Summer Camp Fun at Home
Summer Camp Fun at Home

Summer Camp Fun at Home

Here at KEEN, we’re BIG fans of summer camp. And the great thing is ... outside is right out the door, and there are lots of ways to have some enriching summer fun at home, too. We brainstormed a week of outdoor activities to bring that summer camp feel to your own backyard.

To make prepping, set-up, and clean-up easier on everyone, you can divvy up the activities between a few households and rotate which house is “hosting” camp throughout the week. Most of these crafts are best suited for elementary school kids, but littler ones can still get in on the fun.

Let’s get started:

1. At-Home Obstacle Course

What you’ll need:
- An outdoor space (sidewalk, driveway, or front yard works!)
- Stuff to make “obstacles,” such as: buckets, cardboard box, sidewalk chalk, ladder, planter pots, hula hoops, etc.

Kick off the week with an at-home obstacle course. It’s a great way to get your kids up and moving and to get the creativity flowing for you and for them. You can make an obstacle course out of anything you have around the house. The terra cotta pots you set aside for repotting? Set them up into a zig-zag course. That cardboard box that hasn’t made its way to the recycling? It’s the perfect tunnel for them to hurtle through as they race for the finish line. Use your imagination: lay a ladder on the ground for agility runs, have kids dive through a hula hoop, or set up a running sprinkler for them to dodge. Think of how you can incorporate hopping, crawling, balancing, sliding, or zig-zagging motions into the course. (And of course, for this activity, a good pair of play shoes is a must!)


2. Natural Tie-Dyeing with Food-Based Dyes

What you’ll need:
- A white cotton t-shirt or other garment
- Rubber bands
- White vinegar
- Foods with dying properties like turmeric, beets, spinach, and red onion
- Bowls for dipping
- Pots for boiling
- Rubber gloves

Tie-dying is to summer camp as granola bars are to snack-time: essential. There’s no need to run to the craft store for dye; you probably have everything you need right in your kitchen. You can make natural dyes from common produce and spices. Turmeric isn’t just for curry and tea. It brings a bright yellow tint to fabrics. This is also a good time to check the vegetable drawer for wilting beets or old red onions; they create vibrant red or pink dyes. For green dye, try spinach. Teach kids about the plant pigments that create these colors and how they’re full of the antioxidants that help keep us healthy (this is a fun way to work in the idea of “eating the rainbow”).

For this activity, you may want to prep the dyes (by boiling veggies with water and vinegar) the night before, so when it’s time to tie-dye, the kids can dive right in.

3. Found-Object Mobiles

What you’ll need:
- Foraged rocks, shells, twigs, etc.
- String
- A large stick (for the top)

This activity encourages kids to appreciate the art supplies that nature has to offer. Have kids gather small natural objects from the yard or the park: think interesting rocks, leaves, flowers, twigs, or shells, plus a good-sized, straight stick. Bring them home, and give them a cleaning if necessary. Then kids can tie them together with string along the large main stick, making a mobile to decorate their room or the front porch. They can also keep adding to it as they find new pieces. The best part? Your kids will start to find inspiration everywhere.


4. “Pop” Art

What you’ll need:
- Any kind of paper (printer paper, tissue paper, clean coffee filters, etc.)
- Dish soap
- Water
- Ink, watercolor paint, or food coloring
- Scissors
- Empty water bottles

Here’s an opportunity to make pop art. We don’t mean Andy Warhol — we’re talking about bubbles! This project involves using bubbles to create beautiful bursts of color on paper.

To make the colored bubble mixture, combine water, dish soap, and pigment into a shallow dish (make a few in different colors). Lay the paper on a table, then let your kids blow bubbles over them. Let the colorful bubbles fall and pop, leaving behind a splash of color. (You can use bubble wands, or make bubble-blowing tools out of used plastic bottles by cutting off the base, then dipping them in the bubble mixture). When the color has dried, pin your art to the fridge or save the decorative paper to make another craft with later!

5. Flower Dyeing

What you’ll need:
- A few light-colored flowers
- Food coloring
- Water
- Cups

Don’t put that food coloring away just yet! You can use it to show kids exactly how flowers intake water and use it to grow. Find some white or light-colored flowers (like a daisy, a daffodil, or a light-pink tulip). Cut the stem on the diagonal, then place it in a glass filled with water and food coloring. Do a few cups with different colors, and the darker the dye, the better. While the flower is absorbing water, grab a fresh glass for you and your kids (because we can all use a little extra hydration in the summer).

After about an hour, you’ll start to notice some color changes in the petals. It can take up to a day or two before you see the full effect of the color transformation. You can explain how plants draw water from their roots and then transport it all throughout their bodies, and how people also have a circulatory system that transports water through our bodies (but we have to drink water through our mouth first).

6. Nature Masks

What you’ll need:
- Cardboard
- Stick
- Leaves, flowers, nuts, seeds, feathers, etc.
- Glue and tape

Playing dress-up is a fun way to activate a kid’s imagination. Using those same foraging skills they gained earlier in the week, your kids will find everything they need to decorate their masks in the grass and under trees: flowers, twigs, leaves, small rocks, etc. Try turning this into a scavenger hunt to encourage them to look for leaves of different colors or objects that have unique shapes. Once they bring back their findings, the craft can begin.

Cut the base shape of a mask out of cardboard, then have kids glue on their natural treasures to create textures and designs on the mask (it’s kind of like that craft where kids make a mosaic with beans or corn kernels). After it’s all dry, affix a stick so kids can hold the mask up to their face, masquerade-style.

7. Effervescent Antacid Tablet Rockets

What you’ll need:
- Index card
- Empty film canister with snap-on lid
- Markers, crayons, or colored pencils
- Tape
- Scissors
- Effervescent antacid tablets
- Water

We’re wrapping up our week of summer fun with a bang. With effervescent antacid tablet rockets, kids not only learn about the science of chemical reactions, they get excited to see whose rocket will fly the highest.

The first step is for kids to design their rocket. Using a rolled-and-taped index card as the rocket’s outer shell, let your kids use markers and crayons to color the rocket they’ll be rooting for. Place the film canister inside the shell so the lid faces the ground when the rocket is upright. Once the rockets are assembled, you’re ready for liftoff.

Turn the rocket upside down and fill the canister 1/3 full with water. Drop in 1/2 of an antacid tablet and snap the lid on tight. Quickly place the rocket on the ground (film canister lid down) and stand back! As they mix, the fizzy reaction will make the rocket burst off the ground. The science behind the fizz: An antacid tablet contains citric acid and sodium bicarbonate (a.k.a baking soda). When dropped in water, they react, releasing a whole lot of carbon dioxide gas bubbles.

When at-home summer camp is finally over, kids will walk away with the knowledge that art is where you find it — and inspiration is everywhere. And, just in case a rainy day postpones your outside plans, we’ve got you covered. There are still ways to enjoy nature with your kids from the comfort of your living room. But until the weather forecast says otherwise, we’re planning our activities around a week of sunshine. Did you enjoy exploring nature and the outdoors in a new way with your kids? Tag @KEEN.Kids to show us your creations!

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