This year we cannot afford summer camp. We really want to send our son to reading camp, space camp, art camp, etc. Finances are tight because we are selling our house. It looks like it’ll be fall before we can try organized sports. Mom guilt has been hitting me hard until…I had some insight. I can afford time. I can do some things differently on a daily basis to offer my kid a self-made summer camp. It’s simple. I plan to do one cool themed thing each weeknight afternoon.
If you are like me and struggle to keep it simple, never-fear. Below is my list for self-made summer camp themes. I have included a few activities per theme. Activities are focused on kids aged 4 to 6 years. These self-made summer camp ideas are inspired by affordable activities and include some items that many moms commonly have around the house.
Around the World
This week will focus on dinners that are internationally inspired: Taco Tuesday, Spaghetti, Pizza, French Fries, Stir Fry, etc. We will incorporate a bit of Spanish, Italian, French, and Chinese into dinnertime conversation (keeping it age appropriate and simple, like, “Hola, mi amigo!”). We have lots of maps too, so post-meal we will talk about something interesting from each country. My son is obsessed with piñatas too, so we will probably make a piñata out of a paper bag and decorate it with shredded construction paper. I also plan on recycling the random candy in our house.
We have a tree house. The plan is to trick it out with a climbing rope, pulley-system, homemade paper-towel telescope, and hammock. I have old pillowcases, which I will use as flags and my kid can draw on them. We will also add a few bird (aka squirrel) feeders.
Fairy Tale Time
The week will include reading fairy tales at bedtime. We will also spend time searching for the perfect spot in which to build a fairy house, collecting supplies (moss, lichen, sticks, leaves, snail shells, and rocks), watching lightning bugs, making magic wands, and concocting potions in the kitchen. We have lots of glitter, which is perfect for this outdoor activity. I think I have a few magic pinto beans in the pantry that we can plant and watch grow over the summer. Maybe they will grow tall enough to meet a giant.
We have a ton of Legos. Most of them started out as kits that I painstakingly and at times impatiently helped my son put together. This week can be focused on thinking outside the box and getting creative with Lego assembly. Ideas are aplenty and include building a Lego tic-tac-toe board, building a figure and having my son match it, or vice versa, giving my son a number of Lego pieces and building a figure with them, building Lego eye-glasses, etc. Building blocks are great for teaching math, matching, and more.
One of dad’s old button downs will work as a lab coat as my kid and I make a few experiments in the kitchen. We will answer questions like: How many drops of water will fit on a penny? How can we make slime? What happens if you mix water and oil? Can you melt a marshmallow with solar power (hint: Use tin foil)?
There is a great green space and parking lot in our neighborhood perfect for an Olympic obstacle course. Each afternoon we will take on a mom, dad, and kid competition to see who can take home the gold! Ideas are bicycle cup/cone competition. With this activity, cups can be placed in a pattern and each person will take turns riding a bike through without knocking over the cones AND while being timed. Don’t have a bike? An alternative is running and being timed. Other Olympic ideas are the long-jump, disc throw, hurdle jump, balloon tennis (no tennis racket? Use a paper plate with a stick tapper on it). You could get carried away and make a paper torch, as well as medals made of cookies and ribbon.
A sealed envelope will be waiting each afternoon with a physical challenge written inside. Ideas include: Match the criminal’s shoe, “laser beam” obstacle course, secret disguise competition with mom and dad, making invisible ink, and uncovering fingerprints. Each accomplished mission will have a sweet after-dinner reward.
My son hopes to be an astronaut (for now)! The plan will be to excite his appetite with an activity where we use cream-filled sandwich cookies to create phases of the moon. Other ideas include making moon rocks with glitter and glue, space ships with paper plates, balloon rockets, and watching the stars for constellations and shooting stars.
This one may require some extra dollars for supplies, such as water balloons, a small kiddie pool, squirt cannons, sponges, etc. One easy idea is to fill up the kiddie pool and relax. Water balloon toss is so much fun if the targets are mom and dad. The squirt cannons could be used for target practice with plastic cups. Sponges can be used to wash the car. Ha! (A little something for the mammas too.) I remember washing the car with my mom and loving it.