How to Create a Neighborhood Day Camp With Your Kids

Do your kids get bored easily over the summer?

Looking for an exciting summer program to get them outside playing and away from the electronics?

Here’s a solution: start a week-long neighborhood day camp.

Create a camp with your kids and get other local families involved, and everyone will have an amazing summer adventure!

In this article I’ll show you how you and your kids can start a neighborhood summer camp filled with fun, educational and creative activities.

Plan a neighborhood summer day camp filled with fun, educational and creative activities for all the kids on your block.

Why Start a Summer Camp?

Happy kids greet the summer with massive anticipation. Parents, on the other hand, have to scramble to find appropriate and affordable activities to keep their kids active and entertained throughout the summer.

Summer camp is a great opportunity for kids to bond with their peers in activities different than those during the school year.

Instead of sending your kids away to camp, work with them to create your own day camp that everyone can enjoy. Even your littlest kids can contribute. Then recruit other local families to give their input and help out.

In this article we’ll give you recommendations for how to plan a week-long summer camp that runs a whole or half-day. Run the camp for a full week or one day a week throughout the summer. You can even do it in the evenings or on weekends, so working parents can be involved!

kids looking at sky

Organizing school-age kids into a neighborhood camp is both fun and rewarding. Image source: 123RF.

To start, call a family meeting and see if your kids are game. Let them know it’s a big commitment, but they’ll help create something amazing.

Next, coordinate with other parents to decide on dates and times, meals, snacks and transportation—and to share responsibilities.

Now all that’s left is to plan and prepare activities and then have lots of fun! Don’t forget to name your camp!

It may seem like a ton of work. However, when you and your kids create a camp with other families, you share the work along with the joy.

You Will Need

  • Craft supplies
  • Music
  • Books
  • Outdoor activities
  • Water
  • Food

Preparation Time

2+ hours

Activity Time

5 days or more (depending on the length of your camp)

Location

Your home (you can do field trips, too!)

These are the steps you need to take to put together a summer camp everyone will enjoy.

#1: Organize Your Camp

Before you take on this “adventure,” make sure there is interest from other parents. You don’t want to get your kids all excited only to have the plan fall through.

Send out an email to parents of your kids’ friends and give them a heads-up. You can even send out a survey, so you have a handle on dates and times before you start planning with your kids.

Parent Survey

  • Do you prefer day camp or half-day camp? (If there are a lot of working parents, you may want to suggest evening or weekend camp.)
  • What week or weeks are you available to do the camp? (One reason why it’s good to start to plan early—you can be the first summer activity on everyone else’s calendar.)
  • Are you available to help out? When?
  • What special skills or hobbies do you have? (Music, art, etc.—this will help when you have your kids assign counselor jobs to the other parents.)
  • If you are unable to help out at camp, what would you be able to do to contribute? (Prepare lunches, prep craft supplies, etc.)
  • What are the names and ages of your campers?

Once you receive and compile responses and determine camp is a go, call in your kids for a family meeting.

family meeting

Call your kids in for a family meeting and tell them about the camp so you can start planning it together. Image source: iStockPhoto.

Tell your kids about your idea for a day camp, and ask them if they’d like to create one.

Once you get a unanimous and excited “yes”—which is very likely—start brainstorming fun ideas for “Camp Family.”

Come up with an initial list of activities, sports and theme days for your camp. Or have an entire theme for your camp such as Game Camp, Sports Camp or Drama Camp. Also, name your camp!

Note: Consider making up t-shirts for the camp. You can have your kids draw a logo to put on the shirt, along with the name. Remember to put “Camp Director” titles on your and your kids’ tees, “Counselor” titles for the other parents, and “Campers” for their kids!

family logo

Be sure to create a camp logo for your adventure. Image source: iStockPhoto.

Take the brainstorm list and the info you received from interested parents, and along with your co-directors, compile a checklist of the primary decisions you’ll want to make regarding the camp.

Camp Checklist (download PDF)

Logistics

  • When is the last day of school and first day the kids will go back in the fall?
  • When is camp? (Full week or one day a week? What days? Start time? End time?)
  • How many kids will attend? What ages? (Older kids can be junior counselors for the younger ones.)
  • How will the kids get to camp? Carpool? Bike ride? Walk?

