I’d love be able to send my kids to camp for the summer, but wow, some of those summer camps are over-the-top expensive! I’d still like to give my kids the experiences that those camps offer, whether it be dance camp or sports camp. With the internet at our fingertips, it’s quite easy to do the research yourself and host your own budget-friendly summer camps for your kids, at your own house! Here’s how:
- Talk to the kids about what kind of “camp” they’d be interested in.
- Do your research.
- Plan out your days. Make each day just a little bit different and write out a schedule to avoid getting distracted.
- Get out of the house! It’s too easy to get wrapped up in the chores if you’re at home. Make it a true camp and get outside.
- Don’t be afraid to be a little wild, get a little dirty and have lots and lots of fun in the process. This will be your child’s summer to remember! And you’ll have saved hundreds of dollars as well.
Whether it be the great outdoors or your own backyard, nature is there to be explored. If you’re living in the country, this one might be easy for you. In mid-city, you might have to get more creative. Search for local area parks that offer hiking trails, open space, fishing, overnight camping, or evening sing-a-longs or bonfires. You could even include a day at the zoo to explore the plants and botanical gardens.
- Choose a different exploration tactic each day, like wildlife, insects, rocks & minerals, weather or flowers & trees.
- Invest in good nature books, like Kids’ Outdoor Adventure Book: 448 Great Things to Do in Nature Before You Grow Up that you can follow. We’ve owned the Backyard Birds (Field Guides for Young Naturalists) book for years and the Smithsonian Handbooks: Rocks & Minerals (Smithsonian Handbooks) is my son’s new favorite.
- Blindfold your child and have them listen to the birds in the trees or the rustling of the leaves. Place different natural items in their hands and ask them to describe them for you.
- Go on a nature scavenger hunt
- Grab a pair of binoculars and go bird watching. You’d be surprised how many of them can hide out in one tree!
- Take a picnic lunch and lay outside under the clouds.
- Plan a camping overnight, even if it’s just in your own backyard.
Check with your local school to see if they are open during the summer for public use on the field. Otherwise you can hit the park (go early before the crowds). Make sure to pack plenty of ice water. Focus on a different event each day. Jog to warm up and then get out your favorite equipment. Work on a particular skill (dribbling a soccer ball, catching pop flies) or just get out and play.
Don’t have equipment? Practice your track skills, including the long jump or 10-yard dash. A stopwatch is something that kids love and they enjoy trying to “beat the clock”. End your camp day with stair climbing and see how many you do the first day compared to your last day.
You’ll need a big mirror and lots of music for this one! I was a dance teacher for many years and dance is great exercise for the body and mind. Memorizing routines can be a challenge but so much fun, especially if you are learning alongside your child.
- Pick a different theme for each day of the week. Perhaps ballet on Monday, jazz on Tuesday, tap (with or without tap shoes) on Wednesday, hip-hop on Thursday and a recital on Friday.
- Keep it moving! Choose a good mix of slow and fast music. Have your child follow along with you by watching in the mirror and mimicking your actions. Start with basic steps, like a step-together, step-kick or step-hop (skipping).
- Focus on the body line, from head to toe. Encourage your child to keep their head up and back straight and to point their toe when the leg is lifted off the ground. When my students do a kick, they always want it to go as high as possible which often results in bent knees, curved back and flexed feet. I tell them I’d rather they had better posture than a high kick so I encourage them to keep the kick lower but to focus on a straighter back and pointed toes. This in turn helps them to straighten their legs as well.
- Use visualization – For instance, if your arms are gracefully moving back & forth say you are a tree in the wind. If you point your toes, say that your legs are like sharpened pencils. Kids remember the visualization when recreating these moves.
- For older kids, find an age-appropriate music video (Janet Jackson, circa 1980s is a good place to start, so fun!) and learn the routine. Practice it together until you’ve got it down pat.
- Keep it upbeat and take a break if you child gets frustrated trying to learn a particular step. This camp should be about fun and you can always go back to try the skill again the next day.
- On “recital day”, gift your child with something they can continue to use when practicing like ballet slippers or a helpful book for teaching dance like Dance Technique for Children. This CD, Kids in Motion was a must when I was teaching dance classes, it’s fantastic and perfect for teaching at home.
Also check out 12 tips for Teaching Tots on Dance Advantage.
I’m not sure there is a kid alive who doesn’t like building with LEGOS. And more than likely you already have the supplies you need for this camp. We keep our LEGOS in a big plastic bin that gets dumped out regularly for play! If you don’t have a big collection yet, the LEGO Classic Medium Creative Brick Box is a perfect place to start.
- Focus on a different architectural or mechanical skill each day. This could include creating a building with columns, making a staircase or building a bridge.
- Have a vehicle contest. Set up a ramp with a piece of cardboard on an incline and race your vehicles down to see whose is the fastest (and whose makes it to the bottom in one piece!)
- Create an animal. See if everyone can guess what the other person’s animal is.
- The LEGO Ideas Book is wonderful. We own this book and my kids have spent hours working on these fun and creative projects.
- Replicate your own face using only LEGOS. This is bound to be a funny one!
- Create a three-dimensional art sculpture. Using a thin layer of Mod Podge glue you can paint over the creation and keep it forever.
ARTS & CRAFTS CAMP
Crafting on a summer afternoon sounds like my kind of day! Know your audience and offer craft projects that you know are age-appropriate and that your kids would enjoy. Purchase a few supplies like sketch paper, drawing pencils and acrylic paint. Hit the 99 cent store or scrounge up scraps of what you already have from old projects.
- Learn a new technique. Attempt tie-dying, make soap or wax candles, paper quilling, build a bird house, try jewelry making or clay. My daughter received Sculpy Clay for Christmas and has been delighting us with her whimsical creations for months.
- Grab the drawing paper and pens. Set up a still-life scene and have everyone draw it in their own style.
- Using only recycled products from your house, make an “upcycled” item or creation. Supply tape and glue and see what they make from “junk”.
- Wooden boxes are great for crafting because they are so versatile. Paint or stain them, cover them in jewels with hot glue, cut out magazine photos and decoupage with Mod Podge…unlimited possibilities and you can use the box for whatever you like afterwards.
I’m usually working full time during the summer and my kids spend their days at Grandma’s house. At least once during the summer I plan on taking time off and implementing a “camp day” for my kids, I know they’ll love it. Even if you have to work and don’t have a full week for your own summer camp, try some of these activities over a weekend.
If you do decide to sign up the kids for a camp outside the house, don’t feel like you have to take the price at “face value”. Request with management if there are any discounts, whether for early pick-up, multiple children or scholarship (if you qualify). Groupon even offers camps in local areas. Many camps are willing to work with you on price if you ask.
Have fun playing with your kids!
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