Monday, May 16, 2011

Summer camp at home: the 10 weeks of summer plan

It's hard to believe there are only a few weeks left of preschool for my oldest boy and that summer break is starting. It doesn't seem like that long ago, it was spring break, and all the ads and buzz about summer camps were pushing themselves into parents' awareness. ("Hey! Wake up! Get your kid into our camp now for the most awesome summer, or you will be stuck with him for three miserable months!")

Most camps are for older kids, not preschoolers, and cost more than I want to spend. Besides, my oldest is going into his last year of preschool this fall, and he will be gone every day of the week (not just three days a week like now) I feel this summer will be my last chance to have both my kids together for a significant amount of time until ... well, until next summer. So I told myself we'd have "camp" at home and have our own "most awesome summer," thankyouverymuchsummercamppeople.

(And then I stumbled across a super-cheap day camp at a church nearby and signed up my preschooler for two weeks. I'm still going to do camp with my little one and friends, though.)

My guy will have 10 (or maybe nine?) weeks of summer break, I realized when I looked at the calendar. So I started brainstorming, making lists and poking around the Internet, and I developed a 10-week summer camp at home for my boys. Some of our friends are going to join us, too, which I think will make it more fun.

Here's a preview of our 10 weeks of summer, in case you'd like to have some fun with us, too -- virtually. You can use this as a jumping-off point for your own ideas, or just a few weeks here and there, or however you want to use it. I start each week on a Monday and give each week a theme. I will post more details of each week the week before, so you can get organized for the week ahead.

Summer camp at home: 10 weeks of summer

June 13: Antarctica. Use this site for penguin activity ideas. Visit local animal park to see penguins (and other animals). Make a paper plate penguin mask and/or walrus mask. Top off week by taking kids to see Mr. Popper’s Penguins movie on Friday, June 17. We have been reading the Mr. Popper's Penguins book a chapter a day; we'll read the additional penguin books we already have.

June 20: Camping. This will lead up to Great American Backyard Campout on Saturday, June 25, when families will be pitching tents in their backyards or local parks. Make a cardboard teepee. Take an ABC walk, make crayon rubbings of leaves, color pictures of wildlife, make toilet paper tube "binoculars," etc. (Read Curious George Goes Camping; When We Go Camping; S Is For Smores)

June 27: Space. The last space shuttle ever is launching on Tuesday, June 28, in the afternoon. We plan to go to Kennedy Space Center this day (about three hours away). We might not see the launch, but if we don't it will be timely anyway. If you don't live near a space center, you can watch the launch on TV and/or visit a science museum. We can dress up like astronauts, learn about the planets in our solar system, build a solar system model, build a cardboard rocket ship, visit a planetarium, etc. (Read The Best Book of Spaceships; The Space Shuttle; Living On A Space Shuttle; The Complete Book of Our Solar System; First Space Encyclopedia)

July 4: America, the Beautiful. Maps of America and our state -- start learning how to read a map. Make flags. Sing patriotic songs. Do a fireworks craft. Maybe make some day trips around our state to our favorite places. Rent “An American Tail,” “This is America, Charlie Brown” or “All Aboard America.” (Read A Is For America; America: A Patriotic Primer; America Is; The Scrambled States of America; America the Beautiful; Good Night America)

July 11: World Traveler. Each day, we'll focus on a different country and have a passport stamped each day and a little cardboard suitcase that we'll make covered in stickers featuring different locations. We can pretend to take a trip by airplane, train and cruise ship, make simple paper costume props, listen to foreign music, do coloring pages, etc. Maybe have an “It’s a Small World” party. (Read Country by Country Guide: Our World; A World of Wonders; Travels of the Zephyr)

July 18: Out on the Ranch. We'll try to visit a farm. Dress up like cowboys. Pretend a water park is an ol’ watering hole. Go to the local children's art musuem. Make and ride hobby horses. (Read Charlie the Ranch Dog; The Cow Loves Cookies; Good Night Cowboy; Cowboy Small)

July 25: Car Racing. We'll try to visit a local speeday. Have a racing playdate. Dress up as race car drivers. Go see Cars 2. Have kids draw pictures of cars. Make a racing flag. Make a cardboard car. (Read R Is For Race; World’s Fastest Cars; Hot Rod Hamster; Little Racing Car)

August 1: Train Depot. Visit local hobby store that has fun train layouts. Visit local railway museum. Do the Thomas & Friends magazine “really useful engine” checklist through the week (where kids try to accomplish a helpful goal each day). Have a train party at our house. Ride the local commuter train with friends. (Read Shark Vs. Train; The Goodnight Train; honestly, we already have lots of train books)

August 8: Treasure Sailors (aka pirates that don’t pillage). X marks the spot, and we need to find the treasure. I'll plan a treasure hunt from place to place where the kids will find new treasure maps at each stop. That will lead us to the beach, where they will discover cute little cardboard treasure chests with coins or other treasure. Do a message in a bottle. Visit a marina and take a ride on a real boat. Make a cardboard ship. Dress up like a pirate/sailor/treasure hunter. (Read Shiver Me Letters; Do Pirates Take Baths?; The Great Pirate Activity Book; Pirate’s Activity Book; On A Pirate Ship; Pirates Don’t Change Diapers; Minton Goes Sailing; Hugo the Lifesaving Sailor)

August 15: Wildlife Rescuers. Some schools start this week. We can learn about our favorite wildlife. Visit our local wildlife rehabilitation place, which has a visitor center. Watch wildlife DVDs. (Read Rescue! Bindi Wildlife Adventures; The Animal Rescue Club; Baby Owl’s Rescue; Dolphins on the Sand; How To Heal A Broken Wing; Diego books)

In addition to the themed activities, I plan on working with my preschooler on his handwriting and other preschool skills. You can get skills workbooks at bookstores and even dollar stores.

Also, at the beginning of the summer, the kids will make a paper bag album. Each week, I'll let them pick their favorite photo of what we did, and they can paste the print into their albums. Then by the end of the summer, they will have a book they made about what they did all summer.

This is going to be a fun summer, and those 10 weeks are going to fly by!