Activities

  • What types of activities will you schedule each day? (You’ll want to find active things to do, as well as creative projects.)
  • What theme days will you have? Or will this be entirely a themed camp?
  • Will you have a field trip during camp? Where? What prep will be needed?

Parent Volunteers

  • How many parent volunteers are needed? Who will volunteer each day? How many per activity?
  • How can parents who are unable to volunteer at camp contribute?

Food

  • Will the kids bring a bag lunch? Or will you provide meals? (This is a good task for parents who can’t help out during the day.)
  • What drinks and snacks should you have on hand during camp?

Spring is the perfect time to do the planning and prep so you don’t have to scramble to put everything together after school is out for the summer.

#2: Decide the Schedule

Once you and your kids make the big-picture decisions, figure out the camp schedule.

Sample Full-Day Schedule:

  • 8:00—Arrival/Free play
  • 9:00—Craft of the Day
  • 10:00—Music Time
  • 11:00—Reading Time
  • Noon—Lunch
  • 1:00—Outdoor Activities (include a snack/water break)
  • 3:00—Home

Sample Half-Day Schedule:

  • 8:00—Arrival/Free play
  • 9:00—Craft of the Day
  • 10:00—Outdoor Activity
  • 11:00—Music or Reading Time
  • Noon—Lunch (optional)
  • 1:00—Home

Sample Twilight Schedule:

  • 4:00—Arrival/Craft of the Day
  • 5:00—Outdoor Activity
  • 6:00—Dinner
  • 7:00—Music or Reading Time
  • 8:00—Home

Also, take out a calendar and determine what activities you will be doing on which days.

This is also the right time to assign theme days!

Theme Day Suggestions

Crazy Hat Day

Tropical Day

Teddy Bear Day

  • Craft—Make a teddy bear
  • Book—Bring your favorite book with a bear
  • Music—Elvis Presley’s “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear”
  • Outdoor Activity—Teddy bear races

    Elvis Presley’s “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear” sets the stage for an oldies music or teddy bear day.

Determine which parents will be leading what activities, as well as what supplies they will need to prep. (More ideas for activities below.)

Planning ahead will make the camp run smoother! And knowing who does what ahead of time will make it less stressful.

#3: Host a Camp Orientation

Once you have everything figured out, host a camp orientation a few weeks before camp starts. This is where you will share the schedule, give out volunteer assignments and get the other counselors (a.k.a. parents) to commit. Remember no volunteer parents, no camp. Everyone needs to pitch in.

Hint: While you talk to the parents, have your co-camp directors (your kids) give the potential campers a preview of the fun things being planned. Play one of the games or do one of the activities to get the neighborhood kids excited about participating. (Their enthusiasm may help reluctant parents commit to helping out!)

camp orientation

Host a camp orientation for all participating families. Image source: iStockPhoto.

Also, during the planning session, create a contact sheet or a group website with all the phone numbers of the parents. That way, each family has a way to contact the others if things change. For example: a child is sick or someone has to swap volunteer days—make sure anyone who switches lets you and your co-directors know ahead of time.

Type up the schedule and include who is responsible for what, as well as the contact list, and send it to all of the families.

#4: Prep the Crafts

Thinking up and prepping a bunch of crafts may seem daunting. That’s why you’re getting the other parents involved! When everyone chips in—your kids and other parents—planning crafts will be a breeze.

Here are a few craft ideas to get the ball rolling. You can find countless other ideas (including projects specific to your themed camp days) on Pinterest or by searching “kids crafts.”

Gather a variety of art supplies and let the kids have creative craft time. For instance, take inexpensive sponges and cut them into shapes. Then let the kids use them along with washable paint to stamp a picture. Or use tissue paper and pipe cleaners to create colorful summer flowers.

You can also put together supplies for specific activities. Make things like paper boats, illuminated manuscripts or sock puppets.

puppet craft

Use odds and ends or materials for creative crafts or prep supplies for specific projects. Image source: iStockPhoto.

Other thoughts: For variety, include a garden project or science experiment. Also, prep a few rainy day projects, just in case.

#5: Plan Music Time

Music helps kids express themselves through song and dance. It also gets them up and moving. Who can sit still when there’s fun music playing?

girl dancing

Music allows kids to dance and get exercise. Image source: 123RF.

