Shocked by the high price of summer camp? Want your child to have fun this summer without taking on an extra job to pay for it? Why not make your own camp? Yes, if your circumstances are right, your child can play with other campers, be involved in fun activities, and be well cared for, at absolutely no cost!
I too was blown away by the astronomical price of camp last summer so I took matters in my own hands. I joined forces with four of my friends with kids my daughter's age and started our own camp. We called it "Camp Cookie Dough" and one day a week, each of us would be in charge of all the kids (a total of 6). On our given day, we put together and supervised one craft (we painted a "Camp Cookie Dough" t-shirt, decorated a popsicle stick frame to house a group photo, painted a flower pot and planted a seed, etc.), and organized an activity (a scavenger hunt, a water balloon fight, making actual cookie dough, etc.). There'd even be lunch with each camper bringing his or her own pre-packed meal.
Customize your camp
Depending on the age of your child and how many close friends you have, you can customize your camp! If you have less than four trustworthy friends, or there are too many children for one mom to carefully supervise, scale it down and have camp fewer days or fewer hours. If the kids are older, the activities can be age appropriate (a swim in a pool or a bike ride to a nearby park). You can schedule your camp to start any time and for however many hours a day that works for your group.
I know it may seem overwhelming to take care of a gaggle of kids, and at times it was (I contemplated having my tubes tied on several different occasions). But, it can also be overwhelming just to take care of my own child (I've contemplated having my tubes tied on several different occasions as well). Besides, other people's kids are usually better behaved than your own kids. They do what they're told and they don't ask for money. Plus, the four days of that week that I got the house to myself for a few hours, made it totally worth it!
Of course, this plan doesn't work for everyone. You have to be at home for several hours one day a week and have friends that you can trust enough to care for your child. Your camp can't have so many children that they can't be cared for properly or be made up of a group of kids (or moms for that matter) that don't get along. But, if you have enough kids, and enough good friends, you can have a summer that's fun for both you and your kids (and, did I mention, you get the house to yourself for a few hours!)
Although it's been almost a year since Camp Cookie Dough was in session, my daughter occasionally wears her camp t-shirt and smiles as she looks at the group photo in her popsicle stick frame. And I smile too when I think about the hundreds upon hundreds of dollars I saved by sending my kid to camp!
Tips for a successful camp
If you want to start your own camp, here are some tips:
• Avoid having very young children who need constant supervision. We moms are amazing, but even we can't run in five different directions at all times.
• Safety first! Be sure you know any food allergies, or health concerns of the children in advance. And each home must be properly child proofed and safe.
• Set up discipline rules. Talk to the other moms about how you'd like your child to be disciplined when they're in their care, and how you should discipline theirs if need be.
• Have each craft and activity prepared in advance so you don't have to multi-task between watching campers and prepping the ingredients for make-your-own-play-doh.
• Have a list of emergency phone numbers close at hand as well as a list of contact numbers for each parent in case you need to reach them at a moments notice.