Camp Mom! 20 Activities to Make Summer Awesome for Everyone

There'll be no "I'm bored!" whining this summer! Make a staycation as fun for your kids as a week of summer camp with these awesome (and cheap) activities.

  • Use Your Noodle

    Get set: Cut a few swimming noodles in two, so that you have one half for each player. Scatter 20 or so blown-up balloons on the ground around a laundry basket.

    Cooperate: Give players five minutes to move as many balloons as possible into the laundry basket without touching the balloons with any body part. The catch? The only tool they can use is their pool noodle. At first, players may try batting the balloons into the basket, but they'll soon realize that they must pair up and use two pool noodles like giant chopsticks to lift the balloons into place.

  • Aimee Herring

    Friendship Bracelet

    Nothing says sleepaway camp quite like these friendship bracelets, tie-dye, and God's Eyes. Help your youngsters make 'em with these simple instructions. Even little kids can tackle this basic design from Chris Pallatto, co-author of The Summer Camp Survival Guide.

    What you'll need: Three different colors of embroidery, floss, and tape, sold at craft stores.

    Make it: Cut a two-foot length of each string, then tie the strings together at one end in a simple knot, leaving a three-inch tail. Attach the tail to a table using masking tape. Take one of the strings and knot it around the other two. Repeat nine times, then switch to your second and third colors, making ten knots with each, Continue the pattern until the bracelet is long enough, then tie it around your child's wrist, making sure to trim the excess string as you do.

  • Kid Craft: No-Sew Superhero Capes
    Kid Craft: No-Sew Superhero Capes

    Learn how to have a great day without breaking the bank.

  • Bryan McCay

    Tie-Dye

    Follow this step-by-step guide to make a single-color tie-dye tee your kid can wear proudly.

    You'll need: one package of fabric dye (like Rit), a white T-shirt, a bucket of hot water, a ruler, rubber bands, rubber gloves, and a plastic sheet to protect your work surface.

    Make it: Lay your T-shirt on a flat surface. Place the end of a ruler in the center of the shirt, then press down while twisting the shirt clockwise so the fabric swirls around the ruler into a thick, flat disk. Remove ruler. Use a handful of rubber bands to secure the rolled-up shirt. Prepare fabric dye according to directions. Wearing rubber gloves, an adult can place T-shirt into the dye for five minutes. Rinse in war and then cool water, until the shirt runs clear. Remove the rubber bands to reveal the pattern, then wash in warm water (rinse in cold) before wearing.

  • Jason Wilde

    Dream Weaver

    Let the kids raid your craft supplies for leftover yarn to make these gorgeous God's Eye decorations.

    You'll need: Several different colors of yarn, two chopsticks or Popsicle sticks, and glue.

    Make it: Glue the two sticks together in the shape of a cross. Once dry, take an arm's length of yarn and, holding it in the middle of the sticks with one thumb, wrap it over and around one stick, and then under and around the next. Repeat this process, working outward in a circle, until the first color is used up. Attach a different-color string to the first one and keep winding until most of the sticks are covered, then tie off the end.

  • Aimee Herring

    Put on a Show

    Bring classic campfire entertainment home with a few crowd-pleasing backyard performances. (Keep in mind, you can still instill a love of the outdoors in your kids -- even if you live in a concrete jungle.)

    • Get everyone laughing with a few silly skits. Visit ultimatecampresource.com or scoutorama.com/skit for more scripts than your kids can possibly act out in a single summer.
    • Make a music video. Choreograph a kid-friendly dance to a favorite song, then film it. Don't forget to use wild accessories from your dress-up box. (For an extra-sharp routine, search "Hip-hop moves for kids" on YouTube and pick a step from choreographer Keith Fitzpatrick.
    • Play along while you sing a few folk songs. Glue together two sturdy paper plates with beans inside for a shaker. Cover a box with rubber bands for a guitar, or make drums by taping empty containers to a tray (use wooden spoons as drumsticks).

  • Image Source

    Get Back to Nature

    Take a magnifying glass to a park. Hunt for a stone with lines, a buttercup, a pinecone, a feather, and a leaf. Take turns examining each item up close.

    Head outside to look for bugs and insects, then recreate them. Give rocks a coat of paint and let dry. Then, in another color, add spots or stripes. Glue on a set of googly eyes. Once the rocks dry, enjoy your new pets.

    Make pretty leaf prints. Arrange leaves on light-sensitive paper (find it at sunprints.org), then cover it with an acrylic sheet and set it in the sun for just a few minutes. Rinse the paper in water, then lay it on a flat surface to dry.

    Tip: On a rainy day, hit the library, then "rough it" indoors. Build a tent in your living room using some chairs and blankets, then read books inside by flashlight.

  • How to Make a Bird-Feeder Craft
    How to Make a Bird-Feeder Craft
  • Image Source

    Build a Team

    Camp wouldn't be complete without group bonding. These games from Kris Bordessa, author of Team Challenges: 170+ Group Activities to Build Cooperation, Communication, and Creativity, encourage kids to work together to reach a goal.

    Spider Web
    Get set: Crisscross a web of yarn between too tress, leaving different-size gaps, all large enough for a child to fit through (older kids will get a kick out of squeezing through tighter spaces).

    Cooperate: Gather players on one side of the web and then ask them to move the entire group through the web without touching it -- if anything accidentally touches the string, he must start over.

    This activity will take some bending and stretching, and often a helping hand from other players.

  • Kathryn Gamble Lozier

    Leaky Ladder

    Get set: Put a ping-pong ball into a two-gallon bucket. Assemble the kids about ten feet away, next to a five-gallon bucket of water.

    Cooperate: Give each player a paper cup and tell them that they have five minutes to put enough water into the smaller bucket to make the ping-pong ball float out of the bucket. Let kids try to fill the bucket on their own. If they don't make it within the time limit, explain how a bucket brigade works, then give them another try.

    Originally published in the July 2010 issue of Parents magazine.