Have your kids started whining, “We’re bored!” yet? If not, you know it’s coming. Too much free time might be a dream for adults, but it’s hard for kids. They crave structure and routine, even if they won’t admit it.
I have a solution for you – that won’t break the bank! Gather your friends together and create your own day camp co-op.
This is even a great option for parents who work full time because you’ll only need to take a week off from work.
Line up your camp counselors.
Count out how many weeks of summer break are left. That’s the many number of families you’ll need to recruit. The parents will be the “counselors” for their week of day camp and will be responsible for planning, supervising and hosting one week of the camp.
Contact your children’s friends, teammates, classmates and cousins. Chat with the neighbors. Post a notice in a parenting group for your area on Facebook. If you get more volunteers than you need, double up. Two (or more) sets of parents supervising is even better than one!
Set some guidelines.
Sit down with all of the counselors to iron out some guidelines. Questions are your agenda should include:
- Will the camp sessions be open to kids outside of your group?
- What other volunteers do you need? Who can you recruit?
- Will meals be provided or should each child bring lunch and snacks?
- What will the hours be?
- What is an acceptable budget (for supplies and activities)?
- Do any children have any special needs, allergies or medical conditions?
- Will you go on field trips or will the camp be held entirely at your home? (This might vary from family to family depending on factors such as how many children their vehicle can hold.)
You should also agree on a loose schedule. This helps ensure you plan for adequate indoor and rest breaks. For example:
· 9:00 – 10:30: Activity
· 10:30 – 11:00: Snack and quiet activity (such as reading or discussing upcoming plans)
· 11:00 – 1:00: Activity
· 1:00 – 3:00: Lunch followed by a movie or other quiet indoor activity
· 3:00 – 5:00: Activity
Pick a theme!
Each counselor should pick a theme for their week! Activities, crafts, movies and books should center around the theme. Themes might include:
· Cooking: Take a trip to a local vegetable stand or farmer’s market. Watch Food Network and kid’s cooking shows like “Master Chef, Junior.” Look through cookbooks and recipe magazines. Most of all, COOK!
· Gardening: Research what grows well in your area and the best methods for growing. Allow kids to pick out their own seeds to plant in small pots to care for during the week and take home on the last day of your session. Turn them loose on a gardening project in your backyard (with supervision and instructions!). Visit a local farm. Enjoy eating freshly picked fruits and veggies.
· Ocean life: Learn about sea life together through books, documentaries, YouTube, etc. Construct your own models of sea animals out of recycled items. Let kids stretch their fins at the beach or pool.
· Sports: Ask older siblings of group members who play sports at the high school or college level to come in uniform to give a talk and demonstration. Focus on a different sport each day. Learn the rules and history of the game. Play the game. Watch footage of games or documentaries about players.
· Around the world: “Visit” a different country each day. Learn about that country’s food, music, demographics and traditions.
· Reading: Submerge yourselves in a book or series of books. Eat the same foods and do the same activities as the characters in the book. Read and discuss the book each day.
· Pets: Talk about the different kinds of pets. Focus on a different type of animal each day. Invite kids to dream up their perfect imaginary pet.
· Music: Invite older siblings who are in band or adults who play instruments to come talk and give a demonstration. Learn about different types of music each day. Make your own instruments and have a parade.
· Foreign language: Speak another language or know someone who does? Spend the week introducing it to the campers! Learn about the country’s culture as well – including music, traditions, holidays and food.
· Volunteering: Help kids learn the power of helping others! Do good deeds for your neighbors. Pick up trash. Bake dog treats for an animal shelter.
A day camp co-op is a win for everyone. Parents get to enjoy being superstar counselors for a week while their kids are entertained all summer. As a bonus, thanks to the themes your kids will even keep learning during the summer!