Do-It-Yourself Summer Camp

* Scroll to the bottom to watch a recent TV interview offering a summary of this post.

Last year we finally got summer right.

We always spend most of July doing family trips and family reunions but before last year, June and August had typically ended up being either boring or stressful.

One year we tried just lounging at the pool and doing whatever came up. After a week or so, we were all pretty bored and frustrated and started scrambling for more playdates and day camps to join.  The next year,  I ran the kids around to a bunch of classes to keep them busy but I found all the classes to be mediocre at best and felt we were wasting our time and our money while stressing ourselves out with trying to get to certain places at certain times so much.  Then the following year, I actually conducted classes for the kids and all their friends. Doing our own tuition-based summer school with classes of 10-12 kids was SO fun but SO much work!

So last year, I decided NOT to take the kids to classes all over town and NOT to invite the whole neighborhood over for classes.  Instead, the kids and I came up with our own plan for the “Loosli Learning Adventures Camp” that lasted throughout June and the parts of July and August when we weren’t traveling.  Together, we brainstormed a list of things that would be good to do each day to keep our bodies and brains active and our house clean. Then we brainstormed a “bucket list” of fun activities we’d like to do together. We ended up with a good list of six “MUST-DO ACTIVITIES” that the kids agreed to complete individually each day (usually in the morning) and a list of ideas for exciting group activities (or “DAILY ADVENTURES”) that we’d chip away at (usually in the afternoon).

Following are some details on what we came up with:

“MUST-DO” DAILY ACTIVITIES:

Each  morning, we got up whenever we woke up (usually by around 7:30), had a leisurely breakfast that finished by around 8:30, and then did our individual activities for a couple hours until lunchtime (they did their stuff on their list and I got a couple hours of work done for Power of Moms – with a few interruptions here and there – but they became quite self-directed after the first few days). Here’s what we decided together would be on the kids’ required individual daily activities list:

  • READING: Read for 20 minutes (some read for longer – that’s fine!)
  • WRITING: Write a page in your journal (write about whatever you want, write a story, write about what happened yesterday, or pick a writing idea from a list of writing prompts we’ve got; younger children can work on learning to write letters)
  • PHYSICAL EXERCISE: Do a physical activity (can be individual or do it as a group – ride bikes or scooters, play tag, go for a walk, play at the playground, jump rope, shoot hoops)
  • PRACTICING: Work towards one of your summer goals by practicing a skill for 20 minutes (piano, basketball, guitar, typing – each child has their short list of skills they want to develop)
  • HOME: Do a job from the job list (we have a list of 5-10 minute household jobs that need to be completed each week – i.e. dust the living room, weed one flower bed, vacuum the stairs, wipe down the kids’ bathroom sink)
  • EXTRA: From the approved list of ideas we brainstormed together, pick an extra activity to do on your own or with siblings. Examples: work on Spanish (we’re loving the simple on-line free program Coffee Break Spanish – 15 minute lessons), do online reading or math games, play a board game with siblings, do extra reading or writing, paint or draw, etc.

The kids and I created simple charts that could be printed out for each week where they had checklist of what they needed to do each day and then on Saturday, they got paid $.25 for each thing they’d accomplished that week (so they could make $1.50/day for doing their 6 things or $7.50/week for doing the 6 things each day for the 5 week days).  They saved that money up for a big family activity at the end of June (we went to an amusement park and they needed to save $35 each to help pay their way on that).

** Check out our Summer Camp Kit for step-by-step instructions on all this as well as downloadable charts (like the one on the left), writing-prompts, goal-setting sheets, job lists, recommended learning website links, and tons more photos and ideas.

Here are the kids working on their reading point:
My daughter felt like writing a book report for her writing point one day:
The kids don’t always look THIS happy when they do their “home” point – but mostly, the home point has resulted in a pretty clean house through painless 5-10 minute tasks for each kid each day:
Here’s one of the kids’ favorite activities – we did a group bike ride a couple times a week that counted for their physical point and their practice point for those who had summer goals centered on increasing their mountain biking skills.

