How to Hold a Summer Camp at Home

Summer camps may be canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the fun isn’t! While camp may look different this year, you can still have your own DIY summer camp at home filled with activities, games, and crafts that will keep the kids busy and having fun. We rounded up our favorite tried-and-true summer camp activities that you can do right from home. Try these ideas to create an experience that will give you amazing family memories that will last a lifetime.

Jump to:

    1. How to Start a Summer Camp at Home
    2. Summer Camp Theme Ideas
    3. Activities and Games
    4. DIY Arts and Crafts

How To Start A Summer Camp At Home

kids holding sign for at home summer camp

Starting a summer camp at home is a great way to keep the kids entertained and busy this summer, but it requires some planning. To create a successful summer camp filled with fun and productive games and activities, you’ll want to follow these steps.

1. Brainstorm Ideas

Before planning your at-home camp or gathering supplies, consider your kids’ interests to plan a theme. Ask your kids what type of summer camp they would’ve wanted to attend had the coronavirus outbreak not altered their plans, and incorporate those ideas into your camp at home. Think about how long you want the camp to go for. Whether it’s one week, a few weeks, or only on the weekends, plan so you can give them your undivided attention. If you have older kids, consider how they can help and act as “camp counselors” to their younger siblings.

2. Create a Schedule

Add some structure to your day, whether it’s a little or a lot. When planning the camp’s schedule, consider how invested you will need to be. Are the kids are old enough to do the activities without you, or will they need more guidance? If the camp time is during your workday, give them enough structure to where they don’t need much assistance. Plan out a scheduled time for lunch, outdoor time, and any activities they’ll need you to be more hands-on for. 

3. Gather Supplies

Consider the items you might need to structure your day. Think about the camp’s different themes and what supplies they’ll need for their fun summer activities. 

  • Creative: Gather supplies they can use for crafts and art projects. Crayons, colored pencils, popsicle sticks, paper, tape, watercolor paints, stickers, pipe cleaners, rubber bands, and cardboard boxes are all useful craft supplies. 
  • Outdoor activities: Check what you already have for the kids to play with outside before buying a ton of items. Then, gather items like frisbees, balls, bubbles, squirt guns, sidewalk chalk, magnifying glass, and yard games (think cornhole, bocce, or badminton). 
  • Indoor play: Keep the kids active indoors with board games, jigsaw puzzles, indoor basketball hoops, science experiment supplies, and summer reading books.

4. Pick a Daily End Time

When you’re hosting your own summer camp at home, it’s essential to set a time for camp to end every day. At the end of each day, help the kids clean up after themselves and get them excited for the camp days to come.

Creative Summer Camp Theme Ideas

A summer camp theme gives character to your camp. A unique theme makes it easier to work out a camp schedule and showcase some of the cool crafts, games, and activities campers will be taking part in. Whether your child is interested in sports or art, you can tailor your at-home camp to align with their interests. Get inspired by these fun summer camp theme ideas.  

Around the World

Explore countries from around the globe with an Around the World themed camp. Take an imaginary trip to a different country each day of camp to expose your kids to different cultures in a fun and unique way. For lunch, let them try different yummy foods by looking up dishes you can make from around the world. Find summer camp games and crafts from other countries to recreate at home, and teach the campers some phrases from each country they “visit.” 

Camping Trip

family roasting marshmallows at a camping themed summer camp at home

Give the kids the feeling of getting away by hosting a backyard camping trip. Set up tents, safely make a fire pit, and teach the little ones new camping activities each day. From campfire skits and scary stories to camp songs, the kids will have a blast right at home with fun camping activities. Do fun crafts together like making toilet paper binoculars or painting rocks. Munch on traditional summer camp BBQ foods like burgers and hot dogs —  and don’t forget the s’mores! 

