The words “summer camp” evoke memories for me of carving sculptures out of bars of soap, sitting under a tree working on my nature journal, learning one silly song after another around a campfire, and writing farewell messages to all of my new friends on logs or sticks that we’d stripped of bark. I remember trying new sports, discovering crazy games, ad making some of the best friends I’ve ever had.
There’s no question that summer camp opens children up to a whole world of possibilities, learning, and growth. But what do you do if, for whatever reason, your kids aren’t going to camp this summer and you need to keep them moving and having fun? With a little planning and effort, you can create a DIY summer camp for your kids and their friends.
The following steps will get you started:
Step 1: Find other families
Start with friends from school and move on to neighbours, friends from clubs, sports, church, or even co-workers. Send out a series of emails and see if you can find some other families that would be interested in getting together once a week or perhaps every day for one week.
However you decide to do it, each parent (or a couple if you end up having a lot of kids) can take a turn planning, organizing, and hosting a day.
Step 2: Consider your budget
Since you’re in charge of your DIY camp, it only has to cost as much as the activities you choose. Want to visit local theme parks? Then you’ll spend more money. Choose biking, hiking, or exploring playgrounds in your community and you’ll pay nothing. Except for the occasional ice cream cone.
If you’re sharing the planning with other families, make sure everyone has the same expectations regarding budget, right from the beginning.
Step 3: Choose a theme
Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
Tour de (insert the name of your city or town here). Explore your city or town by bikes or on foot. Start from a different location each day and visit nearby playgrounds, parks, and other attractions. Let the kids feel like they’re leading the way and be open to adventure. Have a few fun activities in your pocket for those times that they need a little structure but let the focus be on free play and discovery.
Field trip fun. Visit a local zoo, nearby theme park, museum or historical park, splash parks, water parks, or a beach. The options are limitless. This is a great way to launch a summer of fun on the first week off from school (with or without other friends) or an exciting weekly activity to look forward to.
Choose a new sport or activity. Rent or borrow the necessary gear and set out to try something new! Ideas could include roller blading, tennis, skateboarding, mountain biking, geocaching (which only requires an app on your smart phone), or disc golf. Let the age of the kids in your group guide your choices. For young kids (under 7) it might be fun to focus on developing new skills like throwing, catching, and jumping by creating an obstacle course or with fun games like hopscotch.
Get your hike on. Look for natural areas and parks within your town or city limits and explore nearby provincial parks. Keep kids engaged with an active nature ninja scavenger hunt.
Get wet and wild. Visit spray parks, wading pools, or water parks. Go to a local beach, lake or river, try fishing, or rent a boat for a day. During a hot week plan to be near water everyday for some good old fashioned summer fun. Bonus points if you can find a dock to jump from.
Step 4: Have fun!
Whether it’s a bike ride around the neighbourhood, followed by sprinkler fun and popsicles, or a hike up a mountain with a picnic by a waterfall, it doesn’t really matter. Being outdoors and spending time together is what counts. You’ll be making memories you’ll all share for years to come.