DAILY ADVENTURES:

One of our Power of Moms readers sent in a great idea for having specified days for different things. We used her idea to group our long “bucket list” of brainstormed activities into categories for fun family activities each day after the kids finished their “must-do’s”:

  • Make-it Monday (building projects with K’nex and legos or the wood we have in the backyard for the kids to use in building forts, craft projects, art projects, a visit to the library to learn about artists and inventors and engineering – art and building and invention are big things in our family)
  • Take a trip Tuesday (the park, a museum, a bike ride, a field trip to a historic place, a factory tour, a picnic, a friend’s house…We often invited other kids or other families along)
  • Wet Wednesday (swim/go to a spash pad/play in the sprinklers, often with friends and neighbors)
  • Thinking Thursday (research something from our “wondering list” – a list of things we’re wondering about. Last summer we had a great time finding out how to make yogurt, how cars are made, where baby carrots come from and how monster trucks work thanks to YouTube, Wikipedia and library trips)
  • Friend Friday (everyone can have a friend over – nice to do it all at once and protect our family time during most of the rest of the week.  Plus we always have Family Movie Night on Fridays)

    a “Take a Trip Tuesday” with friends – went to the “Spiral Jetty” in the Great Salt Lake

A “Thinking Thursday” activity – they wanted to know how bread was made so we went to a local bakery

a “Wet Wednesday” – simple sprinkler time

I love being my kids’ teacher.  I mean all moms are their kids’ teachers in many ways – but it’s great to do it in a little more formal way sometimes.  I so admire moms who home school.  While I don’t know if it would be the right thing for us longterm,  I feel like summer’s the perfect time set up a special sort of summer “home school” where I can teach my kids about things I really value and love while we really enjoy each other’s company.

my kids working on their “wondering list”

** To see beautiful photos and great details about how one mom implemented these ideas, click HERE.

** To see how the Loosli Learning Camp went last year, check out Saren’s blog HERE.

** To add your ideas and questions plus offer answers to other people’s questions, feel free to visit our Do-it-Yourself Summer Camp Facebook Page.

Product-SummerCampKitIf you’d like step-by-step instructions, printable charts, activity lists, photos, and more to help guide you through creating and implementing your own Learning Adventures Camp, click here to learn more about our “Do-it-Yourself Summer Camp Kit.(At just $15 it’s a steal!)

 

The author was recently interviewed on KSL’s Studio 5. Click below to watch and get an overview of what’s included in this post and the Summer Camp Kit.

studio 5 diy summer camp

And if you want to add extra academic emphasis and support to your family’s Learning Adventures Camp, check this out:

brain chase logo screenshotSupplement your Learning Adventures Camp with heightened academic emphasis and guidance with Brain Chase – an exciting  summer learning program offered by some of our good friends. It sets children up with excellent daily online reading, writing and math activities right on their level. And children’s regular completion of online learning activities earns them clues to a REAL treasure hunt involving a $10,000 prize they actually get to keep.

THE BRAIN CHASE CHALLENGE BEGINS JUNE 30th – and lasts for 6 weeks.

If you decide to participate in Brain Chase, use coupon code POWER20 to receive an exclusive 20% off.

Click on the image below to watch a quick video about why summer learning loss is such an important issue:

brain chase learning loss video

Click below for a fun “trailer” you can watch with your children to see if Brain Chase would be something they’d be excited about:

brain chase kids' trailer

If this program looks like something that would work well for your family, remember to use coupon code POWER20 when you make your purchase and you’ll receive a special Power of Moms discount of 20% off.

 

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Comments

  1. Heidi Mickelsen says

    Saren, you think of summer just like I do – a chance to get a lot of productive things done with the kids but also a great chance to relax and have spontaneous adventures. Thanks for sharing all your great ideas – I love trying new things every summer!

