Though the scent of pumpkin spice hasn’t yet begun to fill the air, your summer camp is most likely winding down for the year. Soon, the kids will be back off to school as the days get shorter and the nights more crisp.
But for the time being, it’s still summer. What’s the best way to make the best of these remaining few weeks of warm weather with the kids out of school?
Give your kids the opportunity to say home is the best part of summer: turn your backyard into the best summer camp of all.
Summer Camp Cheat Sheet
1. Make ice pops for a healthy, sweet treat
What’s more summery than a refreshing fruity ice pop? More healthy and economical than bought-at-store versions, all you need is a an ice pop mold, some fruit, a blender, and maybe a little dollop of yogurt for a unique flavor. Blend the fruit and yogurt, pop the mixture into the molds then into the freezer, and prepare to impress without an after-lunch ice pop! If you prepare this the morning of, you can also use some of the leftovers for a fruit salad at lunch.
2. Prepare an easy, delicious picnic lunch
While we’re talking food, a picnic lunch is a great way to get your kids to eat healthy while playing. Focus on foods that are easy to grab-and-go, but still nutritious, like prepared cut veggies, fruit, and cheese and crackers. Show off your culinary skills by making sandwiches for the main course. You can prepare them the same time you’re getting the ice pops ready in the morning, so you’ll be set up and ready to go for lunch. Here are some fun options:
- Chicken salad wraps with lettuce
- Hummus and cucumber in a pita for a vegetarian option
- Peanut butter and jelly for those picky eaters
3. Focus on fun: games and sports
It’s summer! Kids are going to want to make the best of the nice weather while playing outside. Though activities might depend on the number of kids at the backyard summer camp, you can adjust most games to accommodate any number of kids.
Some games requires structure, and are suitable for kids who like to play but may get tired out by more extreme sports. Games like cornhole and badminton require some easy props, but will keep kids occupied for ages. Have a jump rope? Learn some fun jump rope rhymes and share them with the kids. Have chalk and a blacktop driveway? Organize a game of hopscotch.
But you don’t necessarily need props at all, with a bit of creativity. With enough kids, you can organize a fun game of tag, capture the flag, and kick the can. Smaller kids will love classics like duck-duck-goose and Simon says. Have fun, get creative, and most of all trust kids to keep themselves occupied (speaking from experience, it’s easy to play a game of capture the flag for an hour or more!)
4. Set up a craft table for after lunch
Okay, okay, the kids are done running around. They’ve played badminton till the birdie’s lost and the flag has lost the appeal. Time to turn to the craft table in the afternoon. Once you’ve cleared away lunch, set up a DIY craft table on your backyard picnic table.
Depending on attentions span and age, you can allow a more free form crafting session or pick a particular project. Supplies might include non-toxic acrylic paints, pipe cleaners, glue, safety scissors, and construction paper. Some kids will be content with painting and drawing independently, but you can also set up materials for paper pinwheels, playdough, DIY kites, milk carton bird feeders, and more.
5. Don’t forget about the parents!
You’re not the only parent in your neighborhood whose kids are out of summer camp! If you have a big enough backyard, feel free to open up the fun to your friends and neighbors so they can bring their kids along as well. If you extend the invitation, other parents can help bring snacks, juices, and craft supplies. If you need more game props, odds are one of your friends has something in their backyard to bring along. This away, your summer camp isn’t just fun for the kids: it’s a socializing opportunity for you!
Some additional tips & tricks
- Keep water nearby to keep kids cool and hydrated while playing
- Amp up the fun by bringing a speaker outside and playing upbeat music (but not too loud that the neighbors will shut down the camp)
- First aid station: bumps and bruises happen while playing. Make sure you have the essentials handy like bandaids and hydrogen peroxide
- If it gets super hot, consider a simple summer sprinkler. They can keep kids engaged for hours!
Most importantly, enjoy this time! Summer is short, and with only a few weeks left till school starts, this is a great time to engage with your kids, relax, and enjoy the sunshine.