Our world is a bit topsy turvy at the moment. It is a disappointment to both kids and their parents that summer camps are probably not going to be running this summer. And while this is a sad state of affairs, it is also a great time to teach the kids about resilience and making the best of whatever situation you find yourself in.
This includes putting on a summer camp of your own at your lake house. Here are some of our suggestions for creating memories with the kiddos this summer.
The perfect time to explore nature is in the summer! Summer at the lake house is like sprinkles on ice cream. Start in your backyard. Getting to know the area right under your feet will give the kids greater respect and understanding of their home and greater pride and sense of protection for those creatures with whom they share space. If you want to capture one of the creatures for observation, bring along a jar with holes poked in the lid.
Remember to keep your fellow critters for just a short time before releasing them back from whence they came. Keep a log of the bugs and other interesting bits of nature along with where they were located.
Each day, start in a different direction to go on a nature walk:
Take with you:
Pen or pencil and/or colored pencils
Bird book (optional)
Try to see how many different trees, bugs, or birds that you can find.
Keep a list of what you see and where you see it.
Draw pictures of what you see
If you can’t identify what you see, or if you have questions that you don’t know the answer to, write those down. Look the answers up online and add it to your nature notebook.
Picture Stones Camp
This is a good practice to inspire creativity. Find stones around your lake house that would be conducive to painting a small object on. We are talking about the size of a quarter or less. Gather as many as you can find. If you run out in the process, you can go out gathering again.
Clean the stones and make sure that they are dry before you start painting. Divide the stones among the participants and have each person paint whatever object they choose on a stone. It could be an umbrella, a dog, a car, a cloud, a train, or anything at all. Use your imagination to create your set of stones. Each child will also have a pouch or bag or even a plastic storage container with their name on it in which to store their stones.
Once the rocks are painted and are dry, each child will need to tell a story with their picture stones. They can lay their stones out one at a time, telling the story as they go along to correspond with the picture they have painted on their rock. Try mixing the stones up all together and have each child tell a story from the mixture of stones.
As the adult, you can have painted your own set of picture stones that teach a lesson. You could also use the picture stones to tell the story of your family tree or how you met their mom. The stories and the picture stones will help to create a lasting memory. Spray them with a sealer once they are completely dry to make the pictures on the rocks last.
Outdoor Camping Camp
This camp is a lot of fun and can be a great learning experience. You can make it as straightforward or as involved as you desire. Create an outdoor camping experience at your lake house by setting up a campsite in your yard. Involve the kids in the preparation by making a list of all of the items you will need to "rough it" in the out of doors.
Make it a rule that only the items on the list can be brought, and if anything is forgotten, it has to be gone without. Get together all of your gear, including food items, and make it a rule that indoors is off-limits. (except for bathroom breaks). Everything else has to be done with the implements that you have, and it has to be done at your campsite.
Put together easy recipes that can be cooked over a campfire or require no cooking. You can make it a learning experience by involving the kids from the beginning. Plan out your meals. Make a grocery list. Be ready to sleep out of doors no matter the weather (unless it is dangerous, like lightning). Kids will love sleeping in a hammock-like this one that includes a mosquito net to keep the bugs out. Depending on the age of the kids, make them responsible for creating the list of supplies. Include some learning processes for them.
You could create the rule that once at the campsite, any item that was forgotten has to be done without. The item could be included the next day, but only by being swapped for a thing you already have. It helps kids to problem solve. There are all kinds of lessons that you could include in your summer camping experience at your lake house.
You have water, and you have a boat, why not have a pirate camp? With a little planning on your part, you could create a camp where the memories last a long time! You could make your costumes, and each child could choose their pirate name. While you are engaging in making costumes, you could include some of the histories of the most famous pirates.
What was there world like back then? What was life at sea like? What kind of hardships did these rouges face, and you could have discussions of what would have made these men choose that type of lifestyle. Beforehand you could set up a scavenger hunt, complete with map and buried treasure, as in Treasure Island style.
Leaving clues that lead from one point to another, use your imagination as to where to place the clues. Tether a clue to a buoy that you reach by boat and another in a tree. Ensure plenty of "gold" and "jewels" in the treasure chest, which is the end goal of the hunt.
Kids love games, and a camp based on games is sure to be a hit. Devise new ways to play old favorites. The lake house is the ideal spot for playing games. For example, use cardboard as tiles for an outdoor version of scrabble. Write letters on each piece of cardboard and set up your "board" out on the lawn. Twister is another game that lends itself to the yard.
