Parent Survival Guide to At-Home Camp (Schedules, Activities, Tips and More)
By: Esther Pransky, Lubicom Marketing Staff
Remember when we thought the COVID lockdown would last for two weeks?
We were so innocent back then.
And now the summer is coming, and camp may not be coming with it. Are the camps opening in your area? If they do, are you comfortable sending your kids? And can you even afford camp this year?
If the answer to any of those questions is “no,” then you’re facing a summer of Camp Mommy/Daddy. But don’t panic! We have detailed, hands-on advice for you to plan a fun, productive summer.
Read on for more!
The hardest part about at-home camp will be changing your mindset. You didn’t choose this, you hoped camps would open this summer, you haven’t enjoyed homeschooling, but . . .
. . .you have no choice. So, your best bet is to accept that and give it your all. (Yes, easier said than done. We told you this would be the hardest part.)
To help preserve your sanity (or what’s left of it) set yourself up for success:
- Make it clear when “camp hours” are. Outside of camp hours, you are a regular mommy/daddy doing regular mommy/daddy activities like supper, laundry, etc. During camp hours, you are camp director/head counselor/activities head/sports director and more – all rolled into one.
You’ll avoid a lot of frustration if you don’t expect to get housework or office work done when you’re on camp duty. We’ll talk later about how to get in work hours.
- Pick activities that YOU like and will want to do with your kids.
- Be positive and fun. Give your camp a name. Make up a theme song or cheer and sing it at the beginning and end of every day. (It doesn’t matter if you’re not THAT TYPE. You’re not the type to homeschool either, but you did it anyway.)
The right equipment is essential for any successful job. Camp is the same!
First, make a budget. Keep in mind what you WOULD have spent on camp. No need to spend nearly that much, but give yourself a budget for some amazing supplies, equipment, and activities. Here are some priorities:
Swimming pool – Buy one if at all possible. Pools come in all shapes, sizes, and price points. Swimming cools everyone off, makes it feel like summer, and (this is top priority) takes up a LOT of time between the actual swimming and changing clothes.
Craft kits – There are thousands of inexpensive craft kits that you can order for all ages and skills.
Raffle tickets and prizes – Camps do it, and so can you! They are huge motivators for kids.
New toys or games – Just a few new arrivals can spice up the summer.
Trips – If your area permits, visit every park within driving or walking distance of your home. As public places open up over the summer, you may have more options.
Routine and Schedule
Schedule your camp like the pros.
Camps don’t sit down to fill each day from scratch. They have a system so that they’re only creating one or two original activities each day. Make a weekly schedule of activity categories and fill in the blanks each day.
Of course, this is only an example; you fill in what works for YOUR family.
If you have a lot of boys, you may need longer learning time and more sports. (Or only sports!) Maybe you want to take more trips. Maybe your family hates board games.
Let your kids help you plan the activities that they like.
Make the schedule so everyone knows what to expect, but be flexible. If the kids are having a great time in the pool, no need to pull them out because the schedule says they’re done. Or if they don’t want to go swimming that day, ask them what they want to do instead.
And if all they want to do is play with Legos, enjoy the break!
Like we said before, do what you like.
Even simple activities can be fun. Do you have a skill to teach like painting, sewing, woodworking, or dancing? Schedule that into your kids’ day.
- Sidewalk chalk – Unleash your children’s (and yours?) inner graffiti artist.
- Craft kits
- Perler beads – Even older Threes can do them. And it takes them a LOOOOOOOONG time.
- Put on your chasunah video and dance!
- “Paint” the house – If you have wooden siding, give the kids buckets of water and big paintbrushes to “paint” the side of the house.
Many of the ideas for preschoolers will work for them, too, plus:
- Weaving loom – Remember making potholders when you were a kid? Does your mother still have them?
- Shrinky dinks – Yes, they still make them!
- Relay races – Be creative and crazy! Here are some ideas to get you started.
- Daily chessed – Call your Bubby, write a letter to Great-Aunt Malky, or do something nice for a member of your very own family.
- Board games – You’re looking for games that take about thirty minutes. How about Battleship, Dixit, SET, or Charades for Kids?
Many of the ideas for younger children will work for them, too, plus:
- Color War – Color War – Do you have a neighbor who’s also running mommy/daddy camp? This calls for war! Color war activities can take up a whole week.
- Scavenger hunt – Come up with a list of 25 items (ex. couch on the curb, pink car, person who looks like they’re talking to themselves). Take a drive to find all 25.
- Water fight
- Cook-offs – Inspire your boys with Skill’it in case they think that men don’t cook.
- Board games – For games that take 45 minutes to an hour, try Stratego, Ticket to Ride, Bohnanza, or, apropos, Pandemic. Or start a long game like Monopoly, Risk, or Settlers of Catan and continue it from day to day.
Give Yourself a Break
As you already know all too well, you need breaks to keep you fresh. And it’s crucial if you need to log work hours.
If you’ve been switching off with your husband or working nights all along, then you know the drill. But you may be able to come up with other creative ideas, especially since teens and teachers are also out of school.
- Maybe you can hire your own teenage son or daughter to take over for some of the time. Or hire them so you can split into “bunks” for girls and boys who enjoy different activities.
- Perhaps there’s a teen or off-duty teacher in the neighborhood who can come to your front porch (six feet apart!) and run davening, learning, or a game.
- If you are comfortable with screen time, there may be online camp activities that you can schedule into your day. Of course, you’ll have to make sure they conform to your family’s standards.
Take lots of pictures and videos (maybe not of you doing the camp cheer) or you may never believe that you did this.
And keep on smiling – your attitude will shape the summer for you and your kids.