Kids don’t have to go to an expensive camp to have a blast this summer! Bust summer boredom with these classic camp-inspired activities and crafts you can do at home with your kids. Find both indoor and outdoor activities for groups and individuals.
Flowers and bugs and birds, oh my! Summer is the perfect season to explore nature with kids, whether it’s at a local park or right in your backyard. Bring a jar (with holes poked in the lid) or simply a pencil and paper to help your child to make observations about the bugs and other bits of nature she collects or sees. Just be sure to watch out for ticks. Not a fan of insects? Go on a bird watch or basic nature walk, or try these other backyard science activities.
Ice Cream Social
Many summer camps kick off with an ice cream social to help kids make new friends and celebrate the season. Make homemade ice cream with your kids — or buy ice cream and sundae toppings — and invite some neighborhood kids to mingle and play. Want to serve a lighter summery snack? Try popsicles or watermelon.
Every camper looks forward to tie-dyed T-shirt day! Buy a tie-dye kit online or at your local craft store. Hint: Dye one of your child’s stained white shirts rather than buying a new one. Definitely do this project outside with rubber gloves and “messy” clothes or aprons on.
Water Game Olympics
Camp always features some friendly competition and water games to help kids cool off. Plan an afternoon of backyard water games like sprinkler limbo or sponge dodgeball. Or, create a basic outdoor obstacle course that incorporates your sprinkler, water balloons, and buckets.
Ahhh, camp crafts. Many of the best summer camp crafts are mess-free, portable (great for indoors or outside), and repetitive, capturing kids’ attention for hours. Friendship bracelets are a prime example. Stock up on colorful thread and beads, and let your kids try their hand at all these different friendship bracelet patterns.
Kids also love making classic woven potholders. You can find kits online complete with a loom, cotton loops, a hook, and illustrated instructions.
Origami is another mess-free activity. You can find instructions online for folding all sorts of figures, from paper cranes to boxes. Stick with a summer theme and make origami boats that the kids can float in a local stream or pond.
Tabletop Game Tournament
How do summer camps keep kids entertained screen-free on rainy days? With game rooms filled with ping-pong tables, foosball, Nok Hockey, and other timeless tabletop games! Invest in a portable table tennis set, a kid-friendly magnetic dart board, and some other active “game room” games that might hold your child’s attention longer than classic board games.
Sand and Seashell Art
Sand and shells offer endless summer craft possibilities. Stock up on colored sand or dye your own. Kids can draw or write on paper with glue or glue sticks and pour the sand on the glue to create their own sandy signs and designs. They can also use glue and sand to “color” printable coloring pages. Or, for an even cooler keepsake, they can fill a glass bottle, vase, or candle votive with layers of sand in a rainbow of colors. Sand art can be messy, so it’s wise to do it outside! Baby spoons, beach shovels, and funnels can be helpful tools.
If you don’t have a collection of seashells from beach vacations, you can order them online. Kids can glue shells to a drawing or painting, or use them to make decorative magnets, picture frames, jewelry, and plaster beach casts. Check out these other beach-themed crafts and activities.
Rainy Day Read-a-Thon
Rainy days are the perfect time to hit the bunk with a good book! Encourage your child to fill up this printable summer reading chart. Go to the library and stockpile classic summertime reads, like Where the Wild Things Are, The Swiss Family Robinson, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and Choose Your Own Adventure books. Or use our Book Finder to pick new releases kids will love.
Journaling or Scrapbooking
“Dear Mom and Dad…” Every sleep-away camper writes letters to their parents or keeps a journal to record their latest adventures. Get your child a new journal (or print these blank pages) and some pretty colored pencils, and encourage her to sketch and write about her summer days. How was the weather? What did she do? Did she see any cool animals or clouds? Did she miss school or friends who are away for the summer? If you want to take it a step further, get her some supplies to keep a summer scrapbook.
Are the kids getting cabin fever? During a stretch of nice weather, set up a tent (or even just a blanket fort) in the backyard for some “staycation” camping with your kids, complete with ghost stories, s’mores, and other classic camping foods. Even if your family chooses to sleep inside at night, the tent or fort is a fun place for kids to hang out, read, and play during the day for a change of pace.
Outdoor group games are a must for camp-inspired fun. Gather your family or some neighborhood kids for good ol’ group games like kickball, wiffle ball, and capture the flag, or try some classic backyard party games like sack races, horseshoes, or that camp classic: Tug o’ war!
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