If you were lucky enough to go to summer camp as a child, you likely remember experiencing your world in a whole new way. Making friends, discovering new interests, developing skills, and testing out newfound independence are just some of the amazing byproducts of time spent at summer camp.
The American Camp Association explains why kids' summer camp is so beneficial: “Camp provides children with a community of caring adults, who nurture experiential education that results in self-respect and appreciation for human value. All of the outcomes — self-identity, self-worth, self-esteem, leadership, and self-respect — build personal competencies. These personal competencies are reflected in the four "Cs" of the camp community: compassion, contribution, commitment and character!”
Not all children will have the opportunity to experience summer camp first-hand, but parents can recreate some of that camp magic in their own backyard.
The key to turning your backyard into a summer camp is careful planning. Sit down and put some thought into just what you want your camp to be. Ask yourself when you’ll hold camp and for how long, whether or not it will have a special theme or focus, whether or not you’ll have any sleepovers and what types of materials you’ll need.
Enlist your kids' help to come up with a great name for your camp. Having them help in the naming process will help to build up their sense of excitement and make the idea come to life.
Have your children choose some friends to invite. Then, consider inviting other kids from your community who your children don’t know yet so that they can have the fun experience of making new camp friends.
Tried-and-true arts and crafts projects for campers include creating camp T-shirts with fabric pens or paint, making friendship bracelets and creating art from materials found in nature.
Your little campers will love learning new physical games like badminton, bocce ball, croquet and horseshoes. Create as many stations as possible throughout your backyard so they can choose from their options and move freely between activities.
Wrapping up the summer camp experience with a backyard sleepover complete with tents, campfire songs, semi-scary stories and the required s’mores will serve as a great ending to their camp experience and will likely be what they remember most of all.
While hosting camp, try to assume the role of camp counselor rather than parent so that the children get the richest possible experience that most resembles traditional camp. Let them explore a bit more than usual, resolve their own conflicts and challenge themselves a bit and they’ll come away feeling more confident and self-assured.
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