As the school year starts to wrap up, how will you entertain your kids all summer? Use this list of summer camp activities to inspire your at-home fun.
Each year, summer seems to sneak up a bit faster—as does the question of how to entertain the kids. Organized summer camps can be expensive. Many families keep the fun closer to home by planning their own summer camp activities with friends.
We interviewed work-from-home mom Jenn Chan Lyman about her family-based summer camp. Whether you’re a parent or a part-time nanny, use this guide to develop enriching at-home summer camp activities for kids of all ages.
Theme Your Summer Camp Activities
Themes give each week more cohesion, and the children will love connecting the dots between summer camp activities. Theme-based camps let children dive deep into a topic, which inspires a love of learning. Your themes can be as simple or creative as you’d like. Our favorites include Space Exploration, Under the Sea, and Magical Forest.
A theme also helps you plan. For example, with a space theme, you can learn about different types of stars, create galaxy-based art projects, and inspire creative free play by building a rocket ship.
Planning and Scheduling
Summer is all about fun, but that doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all. Boundaries and schedules are critical for child development. Limits help children feel safe and develop a clear sense of self, according to Jen.
When planning summer camp activities, build a schedule that follows a similar flow each day. It should include the following:
- Games and sports
- Art and story time
- Snacks and lunch
- Nap time for little ones
- Free play
11 Summer Camp Activities Kids Will Love
Now, fill your schedule with fun learning opportunities. Here are some engaging summer camp activities you can adapt to different themes.
Create a Decorative Vest
Decorating a t-shirt or vest gives kids activity and a piece of memorabilia. You need fabric paint, glue, and glitter. This is a great activity for the first day of camp so the children can wear their masterpieces all summer.
Found Object Art
Found object art inspires creativity and uses items not normally considered art supplies. Get cardboard, plastic bottles, and egg cartons from the recycling bin, or step outside and collect pine cones, leaves, and sticks.
Use your theme to give the kids some direction. For example, if your week’s theme is “Under the Sea,” children can create sea creatures with their found materials.
CAMP TIP: Summer camp activities are exciting, and the children will burn through a ton of energy playing. Schedule snack time and water breaks between activities. Offer nutritious snacks like sliced apples and pears, rice cakes, carrots and hummus, hard-boiled eggs, or cheese and crackers.
Telephone Cups Game
The telephone cups game is two activities in one. To make the telephone cups, puncture a hole in the bottom of two plastic cups. Thread a piece of yarn through each and secure with a knot. Stretch the string tight and take turns exchanging messages through the rudimentary phone.
The sound waves travel along the string. So for older children, you can talk about sound science and experiment with different materials. This activity can double as a listening exercise for little ones.
Origami is perfect for any age group, especially when you want to encourage quiet and focused time. From the simplest finger puppet to more complex paper animals, there are origami patterns for everyone. It makes little mess and can be done inside or outdoors. The delicate paper folding helps children with their hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, and concentration.
Make Dream Catchers
A dream catcher comes from the Ojibwe and Lakota tribes. Native Americans made dream catchers to ward off bad dreams.
When making any craft inspired by other cultures, pair it with traditional stories. For instance, children can make dream catchers out of yarn, feathers, beads, and a wooden hoop or wire while telling them the story of Asibikaashi (Spider-Woman).
Tie-dying is a summer camp classic. This type of art focuses on the process, not the product, and is more engaging for children. It supports social-emotional skills like creativity, self-confidence, and decision-making. Children can choose their own colors and how to wrap their cloth. Buy a pre-mixed kit or powdered dyes to mix yourself.
Art offers infinite ideas for summer camp activities. Arts and crafts projects adapt to any theme and can fill extra time. When planning a summer camp, keep a few spare art supplies on hand. From watercolors to air-dry clay, art projects help children practice self-expression, problem-solving, concentration, and fine motor skills.
Love of Earth
Playing outside helps children develop a relationship with nature. Teach the kids to take care of the planet by organizing a trash pickup at your local park or participating in a local watershed cleanup. Ensure everyone has the proper protective gear (gloves, boots, sturdy trash bags). Combine the cleanup effort with stories about taking care of the earth and lessons on pollution.
Summer Camp Activities Scrapbook
Keep a scrapbook to document your summer camp activities. Children can draw their reflections, write a short poem, or paste photos. Choose a traditional scrapbook or something more avant-garde, like a giant piece of cardboard. This fun activity makes a great keepsake.
Children must practice talking with each other, to adults, and in groups. So, start and end the day with circle time. Jen found these times particularly special in her home-based camps as they are a time to pause and connect with her kids through authentic and focused conversation.
Opportunities to talk help children express themselves, ask for help, and resolve conflict. Use a talking stick or ball to give the discussion a kinesthetic element and help the kids take turns.
Free Play Time
Free, unstructured play is an essential part of how children process the world. It lets them experiment and develop their imaginations while building physical, social, and emotional skills. Free play also helps children feel comfortable with themselves and practice self-regulation.
Having a schedule is important, but don’t over-plan. Save a few hours every day for unstructured play.
Summer Camp Activities = Stress-Free Babysitting
As a babysitter, the summer can look very different than the rest of the year. Instead of watching kids for a few hours after school, you might find yourself a full-time nanny. However, those extra hours need more structure. With some planning, at-home summer camp activities will give you peace of mind.
The children will have weeks of fun activities to look forward to, and their parents will be impressed with your planning and creativity. Your at-home summer camp could even lead to more babysitting work.
Craft Summer Camp Activities With Call Emmy
Summer break is a magical time for children, but it can leave families with time to fill. Create at-home summer camp activities to keep children engaged and excited. These hands-on crafts will inspire learning and creativity, leaving children with fond memories.
For childcare professionals, summer can be a great time to earn extra cash. Want to find a job where you can stretch your creativity? Work with Call Emmy to find a position as a summertime nanny.