Thursday, May 28, 2020

DIY Day Camps During Pandemic

Anyone with a child at home under the age of 18 is experiencing some level of stress as summer stretches out before us in a world dealing with the COVID-19 epidemic. This is NOT a post to debate the issues of whether or not to venture out for organized activities or camps. If you want that local (Arizona) debate, there is a great post from Raising Arizona Kids.

However, if you have decided to create your own "at-home" experience, here are some resources that might help you. The key point is plan, plan, plan! If your kids are at camp, whether sleep camp or day camp, their schedules are tightly controlled. To create your DIY camp, I would suggest doing the same. My second suggestion is to make these activities feel "different." You've been home with the kids for some time now and to get everyone in the "camp" mood, this needs to feel special or different. Of course, you can always pick and choose fun activities from this list. So, let's create your own DIY summer camp with step-by-step instructions!

1. Create a name for your camp. Many years ago, I entertained my (now adult) niece and nephew at Camp Campbell.  One of our first "arts and crafts" activities was making a camp shirt.  Here's a link for an easy way to make tie-dye shirts with acrylic paint. It would be very easy to create some stencils with your "camp" name and paint them on after your tie-dye shirts are done. You just created 2 days of arts and crafts activities and a memento of their camping experience!

2. Plan your "camp" meals. If you want to keep it easy in a "day camp" setting, you just need to plan fun lunches that you can eat picnic style. I've packed a ton of ideas onto a special Pinterest board, Day Camp so you should have no problem planning ahead. If you really want to be adventurous and include a "sleep-over" camp with a fire, don't forget to include the s'mores and at least one "campfire" meal.  I've also included some links on the Day Camp Pinterest board for that.

3. Keep a strict schedule. Be sure to plan educational activities, physical activities, arts & crafts and quiet time into your camp, keeping in mind the ages of your campers. See the list of links below as well as my Pinterest Day Camp page for specific ideas on each type of activity. Consider creating a schedule board for each day, or a handout for the "campers" so they know exactly what is coming.

4. Consider at least one overnight camp out in the yard. This could include a tent and campfire, or as simple as some blankets and sleeping bags in the living room. 

5. Get some "camp counselors." If you have older kids, get them involved! Younger kids will be thrilled, you give those older kids something to do, and take some of the pressure as "camp director" off of you!

6. Have a specific "start" and "stop" to camp, especially if you are doing a "day camp" format. It's not sustainable to keep "camp" going indefinitely and kids will likely lose interest if you try. Keeping a "start" and "stop" is almost as important as keeping a strict schedule because it gives kids the feeling of something "different".  You also get time off when camp is not in session!

Can't bear to do this alone at home?  Here are some resources to local virtual day camps this summer. 

Ideas for Educational Activities
  • Phoenix Water Services has a brand new digital resources pages. The left side is for kids and the right is for adults. Don't miss the fun videos of "Wayne Drop" and "Loo Poo".  There are activity books with coloring pages you can print for the little ones or order free hard copies in advance. Be sure to check out the tons of lesson plans you can use.

  • Virtual Water Festival is another page from Arizona Project WET and geared to teaching elementary students (especially 4th grade) about water. Filled with videos, lessons and games, this is a treasure trove.
  • STEM Lessons Activities from Nerding teaches how to build or do a bunch of fun things, especially for elementary and middle schoolers.
  • Mystery Science has a ton of activities for kids, Kindergarten through Middle School
  • Make a Time Capsule What better time than now??
  • Make homemade cards and send a letter to relatives (just like at camp!)
  • Grow Borax Crystals
  • Make Elephant Toothpaste with a few household items. Cool science experiment - outside.
  • Make up stories, create your own book and illustrate (this can be done over several days)

Ideas for Physical Activities
  • Play at Home - This is a great, interactive and local website that includes mindfulness, songs and a little yoga. It's especially great for preschoolers.
  • Children's Museum of Phoenix has a bunch of videos with movement and yoga, as well as other videos with projects and learning.
  • Swimming - Don't have a pool? Create a slip & slide with the hose, bubbles and/or shaving cream. Hose them down when you're done. See a bunch of DIY slip & slides on Pinterest
  • Biking
  • Scavenger Hunt, Obstacle Course or Relay Game - see my Day Camp board on Pinterest for tons of outside games you can put together for a relay
  • Paint with Squirt Guns - Arts & crafts and physical activity in one!
  • Make bubbles - see Pinterest for a recipe for giant bubbles

Ideas for Arts & Crafts
  • As You Wish Pottery has complete kits you can pick up or they can ship to you!
  • STG Top 5 Kids Crafts - our very own!
  • Cake decorating. This is fun whether you have a lot of supplies for decorating or just a few. Each kid gets to make their own cake and then decorate it.

Ideas for Quiet Time
Whatever you decide to do this summer, take some time to relax. It's been a hard couple of months for everyone and you deserve it!


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