Five Do-at-Home Summer Camp Activities for Kids

July 20, 2020

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Many kids’ summer camps have been cancelled, but the fun can still go on with these camp-inspired activities, right in your own backyard. There will be messiness. And varying degrees of prep are required on your part. But there will also be busy little hands and, we sincerely hope, more cheer among your home-bound campers.

Basic birdfeeder

This might be easiest way to make a treat for your friends in your backyard or at a nearby park.

Materials:

  • A cardboard toilet paper tube
  • Peanut butter
  • Birdseed in a shallow dish – a leftover pie pan works well
  • A butter knife or spreader
  • Twine or string

To make the feeder, spread peanut butter on the tube. Roll the tube in birdseed until well-covered. Loop the twine through the tube. Tie your feeder onto a tree or large bush.

After you hang the feeder, have your child watch for incoming snackers. It’s fun to keep a list of visiting birds and draw pictures of them. You might even see if you can attract more birds with different do-it-yourself feeders.

Custom clipboard

Kids love to put their personal stamp on everyday objects. This one can be used to corral artwork, school papers, and more.   

Materials:

  • A hardboard clipboard (at office supply stores or retailer like Walmart)
  • A stack of old magazines
  • Mod Podge Gloss-Lustre or similar sealer/glue/finish in one (at art supply stores or online)
  • A foam paint brush
  • Newspaper or a plastic mat to protect your worksurface

To decorate your clipboard, start by looking for and clipping photos, phrases and words that you like from magazines. Clip until you collect a nice big pile. Trim your clippings and set them aside. Use the foam brush to coat the surface of the clipboard with Mod Podge.

Now you’re ready to decorate. Brush more Mod Podge on the back of a clipping, apply it to the clipboard, and press down to get out any excess air bubbles. Continue pasting clippings until the clipboard is covered. Let the clipboard dry for 15 minutes. Then add a final translucent topcoat by brushing Mod Podge over the entire surface (it’s best to brush in one direction). Admire your finished product and let it dry overnight before you use it.

Paper flyers

Here’s a fun way for fledgling aviators to test their wings. Watch this video from National Geographic Kids for easy instructions on making four fun flyers you can launch indoors or out.

Materials:

  • Craft paper
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Straws
  • Paper clips

Water balloon pass

These games are sure to make a splash on any hot day. Young children will need a grown up to prepare the balloons, a job best done outside. Allow plenty of time to fill up a large supply of balloons with water – it’s slow going, but worth the wait.

Materials:

  • Balloons (Have a plentiful supply – you’re bound to accidentally burst a few during the filling process.)
  • A plastic kitchen funnel
  • Water
  • A tub or large bucket to tote the water balloons

Prep: Fill balloons with water. Gently stretch the opening of each balloon over the tip of the funnel so that about half an inch of the balloon neck is over the funnel. Turn faucet on so the pressure is low, then hold the funnel under the stream, filling the balloon about three-quarters full (you need a little room to make it easy to tie off the end). Slide the balloon of the funnel and knot the end. Set the balloon gently in a big bucket or tub.

At last, the fun part. Give each child a supply of water balloons. Have kids stand apart and toss a balloon back and forth, counting how many passes they can complete before someone gets drenched. Challenge them to beat their last count and to try longer-distance tosses.

Another fun variation: Let kids get soaked with water balloon pinatas. Make water balloons as above, then carefully tie a length of twine to the knot of each balloon. Hang the balloons all over the yard – from trees, a swing set, a basketball hoop – whatever is handy – and let kids have a whack at them with a whiffle bat. (Remind kids to keep a safe distance from each other when they’re swinging.)

Classic tie-dye tees

Messy, yes, but kids adore this camp cult classic. The traditional, do-it-yourself method involves a fair amount of materials and steps. You can short-cut the process with a tie-dye kit, found at toy stores, craft stores and online. (This Rit kit dyes six tees and includes three colors; this one from Tulip has 12 colors and supplies for four t-shirts.)

We love these clear instructions from Parents.com, plus their awesome slideshow that covers nearly every tie-dye pattern under the sun.

 

DIY materials:

Cotton t-shirts

A bucket or tub (3 gallon or larger)

A glass jar with a lid

Rubber bands

Tongs or a sturdy stick

Plastic bags or plastic wrap 

Garbage bags (taped down to protect your workspace)

Rubber gloves

Soda ash (at craft stores or online)

Dye (color reactive, such as Rit or Dylon, at craft stores or online)

Water

 

Before you embark on tie-dying, set expectations. Make sure kids know they won’t be able to wear their creations right away. It takes 12 to 24 hours for the colors to set – and then the shirt must run through the washer and dryer before it’s ready to wear.

 

Help more campers have a happy summer

Do you have a favorite summer camp activity you’d like to share?