Camp Fun: Stay-at-home summer camp ideas

Summer camp is a blast! However, not everyone can send their children to summer camp. However, you can offer your children fun summer camp experiences right at home.

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  • Summer camp was a blast! I spent the months leading up to it selling a bazillion cans of butter toffee peanuts door-to-door. Oh, but it was worth it. I loved exploring nature, having fun and learning new skills.

  • However, not everyone can send their children to summer camp. Money, time and other constraints may mean that your kids have to stay home this year. That's OK. You can offer your kids fun summer camp experiences right at home. Here are some ideas for a successful stay-at-home summer camp.

  • Gathering

  • You don't have to start the day with reveille, but you do want to gather together to signal the beginning of camp. Use this time to have a family prayer, share an inspirational thought, say the pledge of allegiance together or review the day's activities.

  • Crafts

  • Some of my favorite memories are of craft-time at summer camp. Do you remember making lanyards, Friendship bracelets, or Dream catchers? You can recreate these crafts with your children. Collect leaves, twigs, flowers and acorns on a nature walk, and use the items to create nature crafts like these from Better Homes and Gardens.

  • Nature

  • Explore nature by going for a hike in your area. Have a photo scavenger hunt. Divide your kids into two groups and give each group a list of things that you would find in nature. Have them take pictures of as many things on the list as possible. Go on a nature walk. Have each child write down all the animals he sees. Give a prize to the person who can find the most.

  • Songs and skits

  • Every child is a star waiting to be born. Hold a family talent show. Put on a skit together as a family. Camping Dude has a great list of skits that would be fun for everyone. Remember the songs you used to sing at camp? Teach them to your children. Shurdington has old campfire song favorites such as Kum ba yah, Hole in My Bucket and Baby Bumblebee.

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  • KP. You want your camp to be clean and orderly, so don't forget KP duty. Assign your children jobs and pay them play money to be spent at the camp store.

  • Camp store

  • Stock your camp store with inexpensive treats and toys. Penny candy, chips, pretzels, trail mix and juice boxes are always in demand. Choose toys that reflect your camp theme, or are otherwise related to summertime. Water balloons, squirt guns and sponge balls are fun and a great way to cool off in the hot afternoon.

  • Campfire

  • If you have an outdoor, wood-burning fire pit, then this is the time to use it! Roast hot dogs and marshmallows for s'mores. If you don't own a fire pit, you can still offer campfire-style cuisine. Try making foil packets like these suggestions from Food Network. You can also make s'mores in the oven. Here's my recipe: Lay down graham crackers on a cookie sheet. Top each graham cracker with a chocolate bar or chocolate chips. Top with mini marshmallows. Bake in an oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 5 to 8 minutes. Watch the s'mores carefully; they are finished when the marshmallows are a golden brown.

  • Camp outside

  • For a completely authentic feel, pitch tents in your backyard and let the kids sleep outside overnight. Ghost stories are optional.

  • So, if summer camp isn't in the cards for your kids this summer, don't worry. They will still have a great time at your stay-at-home Camp Fun.

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Shelli Howells is a creative fiction writer, and a mother of six.

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