Hawaiian Luau 

Even though your summer vacation plans might have been postponed or canceled, you can host a Hawaiian staycation at an at-home summer camp. Turn your home into a tropical oasis with Hawaiian and beach-themed crafts and outdoor games. Hold hula hoop competitions, play pool noodle limbo, and practice traditional Hawaiian dancing to keep the kids active throughout the day. Work with the kids on crafts like making homemade leis, tropical visors, and surfboards out of cardboard. Creating seashell bracelets and decorating sunglasses are another fun way to get crafty with things the kids can use or wear all summer long.  

Sports and Fitness

Give the kids a sports camp experience right from home this summer. Whether you only focus on one sport or practice a different one each day, active summer camp activities are a great way for kids to enhance their skills while having a great time. Form teams and host backyard baseball, soccer, kickball, or basketball games — or set up obstacle courses out of supplies you already have at home. At the end of camp, hold a talent show so the kids can show off their best sports skills, like bouncing a soccer ball on their knee or spinning a basketball on their finger.  

Nature Adventures

Little boy painting bird house at nature themed summer camp

Host a camp filled with summer fun while exploring nature. Get creative outside with DIY summer camp activities like decorating flower pots, painting birdhouses, or personalizing garden stones. Go exploring at home with an adventurous scavenger hunt or bring out a magnifying glass to observe the bugs you can find in your own backyard. Don’t forget to ensure that all campers are wearing sunscreen to protect themselves from the sun while spending time outdoors!  

Splish Splash Camp

Take advantage of the hot summer days with a Splish Splash camp theme. Dedicate your afternoons to summer camp activities like water balloon tosses, slip ‘n slides, squirt gun games, sponge ball (football with a wet sponge), and sprinkler fun. These fun water games are a perfect way to beat the heat and keep the kids outside all summer long.  

Moving and Grooving

mother and child jumping and dancing at home

Let campers explore their choreography creativity with a camp dedicated to dance. Teach different dance styles to the kids — YouTube has excellent videos for dancers of all levels to learn from and enjoy! Host themed dance nights like the Roaring 20s, Groovy 60s, and Disco Nights 70s, or spend the evening watching classic dance films like Singing in the Rain or Shirley Temple movies.

Summer Camp Activities and Games

Fill your campers’ days with productive summer camp games and activities to keep them entertained and engaged. Whether you have a large backyard for outdoor play or want to keep the summer fun indoors, there’s plenty of creative and inexpensive activities perfect for your at-home camp. 

  • Have a field day. A classic summer camp activity, the kids will love getting their hands on all sorts of challenges with a field day. If you have enough people to form groups, set up stations with games. Three-legged races, eggs on spoons relays, potato sack races, water balloon hot potato, and bean bag tosses are all great options. Use your imagination to come up with outdoor summer camp games that let them run around and get wet and dirty. 
  • Ride bikes. Go biking as a family to get some fresh air and spend some time outside of the house. 
  • Host a talent show. Let the kids show off their incredible talents. Make a DIY stage at home and set up chairs for your audience. Give the kids time to plan their acts and rehearse before they perform in the evening. Make it even more fun for the kids by supplying an assortment of props they can use in their act.

kids potato sack racing together at summer camp

  • Go on a nature hunt. Summer camp is the perfect opportunity to explore nature with the kids. Take your campers to a local park, around the neighborhood, or even just to the backyard to observe things in nature that interest them. Bring a jar with holes poked in the lid or a notepad and pencil to help them collect or take notes on interesting bits of nature they see.
  • Incorporate indoor summer camp activities. When it’s time to cool off, bring the fun indoors. Try personalized kids’ games and activities like memory gamesplaying cards, and dress-up clothes they can customize with their name and photo. 
  • Make an obstacle course. Let the kids create an obstacle course with things they find around the house. Chairs, boxes, ropes, and more household items can be incorporated into this challenging summer camp game. 

little girl playing dress up as a superhero at home

  • Learn camp songs. A traditional summer camp activity, kids will love sitting by the campfire singing camp songs. There are many online you can teach your campers to sing as camp winds down in the evenings.
  • Have a picnic. Enjoy lunch together with an outdoor picnic. Have the kids help you make their meals and set up the supplies. Make the occasion even more special by creating a custom photo blanket to sit on together while enjoying your meal.
  • Make inventions. Get their creative juices flowing with a create-your-own-invention activity. Have them come up with a cool invention, draw a picture, name it, give it a price, write about how it works, who it will help, and what problem it solves. Host a museum to show off their inventions once they’re complete.

