How to run a homemade summer camp

Hi all!  If you’re anything like me, you’ve been sitting inside the last three months with your child, trying to find something for them to do.  Thankfully, after endless worksheets and bad videoconferences with teachers, summer has come and with it, summer camp.

Except that all of the summer camps here were cancelled.  Of course.  However, me and some friends have put together our own summer camp for our kids, and it seems to be working pretty well.  Here’s how it works:

  1. Find some families who have been social distancing to your liking.  These families will be your fellow campers.
  2. Every week, a parent from one of the families will be the camp “counselor” and have camp at their house.  They can do whatever they want to keep the kids comfortable, provided that it meets whatever criteria everybody sets ahead of time.  More about that later.
  3. Everybody pays to run their own week of camp – the other weeks are free.  If you want to do expensive things, that’s A-OK, as long as you’ll be paying out of pocket for them.

That’s it!  Of course, every “that’s it” has a “except…” after it.  Here are the things that I’ve learned in the week that we’ve had the camp (I was the first counselor):

  • It’s best to have everybody bring their own lunch.  Though I’m pretty strict about having my son eat whatever is provided for him, other parents tend to want their kids to have special meals.  If kids bring their own, this keeps lunch from being an issue.
  • It’s important to determine the rules for “field trips.”  Do we wear masks at parks?  Are we allowed to even go to parks or stores?  Drive or walk?  It doesn’t really matter what specific rules you set, provided that everybody agrees ahead of time.
  • What do you do if a kid acts up?  I didn’t have this problem, but one of the families in our group has a kid who is notorious for having huge outbursts.  I made it very clear that if this happened, I was kicking the kid out and sending him home.
  • What if the rules in somebody else’s house are different than yours?  Really, this shouldn’t be too much of an issue.  I don’t do things the same way as the other families, but we have basically the same way of doing things.  If you’re really that far away from the other families, it may be best to find new campmates.

Overall, the benefits of camp has been good.  I’ve hung out a lot with my friends (I have a kiddie pool the kids use at the end of the day).  I’ve had some days to myself.  The amount of money I spent during my week of camp, while large (~$250) was still less than a week of camp, plus I don’t have to pay anything for the next four weeks.  Pretty good, I’d say.

Activities for the camp can be just about anything.  Here are some of the activities that I did, plus some that I know other parents are planning:

  • Build birdfeeders and make them squirrel-proof.  Mark Rober has a good video about this on his YouTube that I’m too lazy to look up.
  • Build and launch model rockets.
  • Croquet
  • Build birdhouses
  • Play Magic: The Gathering
  • Design your own board games
  • Go for a hike
  • Visit a park and play frisbee

You get the idea.  If you can think of it, it’s probably fine.

If you have questions about how to do this, feel free to hit me with an email at

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