Guest post by Liz Long.
Summer vacation is starting – soon! Summer camp can be hundreds of dollars a week. As great as those experiences can be and as much as kids can learn, it can quickly add up to too much money. My boys are signed up for some camps, mostly half day, and definitely not an entire summer’s worth. That leaves a lot of time for them to drive me insane and get really bored. My plan? Trading kids! Really. I’m going to give my five year old to another mom and take her nine year old for some afternoons throughout the summer. She has sons the same age as my boys, so they will all have friends their age to hang out with.
I’m going to use things I have bought and stuck in a closet to give them little “camps” at my house with different themes. Whenever there is something appropriate (like building forts – aka shelters – in the wood), we can have all the kids play together for “camp.”
I plan to use the three Survival Challenge books by Claire Llewellyn to design part of it. These are focused on outdoor survival skills, albeit in situations my kids are unlikely to ever really encounter. It doesn’t matter, though, that they can’t use giant jungle leaves to build a shelter (“Survive in the Jungle”) if they figure out how to make one using what is available in the woods near us. Likewise, learning how to make a solar still as described in “Survive at Sea” is good knowledge even though we are in a land-locked area where they will not need to know how to care for a jellyfish sting. I don’t expect to go fishing, but we may try making a fishing net from an old t-shirt (“Survive on a Desert Island”) to catch tadpoles. (For tadpoles, I plan on using old baby shirts.)
With a travel theme, a “Mexico” week could include making tortillas and an evasive NERF course for learning to evade a hail of bullets. Politically insensitive, no doubt, but I have boys and boys love NERF. A “London” camp could include acting out a play like you’re at Globe’s Theater, building your own bomb shelter (fort!) like many WWII era books and movies include (Narnia and Bedknobs and Broomsticks, for instance), or designing your own royal wedding and wardrobe.
Cooking could include outdoor cooking, no-cook cooking, baking, dehydrating (and rehydrating), and cake decorating. (My boys love baking because they can eat what they bake.) Spy Camp could include treasure hunts, pre-packaged murder mysteries like the dinner party kits, an evasive bike-riding course, and more NERF. I bought the “whodunit? lab” from Discovery Kids (crime lab experiments including fingerprinting) and will use that for one week. It’s out of production but I found it on eBay.
Other possibilities include cooking, cake decorating (“Ace of Cakes”!), working on cub scouts pins, photography, crafts like weaving and spinning, wood working, and gardening. The choices are limited only by your imagination and the skills you know or are interested in learning.
Summer Camps are great, and they definitely provide sanity breaks if you’re home full-time with your kids, but doing your own Camp Mama (or Papa or Grandparent) allows you to teach your kids specific skills, cater to their interests, and share something you love with your kids. I’m a poor swimmer at my best, so sending the kids to swim camp instead of trying to teach them myself is a no-brainer, but the whodunit? lab looked wicked cool and we never have time to try it during the school year, so doing that as a camp is equally a no-brainer. And of course, they’ll need plenty of time to just kick back, relax, have some Wii tournaments with their friends, and enjoy their free time during summer vacation. With a little luck, so can Mama!
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