How to create a do-it-yourself summer camp for kids

By Saren Eyre Loosli

For Power of Moms

Published: Tuesday, April 22 2014 11:25 a.m. MDT

Saren Eyre Loosli's children enjoy mountain biking as part their summer camp.

Saren Eyre Loosli, Power of Moms

Last year we finally got summer right.

We always spend most of July doing family trips and family reunions, but before last year, June and August had typically ended up being either boring or stressful.

One year, we tried just lounging at the pool and doing whatever came up. After a week or so, we were bored and frustrated and started scrambling for more playdates and day camps to join.

The next year, I ran the kids around to a bunch of classes to keep them busy, but I found the classes to be mediocre at best, and felt we were wasting our time and our money while stressing ourselves out with trying to get to certain places at certain times.

Then the following year, I actually conducted classes for the kids and all their friends. Doing our own tuition-based summer school with classes of 10-12 kids was so fun but so much work!

So last year, I decided not to take the kids to classes all over town and not to invite the whole neighborhood over for classes. Instead, the kids and I came up with our own plan for the “Loosli Learning Adventures Camp” that lasted throughout June and the parts of July and August when we weren’t traveling.

Together, we brainstormed a list of things that would be good to do each day to keep our bodies and brains active and our house clean. Then we brainstormed a bucket list of fun activities we’d like to do together. We ended up with a good list of six “ Must-Do Daily Activities” that the kids agreed to complete individually each day (usually in the morning) and a list of ideas for group activities (or “Daily Adventures”) that we’d chip away at (usually in the afternoon).

Following are some details on what we came up with:

MUST-DO DAILY ACTIVITIES:

Each morning, we began the day whenever we woke up (usually by around 7:30 a.m.), had a leisurely breakfast that finished by around 8:30, and then did our individual activities for a couple hours until lunchtime. They did the stuff on their list, and I got a couple hours of work done for Power of Moms — with a few interruptions here and there — but they became quite self-directed after the first few days. Here’s what we decided would be on the kids’ required individual daily activities list:

  • READING: Read for 20 minutes. (Some read for longer — that’s fine!)
  • WRITING: Write a page in your journal. Write about whatever you want. Write a story, write about what happened yesterday or pick a writing idea from a list of writing prompts we’ve got. Younger children can work on learning to write letters.
  • PHYSICAL EXERCISE: Do a physical activity. It can be individual, or it can be done as a group — ride bikes or scooters, play tag, go for a walk, play at the playground, jump rope or shoot hoops.
  • PRACTICING: Work toward one of your summer goals by practicing a skill for 20 minutes: piano, basketball, guitar, typing, etc. Each child has their short list of skills they want to develop.
  • HOME: Do a job from the job list. We have a list of five-to-10-minute household jobs that need to be completed each week (i.e., dust the living room, weed one flower bed, vacuum the stairs, wipe down the kids’ bathroom sink, etc.).
  • EXTRA: From the approved list of ideas we brainstormed together, pick an extra activity to do on your own or with siblings. For example, do online reading or math games, play a board game with siblings, do extra reading or writing, paint or draw, or work on learning Spanish. We’re loving the free online program Coffee Break Spanish, which offers 15-minute lessons.

The kids and I created simple charts that could be printed out for each week where they had checklist of what they needed to do each day, and then on Saturday, they got paid $.25 for each thing they’d accomplished that week (so they could make $1.50/day for doing their 6 things or $7.50/week for doing the 6 things each day for the 5 week days). They saved that money up for a big family activity at the end of June. We went to an amusement park, and they needed to save $35 each to help pay their way on that.

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