  2. says

    Thanks for the post! I may start using some of these ideas now, though I don’t have any school age children yet, I can use some of this now with my toddler.

  3. Emily @ remarkablehome says

    Great ideas! We did a bucket list last year and it helped to get us doing fun things but this year I’ve been thinking about how to encourage more reading and learning into our summer. I had thought of possibly having a weekly theme of study, for example a country the kids want to learn about or the civil war or whatever. I thought we could do activities and read books that would help us learn about that topic.
    One thing I definitely want to do is get my kids away from tv. How do you deal with screen time??
    Thanks for the ideas!

    • says

      Good question on screen time, Emily. The kids can each have 30 minutes of screen time each day once they’ve finished their “must-do’s.” But mostly, we’re ready for lunch and excited to move on to lunch and then our fun afternoon activities so many days, the kids don’t end up having any screen time and don’t even ask for it. Sometimes we have some family screen time together in the evening, watching a favorite movie or show together.

  4. ziff130 says

    I virtual school my kids so I’m trying to figure out something fun to do over the summer but I still want to work on things I don’t want them to forget with school. I think I like your set up. That’ll work. A little bit of reading and writing and we’re good. =o) Love the ideas! Thank you!

  5. says

    I love all these ideas and I’m excited to check out all the additional blog links! I do theme weeks over the summer where each week is a different theme. We then read books, do art projects, take field trips, bake, and learn all related to the theme. Weeks we’ve done: post office week, garden week, space week (pretty much do this one every year!), art week, ocean week, all about me week, animal week, fairytale week, and poetry/music week. I have some of my theme weeks up on my blog: http://www.talesofalibrarianmom.blogspot.com

  6. Kimberly Thomas says

    I love this blog!!! I am homeschooling my 4-yr-old (he’s so smart – so it’s easy for now! lol) and plan to home-school the rest as they come along… Thank you so much for sharing your summer ideas! I was home-schooled growing up and half of the time we ended up doing school through the summer just to give us something to do, but this is an AWESOME way for them to keep learning but not have to do actual technical school. I love it!! :)

  7. Nicolle Tafoya says

    Can you tell us more about how you use Raz-Kids? I looked at the website but it looks like it more for teachers to use in a classroom. There is about a $90 yearly fee. Is there a way to use this program at home? I really like the idea of it.

  8. shellbell78 says

    thank you so much for this Saren! Such great idea’s, that I am happily going to put together for my kiddo’s this summer! I love the idea of homeschooling, too, but know for now it isn’t a right fit for my family, so doing it during the summer is a fantastic idea. Thanks!

  9. Monique says

    This goes a little further than what I already do with my four children. I will be copying the better points of yours to add to mine. One thing we will be adding this year is trips to the community garden. Thank you so much.

  10. cara says

    I love this, it totally inspired me! My 2 kids are younger and I’m in my first trimester of my 3rd pregnancy – and so sick – This gave me the perfect amount of inspiration to keep structure and make sure we are keeping our mind and bodies active – thank you for taking your time to share with us!

  11. Mary says

    How did you deal with neighborhood friends? Would you let them participate in the things your family was doing or did you try to keep it just family time (except on Tuesday and Fridays)?

    • says

      We invited neighborhood friends to join us for our afternoon adventures quite a bit – but we made sure friends knew that our mornings were mostly booked as the kids worked on their “must-do’s.” We did have one neighbor who wanted to play so badly that he’d help my son complete his “home” point by helping with a household chore and helping him practice basketball. That was fine by me!

  12. says

    your kids are so beautiful!!

    we are currently doing this same type of thing! my husband just deployed, so i knew we were going to have to get some kind of schedule together for this summer. we live in the midwest and it’s HOT here, so it means that morning times are for outdoor activities(walks, play, zoo, etc.), afternoons for art, journals, reading, working on sight words for K & 1st grade computer(teaching the kindergartener, for computer time at school), trips to indoor facilities(science museum, library, etc). i’ve been keeping my own “journal” of our activities on my blog for the grandparents. :) the kids have really been loving the activities so far!

  13. Catherine says

    We did this very (similar) thing the past three years… & during the year for learning supplementation for my daughter in school & the curriculum for preschool at home. Our days are slightly different but same idea: Music Monday (music learning & appreciation), Tell-Tales Tuesday (literary activity), Who-What-When-Where-Why-How Wednesday (science & discovery – like your wonder list research day), Thankful Thursday (where we do intentional acts of service), & Fun Time Friday (adventures & outings w/ family & friends) I’ve also heard of & like the idea of “Friends-day Wednesday!” cuz it rhymes! :) hee hee.
    Anyway, we do a lot of the things on the daily list too – chores, reading, journaling. It’s nice to have a routine that the kids can come to expect… coupled w/ the excitement in the variety of activities/lessons! I like your summer version – simple & fun!! Thanks!

  14. says

    Ive done summer school at home every year and love it! Ijust finished putting together our folders and cirriculum. I live your ideas. All I need to plan now are our physical activites and weekly field trip.

  15. says

    Caren:
    For just $15 you can get all the print-outs you need to put together a fabulous program. The little thumbnail sized chart in this article is missing a few things – it’s just to give you the idea.

    Best of luck with your summer!

  16. says

    Adventures of Summer on a Budget
    As a mother, I understand a child’s desire to “go, go, go” and a mom’s desire to “save, save, save”. In our area, as in many others, there are so many summer activities offered but there are also so many ways to spend money that one can really end up in a battle of wills between fun and budget. Each of our children (ages 8 and 4) participate in one week of camp and take two weeks of swimming lessons. Other than that, I am very blessed to have two children who truly enjoy the simple things in life. Where our summers can get a little hazy (besides being in the sun) is remembering those simple activities. Halfway through last summer, we developed an ABC of Summer Fun list so when there are those cries of “what is there to do?”, we have a place to turn. I plan to sit down with my children and update it for this coming summer vacation and posting it on the fridge as a constant reminder of how lucky we are to have so many activity choices. My hope is that this tradition continues from year to year to help keep their love for the simple things alive. Here is last year’s list (found at: http://tipstermom.blogspot.com/2012/05/abcs-of-fun.html)

    Attend storytime
    Basement sports
    Coloring/crafts
    Dot Art
    Eat lunch at Daddy’s work
    Fun day at Grammi’s House
    Games
    Head to a park
    Indoor swimming
    Jump at monkey joes or pump it up
    Kiddie Pool
    Legos
    Make paintings
    Nature Center
    Open gym
    Playdoh
    Quiet time reading
    Ride Bikes
    Sprinkler park
    Train sets
    Ugly bug hunt
    Very long day at the beach
    Walks
    X out things on the scavenger hunt
    Yell outside
    Zoo

  17. mommy2redheads@gmail.com says

    I ordered the kit a couple of days ago and haven’t been contacted by you. Will I get the kit in the mail, or is it downloadable?

    • says

      The kit is all online and you should have instantly received instructions for accessing your materials. Perhaps your instructions inadvertently went to your spam folder? I’ll email you with the instructions and you’ll be all set.

  18. says

    Love it, love it, love it! We do something very similar, but it’s not quite so well articulated. Each child has certain expectations for schoolwork and chores – and then the rest of the day is to be spent engaging in something outside. I love your approach and just might have to print your charts if I run into some resistance over the next few weeks.

  19. Maria Zachariou says

    This is wonderful! It is so cool that activities can be customized. Thank you for sharing. I definitely will be trying this.

  20. Dionalyn says

    Wow, what great ideas. I am goint to try this out with my two daughters this summer. Thanks so much for sharing your family time.

  21. says

    Great way to spend the summer! So many factors go into making an educational decision for your kids. We really enjoy homeschooling (we’re just finishing up our fourth year), but this is a great alternative for Summer since I don’t want to “fully school” all Summer long. This mommy needs a little break. ;) Fun ideas. Thanks!

  22. says

    Love all the ideas. As a former kindergarten teacher (SAHW, but not yet a mom) I did myself craving a schedule of fun leaning activities. I can’t wait to implement something similar to this in our family routine when the time comes.

    On another note, how lucky is your daughter to have FOUR brothers! I’m the only girl in a family of 5 boys and it was the absolute BEST way to grow up! I hope she realizes how special it is to have them!

  23. Erin says

    I love all these ideas as well, but can I ask one quick question? When do you allow kids to just sit with their boredom, uncomfortably, and come up with their own ideas of what to do? There is tremendous value in boredom. It forces them to get creative. I’m afraid that having a list to consult whenever they get bored will prevent that natural spontaneous creativity. Am I off base here?

    • says

      Great point! We have some structured activities each day, but with maybe 2 hours devoted to their “must-do’s” and maybe another 2 devoted to a fun family activity in the afternoon, there’s still plenty of time in the day for “boredom”! My kids have become really good at figuring out great activities that come right out of their own imagination and ingenuity. It is so important for kids to have unstructured and not overly-supervised time every day.

  24. Irina says

    Love the ideas that are presented here, but wondering how I can implement effectively with my own children children ages 4, 6, 8 and daycare children ages 1-5 (noticed yours are a little older.) Any suggestions?

    • says

      I really nedeed this today! Thank you! Today has been one of those days that I just don’t think that I measure up to all the expectations of what it is to be a stay at home mom. My three beautiful children are the light in my world and yet I feel like I’m failing because I don’t have enough time to do it all. And I miss my Mom! She lives so far away and it’s so rare that I get to feel one of her embraces or snuggle into her crook when I need to. I get to be that for my children but there are days like today that I just want to snuggle next to my Mom and feel her love for me. Even as an adult and a mother, I still want my Mom especially on a day like today.

      • April Perry says

        Lilly, I can definitely empathize. I want my mom all the time, it seems. I’m not sure if there’s ever a point where I’ll feel “adult” enough not to need her so much. But how fortunate we are to get to have children who need US. Thanks for visiting Power of Moms and leaving such a beautiful comment!

  25. says

    When our kids were ages 2-7, we started doing most of the ideas included in this post. Younger kids do great with the simple charts and short list of things they need to do each day but just need a little more hand-holding. When my children were younger, I found it worked best for everyone to do reading together, then everyone to do writing (or drawing or art or handwriting practice for younger kids), then everyone to do their physical point together, etc. As they got older, they could do things on their own timeline but just had to accomplish all their must-do’s before lunchtime. And younger children really enjoy the theme afternoons (make-it-Monday, Take-a-Trip Tuesday, etc.). In some cases older children can help younger children with some things and that’s great for both parties when it’s set up right. Best of luck to you this summer!

  26. Karena says

    Thank you, Irina and Saren, I was just going to ask the same thing – mine are 4 months, 3 and 5 years. Some days are still survival, but I like to do activities when we can. We need our afternoon nap/quiet time. Saren – how did you handle your schedule when you had babies as well as school age kids?

    • Saren says

      Karena – great question.

      When you still have babies and toddlers who need naps, it works well to do activities like “Make-it Monday” and “Thinking Thursday” with your older children while the little ones nap. Then for field trips and other activities where everyone needs to be involved, you can plan around naps and go when the little ones can be awake and happy. Or you can get a babysitter to listen for the little ones while you take the older ones out during nap time. When I had morning nappers, I had my older children do their “must-do’s” while the the little ones slept – worked out great.

      – Saren

  27. Li_Lo_Just says

    Hello
    What a spendid idea! I wish my kids were still kids, I doubt that I can make them interested in a plan like yours now at age 18, 21 and 25. Sadly. But some day they will give me grandchildren to do summercamps wiht, and then I´ll remeber this. Thanks.

