Inside: Browse my list of clever and fun summer camp ideas for kids. These summer camp themes can be implemented at home, or at a kids’ summer camp.

(Note: this post was originally written during the 2020 pandemic, so the first couple of paragraphs may not apply. The summer camp ideas and summer camp activities are still great ideas!)

Well, here we are. My son has been out of school for 2 days, but still has managed to log 1143 hours of screen time.

kids at summer camp

This year, our summer has to be different. No community pool. No going to friends’ houses.

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My one son goes to ESY, but not this year. My other son typically goes to a few weeks of camp, but again, not this year. I have to DIY it, I guess. I need summer camp activities for kids at home, or we’re both going to lose our sanity.

Summer Camp Activities

Even though vaccination rates are going up (yay!) many camps are going to have reduced attendance or shorter hours. Or, like many of the parents who follow this site, our kids are medically complex or medically fragile, and we cannot send our kids to camps just yet.

Or, maybe due to job changes or something, a summer camp just isn’t in the budget this year. Whatever your reason is, it doesn’t have to be lame!

I let my son pick his summer camp-at-home themes.

Here are some great and easy-to-implement ideas for summer camp activities.

Summer Camp Themes

The great thing about this is that it’s up to ME. If I look at the weather on a Sunday and see a week of forecast rain, I can switch it up to cooking or computer.

In hot and steamy weather, I can plan when we’ll be outside. I’m not locked into a particular summer camp theme because it’s all taking place right here at home.

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Another thing to remember is that choosing a summer camp for your anxious child can do wonders. But, if you choose a camp theme that your own child dislikes, I wouldn’t expect a great outcome, if that makes sense.

With our disabled kiddos, we really need to set them up for success. Sending a child to a sports camp when they hate sports isn’t going to bring them out of their shell.

At-Home Summer Camp Schedule

Let’s be honest. Am I going to follow this schedule, all day, every day? Of course not. But all experts agree—having your family stick to a schedule in these uncertain times can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.

I’m not going to set a clock to “ding!” every hour on the hour. But we will be sticking to some semblance of a daily schedule for our summer camp at home.

If you wish to print this as a PDF, here you go.


Teaching Equality and about Race Relations

Ok, this one was chosen by me, not my kids. But it’s so important, which is why I’m doing it. We are going to watch movies, documentaries, read books, and do activities related to race relations and equality.

I think I am going to do this week of Home Summer Camp over July 4.

That way, we can also talk about Independence and what that means, and freedom and who truly has freedom in this country. It’s also a great way to reclaim the word patriotism for my kids.

Depending on how current events and the pandemic are this summer, we may attend a march or other similar events.

Nature and Outdoors DIY Summer Camp Theme

Some ideas for having an outdoors-themed summer camp at your house:

  • Help your kids develop an appreciation for the planet and wildlife.
  • Explore the natural world by watching nature documentaries like Planet Earth, Blue Planet II, or, if they are old enough, Before the Flood.
  • Look on Pinterest for outdoors-themed age-appropriate crafts.
  • Do an overnight campout in the backyard or living room.
  • Take a plant identification app like PlantNet into your backyard and help your kids learn to identify the different plants that exist there.
  • Help your kids explore the natural world that exists all around them.
  • Try getting your yard approved as a sanctuary/refuge by NWF.
  • Finally, end the week of nature by helping them grow a plant from seed or plant a tree in your backyard.
  • We also really like this board game.
  • Research state, local, and national parks in your area and make plans to visit one each week.
We really enjoy this game! Click for more information.

Art Camp

I am not creative or crafty in any way. For my family, this DIY camp theme will be more about art history, freedom of expression, and art as therapy or a calming technique. We are also going to talk about artists who have been oppressed throughout history, and why.

  • Explore the art world with your children by alternating between creating their own art and showing them art online, thanks to Google Art’s virtual museum tours.
  • Show them some amazing watercolors, like Light at Two Lights by Edward Hopper, and then let them create a watercolor masterpiece of their own.
  • Show them the amazing finger painting artwork of Iris Scott, then let them loose with finger paint of their own.
  • Have your kids create self-portraits and comic books, art is where the imagination gets the opportunity to thrive.
  • For those kids (and moms!) who are less crafty, you can do adult coloring books and other mindfulness activities for kids. After all, it’s about calming and creative expression, not the medium you choose.

Video Game or Video Creation for Kids

Parents, give yourselves the week off with this at home summer camp idea. Many camps are going virtual, and some topics really lend themselves to being online. You can find online camps for coding, video making, and other computer activities.

If your children are interested in video games, then video game creation might just be of interest to them. There are a number of virtual summer camps that offer kids the opportunity to learn how to create video games. In fact, some coding camps start at age 5. But, if you don’t want to go the virtual camp route you can still encourage your kids to learn video game creation with Scratch Jr and

Sports Camp for Kids

This camp-at-home theme was chosen by my son. And, truth be told, we really are missing our sports camps this year!

  • Learn about historical figures in that sport.
  • How-to videos, skills, drills.
  • Fiction books about that sport.
  • Sports-themed movies
  • Watch a live event if possible.
  • Learn about the history of a different sport each day.
  • Themed activities related to that sport

Space Camp at Home

It was 5 years ago that we visited the Kennedy Space Center with our kids. So we’re feeling a bit wistful and nostalgic.

  • Inspire a love for space by going out and looking up. Bring a star identifying app with you as well as a telescope if you have one. Be sure to point your telescope at the moon and at any planets that happen to be out.
  • On Spot the Station you can check to see when the International Space Station (ISS) might be passing through the sky over your head.
  • Watch ET, WALL-E, and even Star Wars then ask your kids to create their own alien world.
  • Have them create at least 5 plants, 5 animals, and what people would look like from this world.
  • They should include drawings, paintings, and descriptions of each.
  • Be sure to get some amazing space documentaries in too like Cosmos, MARS, and Apollo 11.
  • Finish it off by helping your kids create their own spacesuit so they can pretend to go to Mars and beyond.

Summer Reading Programs

We’re not going to do this as a separate week, but actually weave it into all the other camps. We are going to choose reading materials and books that coordinate with the themes. And, we are going to look online at free summer reading programs and see what prizes we can win along the way.

  • Get a collection of books that are appropriate for your child’s reading level and set aside some time throughout the day for them to read.
  • Schedule 30 minutes of reading after breakfast and 30 minutes of reading before bed. If they end up wanting to do more reading in their own time encourage them to do so.
  • After they finish a book talk with them about it while they enjoy a small treat.

Old School Outdoors Fun

Give your kids a 1970s or 1980s experience. Go outside with just the basics.

  • Build a fort.
  • Go fishing.
  • Play hopscotch
  • Draw with chalk.
  • Skip rocks.
  • Sit under a tree and talk.
  • Have a water fight.
  • Go for a bike ride and get ice cream.
  • Run through a sprinkler.
  • Catch and release lightning bugs (or fireflies).
  • Play foursquare, boxball or whatever you called it.
  • More outdoor games-tag, monkey in the middle, TV tag, hide and seek.

Cooking Camp at Home

We’re going to do this one specifically to work on ARFID and hopefully less picky eating.

Help your kids learn to love the food they eat by getting them involved in the creation of it. Have them help make breakfast, lunch, a snack, dinner, and dessert. Bake bread with them as well.

Finally, on the last day of their cooking camp have them do menu planning for the whole family for an entire day or weekend. Then, they get to help make it. (and shop for it, depending on your state’s rules right now)

Honestly, even if I only do 5-6 weeks of this, and 2-3 days each week of activities, I will feel accomplished. I hope this helps you organize a fun summer at your house too!

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