COVID-19 has created uncertainty around everything we do, and has taken away the predictability of our schedules. Many parents are feeling this acutely, and are now expected to do their own work while also supporting their kids with virtual school activities. It’s important to keep kids on track, but we think it’s also necessary to provide moments of levity. The best way we know how to do this is to bring summer camp activities home. This approach can help get kids excited about returning to camp this summer and can help parents liven up what may feel like never-ending days cooped up in the house with kids.
While there’s no replacing camp itself, these eight camp-inspired activities can help parents capture a bit of that magic at home. We’ve written this list to address parents directly, so camp directors can send the link via email or post it on camp social media accounts. Encourage families to do these activities in order in a single ‘camp day,’ spread them out over the course of multiple days, or just pick and choose any that sound fun to do in whatever order works best.
Activity #1: Letter Writing
Few things bring a smile to campers’ faces more than getting a letter in the mail, and this is one of the easiest camp experiences to recreate. All your kids need to do is reach out to their camp friends and ask for their home addresses. Then they can grab paper and pens and get to work writing letters. In the digital age, there’s still something special about receiving a handwritten letter in the mail, even if your kids live near their friends. Feel free to include return envelopes and stamps or embellish with stickers, and maybe your camper will end up with a regular pen pal.
Activity #2: Bathtub Boat Float
Your kids can experience the joy of water sports without needing to be at a lake or on a boat. Have them get started by grabbing some paper to build their best attempt at a seaworthy miniature boat or raft using these instructions as a guide. Fasten some sticks and leaves with string, fill a bathtub with cold water, and set the dinghy afloat. Your camper can time how long it takes their boat to get from one end to the other by blowing on the sails, how long the boat stays afloat before sinking, or test to see how much weight it can hold using coins. Parents can even build their own boats and set up a race.
Activity #3: Recycling Bin Art
Arts and crafts are some of the most fun and creative camp activities. Who doesn’t love friendship bracelets and tie-dye T-shirts? No need for shelves full of crafting supplies like they have at camp; challenge your camper to use only materials found around the house or in the recycling bin and assemble a masterpiece with basic supplies like tape, string, and paint. Whatever your camper creates, one of the best parts is that they up-cycled materials they had around the house and learned a lesson in creating something beautiful from seemingly nothing.
Activity #4: Nature Walk
Going on hikes and trail walks doesn’t have to be reserved just for camp. There are so many things to see in a backyard, neighborhood, or nearby park. One fun way to make hiking at home special for your campers is to have them carry a notebook while walking around. They can write detailed descriptions and sketch the trees, leaves, and birds that they see. Later they can research their observations online. Just like hiking at camp introduces them to the wonders of the natural world, walking around their own home can help them experience the area where they live (with help from these tree and bird identification tools) in a deeper way.
While there’s no replacing camp itself, these eight camp-inspired activities can help parents capture a bit of that magic at home.
Activity #5: Remote Field Day
Friendly games and competitions are an essential part of camp. You might think it would be hard to recreate the magic of field day at home, but you can do it with a little planning. Reach out to some friends who want to participate virtually and come up with a list of activities that can be done with typical stuff you have at home. Set up a shared spreadsheet and make sure everything can be done indoors, or in a small outdoor space. Some ideas include washing a car, making a bed, racing up and down stairs, balancing a ruler on your chin, moving water from one bucket to another using a sponge, sewing a button on a shirt, or pairing up a hamper full of mismatched socks. Have each participant complete the tasks and record their times. The person who completes each task the fastest (or maintains an activity for the longest time) gets a point, and the person with the most points wins!
Activity #6: Foil Dinners
Camp food may not be five-star cuisine, but your campers might still enjoy family-style meals that only require kitchen staples by making foil dinners. The recipe is simple: Grab a potato, add frozen or fresh veggies, wrap in foil, and toss into the oven. When fully cooked, cut the packet open and add some favorite toppings. No plate required! Encourage your campers to tell stories of the best (or worst) camp meals while they’re waiting for the foil dinner to cook. For dessert, oven-baked s’mores or banana boats should do the trick.
Activity #7: Campfire Fun
Your campers don’t need a fire pit to bring home the joy of a campfire. Most streaming platforms have fireplace channels complete with crackling sounds. Encourage your campers to turn on the virtual fire, make some space on the floor, and turn off the lights. They can invite friends to join via video and tell stories. Try having each participant tell one line and then pass the storytelling to the next person. Or you can host a sing-along with the people in your home and others who can join virtually. No need to worry if there isn’t a resident guitar player—have your camper make a playlist of their favorite camp songs and then use the recordings as backing vocals and instruments.
Activity #8: Backyard or Bedroom Tent
There’s nothing like sleeping under the stars, but your campers definitely don’t need to be at camp to foster that cozy “roughing it” feeling. Setting up a tent in the backyard and snuggling into a sleeping bag is an easy way to recreate the camping vibes without needing to reserve a site at a campground, or worry about weather and packing. If your yard isn’t ideal, or if it’s cold or rainy, campers can set up a tent or make a pillow fort in their bedroom or living room. Tell ghost stories, study constellations (real or virtual), or find an app that can provide an outdoor soundscape.
Making Summer Camp Activities Magic Where We Can
We know that camp is special and provides a one-of-a-kind experience, and that during these challenging times it could be just the thing to uplift everyone’s spirits. That’s never been more important than now, when we’re looking for ways to connect and have fun during the COVID-19 pandemic. The goal for these camp-style days at home is not to replace camp, but to support parents and keep kids feeling connected to camp. They’re also a great way to engage whole families in fun activities that remind them of their love for camp and get them excited to return.