  28. says

    Hi Saren, I just saw your post on Pinterest. Love it! We’ve done something similar here in Minnesota for the past few summers and I wrote a book about it. Would you be willing to review it on your blog? I’d be happy to send it. Have a great summer 2013.

  29. camille says

    Love Your ideas!!!
    I would definately implement them this summer if my husband`s definition of summer wasn`t “having no plans.. Blah! Your kids are Lucky to have you as their mother!

  30. says

    I love this idea! I was already pushing some of these ideas around in my head, I’m so glad to have more – and to hear how you do it.
    Thanks!
    Lindsay

  31. Holly Humphries says

    Thank you soooo much for this!! I recently became a nanny, and it is total chaos. I desperately needed something to fill the summer and help keep everything in order. This is so great!

  32. Sabrina A. Douglas says

    Great ideas for my Grandma’s Summer/Boot Camp! We’re a little behind in ‘planning’ as they have been out for 2 weeks. However, Camp has been in full effect…swimming (100+ in AZ), Father’s Day Cards for Dad & Grandpas, sorting handouts for Grandma for Susan G. Komen (COA), Vacation Bible School (free with dinner for 5 nights…Woo hoo!!!). My plan is to sit this week to make a colorful calendar/list. My grands are making a list of 5 things today, while Grandma is recovering from the last 2 weeks…I’m a 2 time SURVIVOR, so my energy runs low at time or I’m in pain. I have 5 grands locally and 1 in NYC. They know both breast cancer/prevention/cure and that I might need to rest. My oldest taught me YOLO, I have Veteran benefits, and my son & daughter-in-love just moved into a huge new home…trifecta for me to live the dream…Spend the Summer with those I love so!!!

  33. says

    What a wonderful, thoughtful, and thorough post! There is SO much GOLDEN advice and you have taken the work out of coming up with daily activities. I can see this being a HUGE hit in the work from home arena since summer really makes everyone think out of the box. I hope you don’t mind I shared your link on my facebook page for small business owners.

    Thank you!

    • says

      Thanks for sharing the link, Kelly. I agree, these ideas work very well for moms who need to get some work done during their summer while their kids are happy engaged in doing their own productive activities. I’m in that boat and it works great for us!

  34. says

    I loved reading through this post and listening to your podcast on summer plans. I have planned out my summers for the last few years and have worked out some systems that work really well for our family. Last year we did a monthly children’s book group with friends and neighbors that was fun, encouraged a lot of families to read, and brought us together to talk about books and share. Below is the post I wrote to share what books we read and our schedule.

    http://lemonverbenablog.blogspot.com/2013/06/summer-read-aloud-book-group.html

    This year I’m trying to get a head start on my summer plans. I’m sharing 6 steps to prepare for an awesome summer on my blog over the next few weeks. I have linked to the first post below.

    http://lemonverbenablog.blogspot.com/2014/05/6-steps-to-awesome-summer-schedule.html

    Thanks so much for all of your ideas. I love to hear what other moms are doing, such great inspiration for things to try with my own kids.

  35. Jessica says

    I bought the summer kit and I emailed you guys and i haven’t heard back from you. Please email me back about the questions I had. I can not get the printables to print out in a full 8 by 10 piece of paper. It prints out smaller and I can’t read some of them. Please answer my emails. Thank you

  36. Jessica says

    I can’t read the “home point activities printable. Could you let me know how to zoom in and still be able to read it?

  37. Koni Smith says

    Jessica,

    I have tried to email you several times, but keep getting the emails returned to me saying that your address doesn’t exist. Very strange! I am sorry about that!

    I think that you are clicking on the picture of what the form looks like and that just takes them to a larger picture of that form rather than to the PDF itself (which is to the right of the picture of the form and highlighted in blue with a link). Does that make sense?

    Please let me know if that doesn’t work.

Trackbacks

  1. […] with my two boys, William and Levi. Right now, with a little help from the Power of Moms’ “Do-It-Yourself Summer Camp” guide, I am in the midst of planning a month full of fun activities for us to do, which I’m […]

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