little kids in fort at home

  • Create a scavenger hunt. Perfect as either an indoor or outdoor activity, a scavenger hunt keeps the kids entertained, busy, and running off excess energy. Scavenger hunts are easy to plan — you can come up with fun ideas yourself or download free printable scavenger hunt ideas online.
  • Build a fort. Help the kids use household items to build a fort either in the living room or the backyard. Use sheets, blankets, chairs, or cardboard boxes to make a fort they can use for playtime or relaxing. 
  • Make life-size board games. Magnify the summer camp fun by creating life-sized board games the kids can play. For example, spray paint on the grass or draw with chalk a tic-tac-toe board or checkers board. The kids can play as the checker pieces or represent X’s and O’s.  

DIY Summer Camp Craft Ideas

Explore your campers’ creative interests with DIY summer camp crafts. From slime experiments to tie-dye fun, these arts and crafts ideas will keep your kids busy for hours while making something they’ll be proud to show off. 

  • Decorate a camp banner. Kick-off the start of summer camp by making a “Welcome to Camp” banner. You can make a DIY banner with materials from a craft store, or customize a vinyl banner or yard sign with Shutterfly. 
  • Make friendship bracelets. Whether you make this DIY craft out of beads, yarn, or thread, have the kids make friendship bracelets they can give to their friends or swap with other campers.  
  • DIY coffee filter butterflies. Using coffee filters, clothespins, pipe cleaners,  markers (or paint), and water, you can make beautiful butterfly sculptures. You can find all the art supplies you would need for this easy craft in these personalized art kits.

Kids project. Colorful butterflies made from coffee filters, clothespins and pipe cleaners.

  • Have fun with tie-dye. A traditional summer camp craft, tie-dying allows the kids to express themselves creatively while having fun and making a little bit of a mess. You can tie-dye t-shirts, towels, and more to make stylish clothes and accessories the kids will be proud of. 
  • Make paper plate arts and crafts. A summer camp craft you can do indoors, decorate paper plates that you can hang at home. This is an easy and inexpensive craft that campers of any age can accomplish. 
  • Decorate birdhouses. Create an adorable keepsake for your backyard with a DIY birdhouse. Decorating birdhouses lets the kids explore their artistic abilities and will keep them occupied. You can find birdhouses to paint at your local craft store or try to DIY one out of cardboard or other materials. 

diy summer camp craft with paper plates

  • DIY slime. Making homemade slime is an inexpensive and delightful craft for kids. All you need is white glue, contact saline solution, baking soda, and food coloring for this fun science experiment. The campers will have a blast getting creative with different colors and glitter.
  • Paint treasure rocks. A super affordable craft for kids, let the kids show their creative side by transforming rocks into decorative items. Start by collecting smooth rocks and then decorate them using paint, markers, stickers, glitter, googly eyes, and more. Display the finished product around the house or gift them to friends once camp is over. 

Little girl making homemade slime

  • Get creative with toilet paper roll crafts. Use empty toilet paper rolls to make fun crafts like adorable animals, beautiful butterflies, roaring rocket ships, and even DIY binoculars.  
  • Paint flower pots. Create bright and cheery flower pots that you can use to decorate your home or garden. If your kids are little, have them finger paint on the pots while older kids can use this summer camp craft to showcase their artistic talents. Use the decorated flower pots to teach them how to plant a flower that they can watch grow over time. 

Wrapping Up

Starting a summer camp at home is a fantastic way for kids to learn new skills and have fun. Whether you host a summer camp at home for just one day or the entire summer, your campers will love recreating summer camp activities and bonding as a family. To commemorate this unforgettable summer, make a custom photo book to showcase pictures of your special family memories. For more activities the kids can do at home this summer, make sure to visit our related resources below: