Editor’s note: This post was updated on June 16, 2022
Summer can be a magical time for kids. There’s little routine, more time for play, and often, there’s day camp! At camp, kids can rediscover their creative powers, become more self-confident and, most importantly, have fun.
Yet even if your kids aren’t enrolled in a summer day camp, some of that same fun can happen at home. Even better, it can often happen without you having to play the role of Camp Leader.
To help keep your children busy and active in July and August, Active for Life has created free weekly “DIY Summer Camp” activity plans designed for busy families like yours!
Every week, we have new ideas for games, activities, arts and crafts, book recommendations, and more. Follow along with us as we explore these themes (here’s a printable colouring sheet [PDF] your child can fill in as you go, if you wish):
- Week 1: Animal Planet
- Week 2: Music Makers
- Week 3: Exploration
- Week 4: Olympic Games
- Week 5: Going Green
- Week 6: Under the Sea
- Week 7: Splish, Splash!
- Week 8: Where the Wild Things Are
Pick and choose among the activities or tackle them all — you choose what works best for you and your child! You can be as involved as you want, but we’ve also made sure that every week includes an easy independent play activity for your child to do on their own or with limited support too.
What to expect
We will be focusing on developing skills, confidence and a love of movement — all critical building blocks to develop physical literacy.
We’ll also provide suggestions on how to adapt the games for younger children and different abilities, how to play in smaller spaces if you don’t have a big backyard — and ways to increase the intensity of play if your family likes a challenge!
We want these activities to be easy and fun for everyone, so all the games and activities will use supplies you likely have at home or are available at your local store.
Can’t find a certain item? Be creative with what you DO have — the most important part is that your child is engaged and having fun.
Tips for a great summer experience
There are so many benefits for you and your child when you play together.
To be a great partner in play:
- Follow your child’s lead: You may find your child dives right into one activity and is lukewarm to another. That’s okay! Follow your child’s lead by giving them a choice in what activities they would like to do and/or how they complete them (as long as it is safe to do so).
- Be aware of energy levels: Planning independent play activities or arts and crafts projects are a natural fit when your child usually has downtime. This means you may want to plan for more active games and activities in the morning or later in the afternoon, or whenever your child’s energy is at its highest.
- Be flexible: If an activity takes a different direction or the weather isn’t cooperating, choose to be flexible and go with wherever your adventure takes you!
- Make changes (if required): Feel free to change games and activities to be more or less challenging, shorter or longer in duration, or better suited to the space you are playing in (we will be sharing some easy modifications in each of our weekly activity plans!).
- Have a back-up plan: Even the best-laid plans run into challenges, so it is important to have a back-up plan (and it doesn’t need to be fancy!) It can be as simple as playing with sidewalk chalk, taking a walk through your community, or grabbing some household items for loose parts play.
How to include children of different ages or abilities
Keeping all your children engaged in the same activity can be hard, but here are some tips that may help.
For older children:
- Use this opportunity to help build leadership skills in your older child. If your older child is responsible, and it is safe to do so, hand off the activity/activities and have them take the lead (always be sure to be close enough to offer support if required).
- Make activities more challenging for older children by changing the rules, the equipment and supplies or how they complete the activity.
For younger children:
- Ask your older kids to suggest ways to modify the activity to make it easier for younger siblings to join in.
- Give young kids “helper” roles to set up games or equipment, or have them be the official photographer or videographer for activities they aren’t old enough to do.
For children who need additional support (i.e. children with different abilities, injuries, etc.):
- Feel free to modify games as necessary: substitute larger or softer balls that are easier to grab, use props like pool noodles to make it easier for children in wheelchairs to extend their reach when playing games like tag, or tweak the rules a bit to reward cooperative play.
- If your child is in a cast or if their mobility is limited for other reasons, build games around what they can do. (For more on this, read: 14 games kids in casts can do to keep active.)
Meet the at-home day camp activity planners
Active for Life’s weekly DIY Day Camp series was created by Jen Goeres, a physical education teacher, and Jen Smith, a recreation program specialist. We also run WordPLAY Consulting, which aims to bring the power of play to sport, recreation, and education providers across Canada. We each have over 20 years of experience working with children and youth in sport and recreation and also have children of our own.
We are so excited to be bringing together some of our best games and activities to help keep your child active and engaged this summer!