10 DIY Summer Camp Ideas

When I think back on my childhood, one of my biggest regrets is never attending sleep-away summer camp. I have a vision of long summer days spent canoeing and swimming and warm evenings spent enjoying smores and stories around a campfire.

My children are still too young for summer camp but this year I’ve planned a number of summer camp-themed ideas that can be enjoyed in our backyard or while we are camping. I’m hoping these activities will help to fulfill any summer camp cravings.

Summer Camp Ideas for Kids of All Ages

Summer is the season to get outside, enjoy the sun, and each other. Here’s a list of 10 fun and adventurous summer camp ideas for families with kids at any age. 

Nature Scavenger Hunt

Spend the day outdoors hunting for things in nature. This is a great way for the whole family to enjoy being outside. A nature-based scavenger hunt can also be a good opportunity to teach your kids about the different trees, flowers, and bugs that can be found in your own backyard or community.  Here’s a free printable outdoor scavenger list that we like to use. 

Science Day

There is nothing our four-year-old loves more than an experiment. So, we are planning a science-themed day filled with different experiments. Some of our favorite science cexperiments include making a volcano and learning about how soap scares away germs. And, there’s no need to worry about the mess if you are doing all of your science outdoors. So, grab your lab coat and safety glasses and get started. 

Water Balloon Fight

On a hot summer day, nothing beats a water balloon fight. You can prepare the night before by filling up a huge bucket or kiddie pool with water balloons. To make sure everyone has fun and no one gets hurt, implement water balloon fight rules like no hitting anyone with a balloon above the chest and no close range throwing. If your kids are too young for a water balloon fight you can try a water balloon toss where you try to toss your balloon inside of a hula hoop or other circular object. 

Bike Parade 

There are few things our kids enjoy more than ripping around on their bikes. This summer we are planning a bike parade with kids from around the neighborhood. Everyone gets together and the kids decorate their bikes and then ride around the neighborhood to show them off. This activity is creative and it gets the kids out and moving. To prepare, you can grab streamers, balloons, fake flowers, mini pom-poms and anything else you can think of. 

Campfire Smores

To me, nothing says summer camp more than a campfire and smores. When the sun begins to set, light a campfire and get out the chocolate, graham crackers, and marshmallows. To make the smores extra fun we sometimes include sprinkles or smarties to add some colour! If you don’t have a fire pit or you’re worried about young kiddos around the fire, you can also make smores in your oven and then serve them outdoors! 

Build a Birdhouse

Use materials found around your home or in your yard to build a birdfeeder. This is a creative activity that you can do with kids of all ages. When you’re finished, you will have some colourful bird feeders to hang up around your yard. We’ve made these simple birdhouses with our kids who are two and four. We have also used this design to build birdhouses with my pre-teen nieces. The 

Family Olympics

Host your very own family Olympics in your backyard. Plan a series of events like water balloon relay, hula hoop competition, and a long jump. You can have fun preparing for this event by creating Olympic-themed banners and Olympic medals. You can even host your own opening and closing ceremonies. Of course, to keep things safe, make sure event rules are discussed and agreed upon with all of the Olympians before competing. 

Craft Day

Hold a craft-themed camp day. You can keep the art-themed mess under control by doing all of your craftings outdoors. Keep it simple with side-walk chalk or, plan some nature-themed crafts with leaf art and rock painting. If you want to kick things up a notch you can try water pistol painting — it’s messy and tons of fun. 

Throw a Talent Show

Share your secret talents with a family talent show. Invite your extended family or your neighbours and host your very own talent show in your backyard. Pull out the dress-up clothes, musical instruments, and any fun props that will help to highlight your talents. If you or your kids get stuck trying to figure out your talent, consider these tips:

  • What after-school activities do your kids participate in? Gymnastics, karate, dance? Any of these activities could be shared as a talent.
  • Do you play a musical instrument?
  • Do you know how to do a special magic trick?
  • Do you have a favorite joke you could share?

Obstacle Course Day 

Keep the kids active and having fun with an obstacle course-themed camp day. All of your obstacle course supplies can come from things you have in your house and garage. Use anything from pool noodles to hula hoops to chalk and pylons to set up a challenging outdoor course. There’s really no limit to what you can create and it’s easy to customize the level of difficulty to accommodate children of all ages. For more inspiration, check out these themed outdoor obstacle courses

Enjoy Your Backyard Summer Camp

It can be difficult to keep kids busy over the summer if they aren’t enrolled in sports or an actual summer camp. We find that planning a number of these summer camp-themed activities gives our kids something to look forward to. Helping to prepare for our summer camp-themed days also provides some additional tasks for them to do.

Most of these summer camp ideas can be executed using materials found around your home and garage which helps to keep things cheap. And, all of these activities can be enjoyed with kids of all ages. So, what are you waiting for? What summer camp themed days are you going to try this summer?

— By Jessica Martel

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