Make yourself a template by cutting a large circle out of the center of the cardboard and spray paint with various reds, yellows, blues, and green circles on the lawn. A game that would work well inside is hallway maze. Use string, duct tape or yarn, and create a labyrinth down a hallway, stringing your material from one side of the hall to the other in an intricate manner. The objective is to get through the maze without dislodging the material from the wall. Kids are always up for games like volleyball, lawn darts, and hide and seek.
Ask the kids to participate by coming up with versions of old favorites or even entirely new games. Incorporate the best ideas in upcoming game camps.
This camp might not look exactly like a gold level competition, but it will be fun. Set up some obstacle courses outside and have a series of challenges. Use some of the water noodles that you have at the lake house and make rings out of them by taping the ends together. Suspend those rings from your deck or patio, and the kids try to get a balloon to sail through the ring.
Play tug of war in the waist-deep water. You could have a complete triathlon using a first round of biking, obstacle course, and water challenge. Kids love anything that keeps them active and moving. Whatever you decide to set up as challenges will keep them happy and entertained.
Life at the lake house is laid back and conducive to a slower pace. Bicycles fit right into life at a slower pace. Incorporate mini trips into your days at the lake as a form of bike camp. Set out on a mystery destination, or do a type of scavenger hunt ride. Set out clues beforehand that will take you from one point to another. Decorate your bikes in a different theme for each day that you ride.
Take along a picnic lunch and stop along the way to eat it. This would be an excellent time for the kids to learn about the "Laufmaschine” invented by Karl von Sauerbronn in 1817. Laufmaschine means running machine and was an alternative to riding horses.
Kids are creative and have wonderful, wild imaginations. Put all of the drama to use at a theater camp at your lake house. Ask the kids to construct a story, one that they collaborate and write themselves. The end goal is to present this story in the form of a play. They will need to keep this end goal in mind as they are writing their story.
Once the story has been written, and the final version is satisfactory to all, it will be time for the real work to begin. The kids will need to pull together costumes and backdrops for their play using items that are already at the lake house. The stage will need to be set up, and props gathered. Practicing the play will entail a run through or two before opening night.
Be sure to have tickets for admission and popcorn on hand for the audience members!
It would be amiss for life on the lake not to include a water camp. There are a variety of water games that can be played in the shallows, like volleyball. Onshore, water games are also popular. Get some buckets and sponges at the dollar store, and use them in a game to see who can fill up their bucket using the sponge to fill the bucket with lake water first. Add some ice cubes to that water and marbles to the bottom of the bucket and have the kids see who can fish the marbles out of the icy water the fastest.
You can also get Alka seltzer type tablets at the dollar store, along with squirt guns. Fill up the guns and have a “reloading” station outside. Put a tablet of Alka seltzer on a string and give one to each of the kids to hang around their neck. Then, on your mark, get set, go! Each person gets to run around and squirt each other. As the tablet dissolves, that person is out. The one with most of their tablet left is the winner. Use the same buckets that you got at the dollar store and have the kids lay down on their backs in a circle.
Kids will need to have their shoes on. With their legs up in the air, have the kids touch their feet together, making a kind of table. Put the bucket on their feet. In the bucket place, any number of things...some water, some deshelled eggs, slime or any other thighs that would feel gross like pudding or rubber worms. The goal is for each kid to slip off one of their shoes while the others keep the bucket steady. Besides these games, there is tubing, swimming, boating, and fishing that can be incorporated into the water camp at the lake house.
I Need A Break Camp
Being your camp counselor can be exhausting! With our list of suggestions, you could use some or parts of the ideas, and you can also look for a bit of help from another avenue. Daily STEAMwork videos from the new National Children's Museum in Washington D.C. are another option to keep the kiddos entertained and learning at the same time. The National Children's Museum now has more than 60 videos on the museum website that will endeavor to inspire the kids with science, technology, arts, math, and engineering.
There is also a list on the website of materials needed for each video. This summer, there will also be one-day virtual summer camps. Tuesdays will be a day of science. Thursdays will be about making child-size structures with materials that are everyday objects. If you choose to participate, you will receive supply kits in advance of each session.
You will be able to give your kids a camp type experience at your lake house and create some life-long memories at the same time. The time spent together will be a bonding experience that you may never have again.
Although the circumstances are not ones that we would ever want to repeat, it is an opportune time to teach your kids about how you get through life with imagination and ingenuity. You will also be giving them life lessons that will hold them in good stead for the rest of their lives.