12 Fun Summer Camp Crafts and Activities to Try at Home
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Who said your kids have to go to an expensive camp to have a blast in the summertime? Summer boredom will be a thing of the past with these classic camp-inspired crafts and activities that you and the kids will love to do together at home all summer-long.
More: The Ultimate Summer Bucket List For Kids And Families
From camping outdoors to an at-home ice cream social, you’ll forget it’s not a real camp! Read on for our favorite adventures and ideas that you need to bring to life this summer:
Nature Scavenger Hunt
Flowers and bugs and birds, oh my! Summer is the perfect season to explore nature with kids, whether it's at a local park or right in your backyard. Bring a jar (with holes poked in the lid) or simply a pencil and paper to help your child to make observations about the bugs and other bits of nature she collects or sees. Just be sure to watch out for ticks. Not a fan of insects? Go on a bird watch or basic nature walk, or try these other backyard science-experiment activities.
Every camper looks forward to tie-dyed T-shirt day! Tie dye is a great way to let your kids express their creativity and is considered one of the most classic summer camp activities. Hint: DIY one of your child's stained white shirts rather than buying a new one. Definitely do this project outside with rubber gloves and "messy" clothes or aprons on.
Water Games Olympics
Camp always features some friendly competition and water games to help kids cool off. Plan an afternoon of backyard water games like sprinkler limbo or sponge dodgeball. Or, create a basic outdoor obstacle course that incorporates water balloons, buckets, a station for dance moves and jumping jacks, and more.
- PRO TIP: Add this wiggling water sprinkler from Amazon into the mix for added fun.
- Hurricane Tunnel Blast Inflatable Water Park Play Center on Amazon
Ice Cream Social
The traditional summer camp experience usually kicks off with an ice cream social to help kids of all ages make new friends and celebrate the season. Make homemade ice cream with your kids — or buy ice cream and sundae toppings — and invite some neighborhood kids to mingle and play. Want to serve a lighter summery snack? Try fruity homemade popsicles or watermelon.
- Instant Ice Cream Maker on Amazon that is simple and easy enough for the kids to use on their own
- Monster Freezer Ice Pop Mold on Amazon
Ahhh, camp crafts. Many of the best summer camp crafts are mess-free, portable (great for indoors or outside), and repetitive, capturing kids' attention for hours. Friendship bracelets are a prime example. Stock up on colorful thread and beads, and let your kids try their hand at all these different friendship bracelet patterns.
Try making classic woven potholders, which kids love. You can find kits online complete with a loom, cotton loops, a hook, and illustrated instructions.
Origami is another mess-free activity. You can find instructions online for folding all sorts of figures, from paper cranes to boxes. Stick with a summer fun theme and make origami boats that the kids can float in a local stream or pond.
- Friendship Bracelet Kit on Amazon
- Friendship Bracelet Extra Threads and Beads
- Potholder Loom Kit on Amazon
- Origami Book and Kit on Amazon
Tabletop Game Tournament
How do summer camps keep kids entertained screen-free on rainy days? With game rooms filled with ping-pong tables, foosball, Nok Hockey, and other timeless tabletop games! Invest in a portable table tennis set, a kid-friendly magnetic dart board, and some other active "game room" games that might hold your child's attention longer than classic board games.
Sand and Seashell Art
Sand and shells offer endless summer craft possibilities. Kids can draw or write on paper with glue or glue sticks and pour the sand on the glue to create their own sandy signs and designs. They can also use glue and sand to "color" printable coloring pages. Or, for an even cooler keepsake, they can fill a glass bottle, vase, or candle votive with layers of sand in a rainbow of colors. Sand art projects can be messy, so it's wise to do it outside! Baby spoons, beach shovels, and funnels can be helpful tools. (Learn how to dye your own sand.)
Do you have a collection of seashells from past vacations? Kids can glue shells to a drawing or painting, or use them to make decorative magnets, picture frames, jewelry, and more. Check out these other beach-themed crafts and activities.
Rainy Day Read-a-Thon
Rainy days are the perfect time to hit the bunk with a good book! Encourage your child to fill up this printable summer reading chart. Go to the library and stockpile classic summertime reads, and encourage kids to look for new genres that excite them.
Check out our favorite book lists for kids:
- The Top Books for Middle Schoolers
- An Age-by-Age Guide to The Best Historical Fiction Books for Kids
- Top 15 Books to Teach Kids About Black History
Journaling or Scrapbooking
"Dear Mom and Dad..." Every sleep-away camper writes letters to their parents or keeps a journal to record their latest adventures. Encourage your child to sketch and write about her summer days. How was the weather? What did she do? Did she see any cool animals or clouds? Did she miss school or friends who are away for the summer? You can take it a step further and encourage them to create a summer scrapbook.
- Purchase a new journal on Amazon (or print these blank pages)
- Summer Journal For Kids With Writing Prompts on Amazon
- Set of 50 Colored Pencils on Amazon
The weather is bound to be gloomy, so for the days when outdoor activities aren’t possible, make sure you’re stocked up on plenty of games that can be played indoors. Check out The Best Board Games for Kids in 2020, Plus Our Favorite Classics for ideas.
- Game Of Life on Amazon
- Twister on Amazon
- Funkoverse Strategy Game on Amazon
- Throw Throw Burritos on Amazon
Are the kids getting cabin fever? During a stretch of nice weather, set up a tent (or even just a blanket fort) in the backyard for some "staycation" camping with your kids, complete with ghost stories, s'mores over the campfire, and other classic camping foods. Even if your family chooses to sleep inside at night, the tent or fort is a fun way for kids to hang out, read, and play during the day for a change of pace. Check our Ultimate Guide to Backyard Camping This Summer.
Outdoor group games are a must for camp-inspired fun. Gather your family or some neighborhood kids for good ol' group outdoor games like kickball, wiffle ball, and capture the flag, or try some classic backyard party games like sack races, horseshoes, or that camp classic: Tug o' war!
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Based in Los Angeles, Jacqueline is a freelance writer and social media strategist.