Many children and teenagers are experiencing a feeling of loss and a mix of emotions – sad, angry, frustrated, “camp-sick” and disappointed – about the fact that they will not be attending camp this summer. As a former sleepaway camper for 8 years, I can imagine how difficult and upsetting this summer may feel to those campers. Additionally, many parents are concerned about how not attending camp this summer may impact their child(ren)’s emotional and social growth; as we know, many life-long skills are cultivated at camp, including independence and autonomy, formation of friendships, athleticism and creativity. Parents are also grappling with how to continue to work from home while feeling the need to keep their child(ren) and family busy now that online schooling has come to an end for the summer break. Although children and teenagers cannot physically go to camp this summer, we can bring camp home, and best of all, make this summer fun, exciting and memorable!
Below are some ideas for how to bring summer camp home:
Discuss Feelings about Camp
First and foremost, parents can have open conversations with their child(ren) about their feelings regarding not attending camp this summer. Some open-ended questions parents can ask their child(ren) include:
“How are you feeling about this summer and not being able to go back to camp?”
“What are you missing the most about attending camp?”
“What were your favorite camp activities? Least favorite?”
Doing daily or weekly check-ins can foster a communicative and open relationship between parents and their child(ren). These conversations can also support children in feeling like their thoughts and feelings matter and are being heard.
Identify Camp Activities
Arts and crafts, land-sports – soccer, baseball, tennis, dodgeball, basketball, lacrosse and volleyball – and watersports – ski, swim and small crafts – are some of the main camp activities (campfire and Color War will come later, I promise!) that campers enjoy. The good news is that children can participate in many of these camp activities at home with basic supplies, and little indoor/outdoor space is needed!
There are many DIY arts and crafts activities that children can complete, including painting pictures, sculpting with clay, tie-dye and making bracelets with beads or lanyard. Children can also create obstacle courses to participate in sports and can create a tent (using a sheet or towels) to “go camping.”
Supplies that may be helpful to have in the home include crayons/markers, paint, computer and colored construction paper, glue, glitter, pom-poms, popsicle sticks, clay, paper bags, beads, lanyard/string, sports balls (soccer, basketball, tennis – you name it!), cones, dolls, Legos/blocks, deck of playing cards, jacks, board games, nail polish, puzzles, water balloons, puppets, bean bags, coloring/reading books and colored dye for DIY tie-dye.
Remember that flexibility and creativity are key!
Socialization and creating memories with friends are one of the many highlights of camp. Video chats, phone calls and/or social distance playdates (depending on comfort level) can be scheduled throughout the week to support children in maintaining friendships and interactions with other peers.
Enjoy Teachable Moments
Campers are expected to complete camp chores – the “chore wheel” dictates which camper is responsible for sweep and dust, bathroom, trash or laundry/towels (and if campers are like me, they will dread the day they are responsible for cleaning the bathroom!)
Parents can take time to teach their child(ren) how to complete household tasks, similarly to how campers complete camp chores. Examples of household chores that can be modeled and taught to children include cleaning the dishes or loading the dishwasher, making the bed, applying sunscreen and cooking a simple meal.
Chores can be completed at home to divide up household duties and can support children in feeling autonomous and responsible.
Create a Daily/Weekly Activity Schedule
The importance of routine and structure – two principles that we know children need and that camps incorporate into programming – cannot be underestimated. All campers are familiar with seeing their bunk’s weekly activity schedule posted in the counselors’ room or common area, and the subsequent excitement to see themselves scheduled for tennis, art, soccer, swim or ski (to name a few!) during different periods throughout the day and week!
After speaking with their child(ren) about their favorite and least favorite camp activities, parents and their child(ren) can collaborate and create a daily/weekly activity schedule. Parents and their child(ren) can brainstorm how to recreate certain camp activities within the confines of being home.
The child(ren)’s favorite camp activities (or similar activities) can be scheduled more frequently, and the child(ren)’s least favorite camp activities can be removed or scheduled less frequently.
Parents can support their child(ren) in identifying camp activities that they can participate in independently and in identifying camp activities that require further guidance and instruction.
Activities that can be completed independently can be scheduled when parents anticipate needing to work or take time for self-care, while activities that require parental involvement can be scheduled during times when parents anticipate being more readily available. Remember, parents are human too, so it is completely okay (and to be expected) that activities may need to be re-structured due to unexpected circumstances.
The daily/weekly activity schedule can be created on a whiteboard, poster board or sheets of paper.
Celebrate the End of the Week and Summer – Camp Style!
Many camps have their own rituals to end the evening or week, including “evening activity” or Sunday night Camp Fire. Parents and their child(ren) can recreate these activities to celebrate the end of the week – make a campfire outside and toast marshmallows to make delicious s’mores (or can use the microwave), have a dance party or have “flashlight time” when it’s “lights out” time. Campers can also feel free to wear their camp uniform!
Color War (for me, Go Blue!) is a staple sleepaway camp activity. Children can write their own songs and create Color War activities that the entire family can participate in, including sports competitions and cheering.
If you or someone in your family is struggling with the loss of attending camp,
you are not alone! We are continuing to provide psychotherapy services here at
Liz Morrison Therapy via teletherapy – please do not hesitate to reach out for further support by calling 347-758-2985 or emailing Liz@LizMorrisonTherapy.com