For the last four years, in addition to my work at Dynamo Girl, I have worked at a sleepaway camp in the Poconos. Last year at this time, as the camp Programming Director, I would have been knee-deep in the logistics of camper schedules and daily camp activities and events. Since I don’t have camp in my life this summer, I have been thinking about ways to infuse it in our family’s 2020 summer.  This list should work for folks no matter if you’re living in the woods of Vermont or the Upper West Side of Manhattan.  

Before we get into the specifics activities, here are couple of general tips to make your everyday life at home feel more like camp:

  • Just like at camp, when adults are fully engaged it makes any activity so much more exciting and can help your kids let go of any inhibitions that might hold them back. Role model for them trying new stuff, acting silly, getting messy or letting your inner kid come out and it will make your child feel more comfortable immersing themselves in an experience.  
  • A great playlist of fun music played on portable speakers can make any activity that much more fun. Music changes everything — it turns washing dishes into a clean up party, it turns fitness exercises into a dance party.  Have your kids help put the playlist together — take suggestions from everyone in your family.

Here are a few ideas that are activity related…

  • Theme Days
    • Everyone dresses up like a superhero or their favorite holiday or favorite movie character using only what you have in your house. You can have beach theme days or winter in summer days.  You will be amazed at how creative you can get. I encourage the use of sheets, paint, and makeup to transform simple household items into camp magic.
  • Star gazing
    • Whether you have access to a yard, park or rooftop, lying down on a blanket and taking time to look at the sky is always a win. If you’re like me, you might need an app on your phone to guide you through what stars you are looking at. 
  • Slumber party
    • Family slumber party (air bed for adults recommended). Watch a movie in pj’s and all sleep together in the same room. Read books by flashlight.  Tell storiies after it gets dark.  Requires little effort but it is hilarious especially when someone’s snoring is discovered. 
  • Cabin Movies
    • At our camp, when it’s your birthday, we set up a projector in your cabin and you get to choose and watch a movie in your cabin, so fun! If you have access to a projector or want to buy a cheap one on the market, you can transform any room into a cabin movie night. Roll out the sleeping bags, pop some popcorn and enjoy!
  • Tie Dye
    • This one takes a little bravery and prep but if some of us can color our hair at home, you can certainly tie dye. does a quick and dirty breakdown. As someone who has helped our Arts and Crafts staff wash tie dye for over 200 people, here’s an important lesson I’ve learned: always make sure your items are 100% cotton — socks, t-shirts, shorts, dresses, sweatshirts, etc.. If there is elastane in the cotton, the dye won’t stick. 

Here are a few ideas that are food related…

  • S’mores
    • S’mores are an easy win and can be made anywhere. Don’t worry if you don’t have a campfire — they can also be made in an apartment!  Use a cookie sheet, put ½ a graham cracker (square) on the tray, layer with chocolate (3 rectangles of a hershey bar) and marshmallow on top. Put in the oven at 400°, watch till the marshmallow browns and pull out, pop on top square of graham cracker and take a bite. Yum!
  • Willy Wonka Movie Night
    • This is actually something my husband used to do when he worked at a camp and it was one of his favorite events. This event takes some planning because it includes having special pauses during the movie to dole out candy and other items that go with the movie. You would want to order some of the candies from the movie: gobstoppers, gum, chocolate bars, candy dots. Economy Candy  is a great source for old school candy that you would need. You will also need chocolate syrup, whipped cream, seltzer water, scratch and sniff stickers. You will need to watch the movie ahead of time and plan out when you will give your children each item- for example, when Violet takes the piece of gum, you give everyone a piece of gum or when they show the river of chocolate, everyone gets a squirt of chocolate syrup. Also, you will want to put a “golden ticket” in one of the hershey bars. Whoever gets the golden ticket in your house should get a special prize…. At camp it might be camp swag, at home, maybe that child gets to choose the next movie for movie night. 
  • Backwards Day or at least Breakfast for Dinner
    • Start your day with pizza and a movie. End it with breakfast for dinner… M&M pancakes are a big favorite of our camp. Find out what your kids’ favorites are and see if you can recreate it. Changing up stale routines around mealtime is a great way to break routine, bring laughter into your house and help your kids feel that some silliness is OK.

If you have things that bring summer camp into your home, let us know so we can share the love!  

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