Summertime a favorite season among many, yet also a time of unstructured chaos for kids who are out of school. Within, it seems, 48 hours of kids having down time you already begin to hear ‘I’m Bored!’ Working parents with a plan schedule time for their children to participate in day camps, workshops or endless field trips. So what is a stay-at-home parent to do? Yes, for most of us we have a plan, yet it is the cost that always yields a ‘STOP,’ for the costly day camps or workshops.
I really like the idea of a week-long day camp, and decided to make a version most affordable for a family on a budget! This provides an out-of-the-box routine and gives kids a chance to participate in something worthwhile.
With this being a DIY Weekly Day Camp some of the same variables, as a parks and recreation, will not apply. Such as group discounts, coordinated meal times and extreme organization, YET flexibility, memory making and on-the-go learning will happen, and that makes for one HAPPY Summer Week!!!
Preparation is always KEY in order to ensure success, so with a few planning moments, that no stay-at-home mom ever has, let’s get started on designing a week-long day camp in 3 easy steps…
Step 1: Pick a theme or *topic of interest to centralize your week around
Step 2: Block off your calendar for your chosen week, including NO appointments
Step 3: Make reservations for any necessary field trips, museums, parks etc…
*Topics of Interests may include, but not limited to, WATER, MOTION, GARDENING, ANIMALS IN SUMMER, GIVING BACK TO THE COMMUNITY, LEARNING WHAT MAKES YOUR STATE GREAT, HISTORICAL or TRAVEL.
~After choosing your weekly theme, a little researching is necessary for the museums you will visit, which entails getting the best discounts just by visiting their website. I have discovered that many museums offer FREE days, cheaper times of the day (example: Wacky Wednesdays 2-5 pm gets you in for 1/2 price), or as in a recent discovery if you own a membership pass you can use it at a partnering museum (i.e.: zoo pass can also be used at aquarium & vice versa during the month of June).
Cheap or FREE is my motto for activities with kids so I try to limit which will be the best possibility, and with a centralized theme it keeps a focus in mind.
NOW LETS GET STARTED PLANNING:
- Decide on times you will arrive & depart.
- Plan for meal time: Breakfast should be quick/easy with a serve yourself mentality even for ‘littles’, Lunch should be a grab n’ go for picnic/car/park eating, and plan for 1 eating out experience-pizza to go, kids eat free at restaurants certain days, coupons always apply and local farmers markets or unique restaurants in the area you will be, Dinner should be noted as a prepared crock pot meal, a make ahead dinner, breakfast for dinner or grilling options that can be marinated or quickly cooked.
- Bring extra clothes per kid, hats, sunscreen/bug spray, bathing suits/towels if needed, snacks with high protein content and water bottles.
- Have on hand an extra blanket for picnics, ball of some kind, bubbles and lots and lots of books!
~Most day camps are always loaded with food, supplies, crafts, activities and some downtime, so following a schedule with some rotation is how to function throughout the week without a lot of frustration.
One Example of a Weekly Day Camp Schedule:
Theme: WATER (living near an ocean makes it easy to pick this theme)
- LIBRARY OUTING- (check out books on water, oceans, marine mammals, water conservation, importance of water etc..)
- CRAFT– paint outside with water colors near a river, creek or stream
- BODY MOVEMENT- water balloon baseball or water balloon fight
- CHALLENGE- build a water filtration system, scale it to the age of children
- SWIMMING OUTING- (visit a community pool, beach, river or nearby lake) *if visiting a place with sand here are 21 activities & fun things to do with kids at the beach.
- JUST FOR FUN- pack some type of swedish fish to eat, tuna fish, make frozen lemonade ahead of time and any other water themed snacks.
- CRAFT- collect shells if possible at the beach or buy them at a dollar/craft store, paint & make into a necklace.
- AQUARIUM/MUSEUM OUTING- find a local museum that relates to water (i.e. maritime museum, aquarium, science center, etc..) *plan the day around any events scheduled that are of interest-movie showings, feeding of marine animals, exploration stations.
- OBSERVATION MOMENT- find a less crowded space that kids can sit for a while draw, write, dictate, or listen as to what they are seeing or hearing. Take detailed notes.
- CREATIVE INSPIRATION- create a story, with illustrations, based on the observations made on the outing, encourage humor and LOTS of creativity!
- RENT A KAYAK, CANOE, PADDLEBOAT- let nature be the inspiration for this one, and just enjoy moments of being together in a confined space. Have a few conversation starters in mind, just in case!
- PLAN TO PICNIC- finding moments of ‘quiet space’ helps kids with downtime, and allows for time spent reading after they eat.
- JUST FOR FUN- catch water creatures in a cup, make a nature inspired boat that will float or skip rocks.
- FISHING OUTING- or visit a Bass Pro Shop for some catch & release fishing. This is a great activity to try with kids, especially those hesitant to the outdoors. It challenges them to be self-controlled, use their critical thinking skills and enriches their life in a way only nature can do!
- JUST FOR FUN- eat at a fish restaurant or for the real adventurer eat the fish you catch.
- WATCH A MOVIE- Nemo, Finding Dory, Sharks Tale, Free Willy, & Dolphin Tale are just a few movies that have water as their theme.
- MAKE OCEAN SNACKS/DESSERTS- here are 25 ideas for Ocean Theme snacks, and remember this is a weekly themed camp and you only have to do this once.
Other ideas: visit a fish hatchery, water conservation station, water park, sprinkler play, ask your local YMCA or other fitness center for a free day pass, many playgrounds offer free water play with a spray park.
~It is easier for me to take one centralized theme & the creativity instantly starts to flow. You can plan so many ideas around that one theme, everything becomes so open-ended and the possibilities of what you can do, visit or make are endless.
~If you do some intentional planning in advance the cost will be kept to a minimum. Depending on your museum that is the biggest expense throughout the week, but if you know that ahead of time you can budget that in the month before.
As a stay-at-home momma of 4 kids I have learned that nothing happens by chance. For my family the cost always challenges me to re-create an idea and tailor it to the best way we would enjoy spending our time. With lots of flexibility, we can adjust our week according to weather or if kids become overly tired and need more downtime one day. I cannot emphasize enough that planning is the most effective way to ensure for a successful DIY Weekly Day Camp.
ENJOY THE WEEK!