How to Create a Neighborhood Day Camp With Your Kids
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.
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!
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.
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.
Once you receive and compile responses and determine camp is a go, call in your kids for a family meeting.
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!
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.
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
- 1:00—Outdoor Activities (include a snack/water break)
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)
Sample Twilight Schedule:
- 4:00—Arrival/Craft of the Day
- 5:00—Outdoor Activity
- 7:00—Music or Reading Time
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!
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!)
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.
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.
#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?
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.
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.
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.
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 Holly Sobrack »