Create Your Own Camp

If you spend time with kids this time of year, you cannot help but sense their heightened excitement as summer draws ever closer. Though summer vacation can be thrilling for students (and so necessary for school staff members!), it can leave parents feeling more anxiety than elation. Your mind might be swirling with questions. What are my kids going to do all summer? Can we afford the activities they want to do? Will our schedule allow for multiple camps and vacation? Can I ensure that my children will spend more time playing outdoors and using their imagination rather than sitting in front of a screen?

Fortunately, we live in an age with a plethora of activities to choose from to occupy our kids' time during summer vacation. However, if the cost, time, or commitment isn’t an option, we are equally fortunate to have parents and leaders in our community that can inspire us to create our own fun, educational opportunities for our kids!

Becky Moyes, a former Elementary School teacher (Kindergarten, 1st Grade, and Music) and current teacher at Musikgarten Studio, uses her background in creating educational lessons to enliven and enrich her children’s time at home. The bonus is that Becky's ideas can go beyond this one season! If you have little ones, this is a great tactic to use throughout the year, giving your kids a jumpstart and passion for learning before school. According to Becky, “Teaching Kindergarten was my passion. I loved the joy my students found in learning and hands-on experiences.... When I decided to stay home with my own children, I knew I wanted to incorporate this joyful learning into our day-to-day experiences. I wanted to teach them to love books and to love asking questions and looking for answers.”

With years of experience teaching and parenting, Becky shared some of the ways she incorporates learning into her household. “I would choose a theme for the week based on the season, holiday, or a science topic we may be interested in. After I chose the topic, I then tried to choose a hands-on activity every day that would be fun for my children to do! We also love to incorporate the theme into our outside play as well. The activities always center around play or hands-on learning and should be fun! I always choose several books on the topic to read throughout the week." Some of the themes Becky has used are: Seasons, Transportation, Space, Farm, Rocks, Ocean (a great one for the summer season!), Dinosaurs, Weather, Letter Themes (ex. S is for Space and Stars), and Author Studies. Finding a subject that your child is interested in and building upon that enthusiasm is a great start!

If your child is obsessed with dinosaurs, why not draw them, look for dinosaur shaped clouds, read a dinosaur book, dig in the earth like a paleontologist, and end the week watching “Land Before Time”? Becky also shared examples for “Weather” Activities:

                        -Make clouds in a jar with water, shaving cream, and food coloring  

                        -Experiment with light to better understand rainbows

                        -Make a water cycle out of a Ziploc bag

                        -Do a project centered around dressing for the weather

                        -Splash in puddles if there is a rainy day

This easy guidance for your child’s week can be so simple and yet have such significant results! Without even realizing it, your children will be learning, discovering, and imagining all on their own! Becky explained, “We have done our planning around early childhood themes, but this format could easily be used for older children to beat the summer boredom and find interesting books to read and topics to learn about!”

The Billings Public Library is a great, FREE resource that parents could utilize to assist with building their themed weeks. Maybe take a trip to the Zoo or a museum for a little self-made “field trip”?  Whatever you decide, the objective is to feel empowered knowing that no matter what, you can take charge of your child’s learning this summer- with or without a camp! Creating your own is just one more option for you as you begin your seasonal planning!

about the author...Katie Jones Backer is a former History teacher with a passion for travel, history, writing, music, and helping others. She is happiest though when spending time with her husband, daughter, and two adorable Pomeranians!

Originally printed in the pages of Simply Family Magazine’s April 2018 issue.

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Photos courtesy of Becky Moyes