials that you can use. If you must shop for supplies, check the dollar store, thrift stores, or local stores. Don't forget the local library - pick a couple books per theme too. I like to have a tote that I keep all materials in, so I can easily put it away when we are done, and I always know where everything is. I don't like to let the kids play with anything after camp has "closed" for the day - because I don't want the appeal to wear off!

Make a schedule. Some kids/moms benefit from a rigid structure, while others need complete flexibility. Neither is right or wrong - it’s all about what works best in your house. So, whether you want to dictate in blocks of 15 minutes how you will spend your day or have more general guidelines like “before lunch” or “after lunch,” make goals for what you want to get done, and when. Don't forget to include planning goals. I typically plan one night per week, what I want to get done for the rest of the week.

Think outside the box - What about field trips? Check out the local trails, parks, playgrounds, and libraries. Macaroni Kid is a great resource for these things, too.  Keep an eye on the weekly newsletters for ongoing ideas, and of course our events calendar for local and free/affordable family-friendly activities! Other things you should think about including are:

Educational content (the kids will be learning right alongside the themes, but you can supplement that learning with a grade-appropriate activity book, or look for resources online - I like and - just look for the free resources.)

Chores for the kids (make your life a little easier.)

Service projects or volunteer work (I love teaching the kids about ways to give back and help others).

Free Time (camp is fun, but make sure the kids get recess too.)

Finally, save your notes for next year. You will be able to reuse a lot of the same material and just build upon it to make it age appropriate. This is YOUR camp, so hold it for a short or long amount of time each day, whatever works for you. Make up your own rules, but make sure Rule #1 is HAVE FUN!

Theme Ideas:

  • Sports (Football, Baseball, Basketball, Soccer, Golf, Cheerleading, Tennis, etc.)
  • Places/Cultures (Ancient Egypt, Around the world, Greek, Hawaiian, Renaissance, Australia, Vikings, etc.)
  • Animals (Animal Planet, Barnyard, Bugs, Reptiles, Amphibians, Zoo, Birds, Fish, etc.)
  • Art
  • Your Camp’s Got Talent
  • Construction
  • Frozen
  • Christmas in July
  • Disney
  • Water fun
  • Boats, Planes, Trains
  • Desert Island
  • Dinosaurs
  • Fossils/Rocks
  • Police, Firemen, Ambulances, Military
  • Fairy Tales
  • Throwback movies - pick movies from YOUR childhood!
  • Fear Factor
  • Fitness Fun
  • Game Shows
  • Girl Power
  • Save the Planet
  • Holidays
  • Hollywood
  • I love the 60s, 70s, 80s, etc.
  • Princesses/Knights
  • Dance
  • Music
  • Myths/Legends
  • Nickelodeon
  • Olympics
  • Pirates
  • Rainforest
  • Volunteering/Charity Work
  • Rockstar’s
  • Photography
  • Monsters
  • Poetry
  • Safari
  • Spa Day
  • Yoga
  • Space
  • Patriotic
  • Books (American Girl, Junie B Jones, Harry Potter, etc.)
  • Superhero’s
  • Surfing
  • Friendship
  • Beach
  • Circus
  • Carnival
  • Under the Sea
  • Teamwork
  • Wild West
  • Wizards
  • Florida

Visit Our Summer Camp & Activities Guide HERE!