You can plan songs to sing as a group, create homemade musical instruments, play a game like musical chairs or just crank up the radio and have the kids sing and dance along.

#6: Gather Reading Options

Kids need to keep up their reading over the summer, so reading time is an important part of your neighborhood summer camp. (It’s also one of the easiest activities to prepare.)

Have the campers bring books from their summer reading lists, ask your kids to pick out some of their favorite books to share or search for titles related to your camp theme.

It’s always a good idea to have some age-appropriate favorites on hand from the library.

Have reading time outdoors on nice camp days, so that kids can enjoy the sunshine while learning. Don’t forget the sunscreen! Image source: 123RF.

Plan a little reading time into each day of camp. You can read a book aloud to the campers or have them each read a book to themselves. A bit of down time can be a nice, quiet break for the campers and counselors (parents) alike.

Bonus Activity: On one of the reading days, shake things up and have the kids write a story.

#7: Plan Outdoor Activities

Outdoor timehelps get kids moving, while using their imagination. There are lots of options for active, outdoor fun for your campers.

If the parent volunteers are at a loss of what to do, here are some recommendations:

Do a scavenger hunt. Have the assigned parent/camp counselor come up with a list of clues and send the kids out in pairs or small groups. You can do this in your yard or around the neighborhood. Give the kids a paper bag or basket to collect items or assign each team a camera and have them take photos to document the found items.

Get boxes from an appliance dealer and let the kids use them along with duct tape to create their own city in the backyard.

Set up a tent and have the kids pretend they are camping for the afternoon.

Also, have some sports equipment on hand. Give the kids a few items (such as balls and a Frisbee) and let them make up their own game. Or teach them classic outdoor games like capture the flag or tug-of-war.

In the summer, adding water to any outdoor activity can be fun. Image source: 123RF.

Water games, outdoor games and walks around the neighborhood or to a nearby park can be a fun addition to your neighborhood camp.

Don’t forget to have someone plan a field trip for at least one of the camp days.

You and your kids have done the prep, given the other parents assignments and helped them follow through—and you’ve planned an amazing neighborhood camp for your kids’ friends.

As the camp directors, you and your kids still need to put everything together and troubleshoot any problems that arise. (These are great life lessons and management skills you’ll be teaching your kids, too.)

Some Final Thoughts

I hope your neighborhood day camp is a fantastic experience for you, your kids and all campers who come to share the fun.

Be sure to take lots of pictures to put in a memory book or post to your camp website for everyone to have as a reminder of their wonderful neighborhood camp adventure.

Whether your camp takes place for one week or the whole summer; on weekdays, evenings or weekends; and whatever theme (if any) you choose to celebrate, your campers are sure to create memories and friendships that will last a lifetime.

What do you think? Have you hosted a summer camp in your yard? Are you going to give it a try? What are your kids’ favorite camp activities? Please share your ideas in the comments.

Images from iStockPhoto.

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About the Author, Holly Sobrack

Holly Sobrack is a mom, wife and business owner in Minnesota. A self-proclaimed talker, she also does motivational speaking for small groups. Other posts by »


  • http://www.mykidsadventures.com/ Jennifer Ballard

    Thanks, Holly! This looks like so much fun! I think it would be a great project for my middle schooler to do for his brother and the younger neighbor kids this summer.

  • Holly Sobrack

    Thanks. When I did it with a group of moms, our kids not only had a great time but also made great friends.

  • Nicole L.

    I am currently organizing a camp similar to this with my friend, we will both be 15 when we hold it, but we can’t find anywhere to do it at with a bathroom, and somewhere that there won’t be any soccer games all day long. We tried to convince our parents to let us rent an elementary school field for $200 for five days and eight hours each week (we would pay them back with money we made from the camp), but they said we had to have insurance to do that and also sign up for a permit. Then we came up with the idea of just using the park that is very close to my house, but there is no bathroom. If you have any helpful ideas of where to hold it I would greatly appreciate it. btw this article was extremely helpful! -Nicole L.

  • Nicole L.

    also the camp would be for eight hours each day, sorry i made a typo saying that it would be eight hours for a week.

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