How to Create a DIY At-Home Summer Camp (+ Free Printables)

Summer camps provide great opportunities for children to get outside, explore their surroundings, and learn how to survive in the wild — or just have fun and socialize. There are plenty of options for day and sleepaway camps in many different parts of the country. 

However, some of these camps can be cost-prohibitive. Prices range from $100 to $500 per week, with the average cost being $314 per week. Luckily, there are alternative options for more accessible summer camps, and even ways to create your own DIY summer camp right in your own backyard! 

This year in particular, as the COVID-19 pandemic closes businesses around the country and puts strict limits on social gatherings, many summer camps will also be closed for business. But the good news is classic camp activities like stargazing, outdoor games and campfires can be relocated to your home.

At-home summer camps can provide kids with fun, educational, and physical activities to help them have a productive and enjoyable summer. And what’s more, parents can tailor these camps to be within their budget.

Explore fun camp themes and learn how to make a DIY summer camp below. Don’t forget to check out our free printables to help make your at-home camp a success! 

Pick a Theme

One of the many benefits of moving your camp to your home is that you can tailor it to your child’s interests — whatever they may be! We’ve rounded up a few popular camp themes below. 

Traditional

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There’s definitely something to be said for the classic summer camp. For many years, children have traveled to lakes, mountains, and forests for these fun experiences in the great outdoors. Use these printables to recreate a natural setting in your very own home.

Create a Welcome Sign

Say hello to your campers with a fun, printable welcome sign — print and hang on a wall, or mount to a wooden stake in the yard for true authenticity. 

Download the Coloring Page Activity

Invoke the spirit of traditional camping snacks with a printable coloring page featuring some of the classic camp foods. 

Other Activity Ideas

Summer camps have provided fun for kids for decades! Some other fun traditional activities are: 

  • Obstacle course
  • Hide-and-seek
  • Three-legged race
  • Duck, duck goose

A Pirate’s Life

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Pirate-themed camps are a fun way to get kids to use their imaginations and are relatively easy to pull off. Use these seafaring printables as a starting point to recreate the seven seas in your living room. 

Create a Welcome Sign

Set the tone for your camp by hanging up a printable welcome sign! Simply tape it to the wall, or poke holes in the corners with scissors and use twine to hang it up for a more authentic, rustic look. 

Download the Pirate Maze Activity

Kids can help the pirate get to his treasure by navigating their way through this printable maze! Use a printable activity on a rainy day, or make it fun by rewarding kids with their own “treasure” once they’re done!

Other Activity Ideas

There are plenty of adventures to be had on the Seven Seas. Consider some of these other games and activities: 

  • Foam sword fight
  • Hunt for hidden treasure
  • Water balloon fight
  • Walk the plank pirate fashion show

Once Upon a Time

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The classic story of a fair princess and brave knight is a favorite among children, and has been recreated in many movies, books, and songs. Use these printables to turn your house into a magical kingdom that will spark your little one’s imagination. 

Create a Welcome Sign

It’s important to establish your camp’s whimsical kingdom setting with a fun welcome sign. Print it on a piece of colorful paper for a more fun, magical look. 

Download the Fill-in-the-Blank Activity

Fairy tales have the power to transmit kids to magical new worlds! Have your kids fill in the blanks to create their own fairy tale. 

Other Activity Ideas

The “Once Upon a Time” theme is a great time to get creative with games and activities — and let kids use their imagination! Some additional games and activities to consider: 

  • Royal relay race
  • Princess pinata
  • Dragon’s egg hunt
  • Princess and knights dress up

Animal Kingdom

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Kids who love the outdoors will enjoy this fun camp theme devoted to animals! Summon the feeling of a zoo, jungle, or safari with these animal and nature-themed printables. 

 Create a Welcome Sign

Greet your adventurous campers with a jungle-themed welcome sign. Hang it from the ceiling or print on beige paper to make it look like a map! 

Download the Backyard Scavenger Hunt Activity

Print out scavenger hunt cards for each kid. Provide each child with a plastic baggy and this list of objects commonly found in a backyard. Give them 10 minutes to explore, then have them turn in their bags and tally up the points! If children are older and have more advanced math skills, have them tally up their own points.

Other Activity Ideas

There are many animal-themed games to play, or ways to make traditional games more on theme! Additional Animal Kingdom-themed activities to consider:

  • Tug of war
  • Tag
  • Pin the tail on the donkey
  • Animal charades

Determine Your Budget

With DIY decor and games, there are many ways to reduce spending while creating a fun experience for kids. Decide how much you want to to spend on the summer camp experience before getting started!

Keep Track of Summer Camp Spending

One of the great things about a DIY Summer Camp is that you can cut the costs of traveling and lodging that are associated with a traditional one. Set a budget ahead of time and use this printable to track your spend.

There are endless possibilities for your at-home summer camp. Feel free to experiment with decor, games and foods to create a fun, budget-friendly experience that your children will love. 

Brainstorm At-Home Activities 

Having fun doesn’t require expensive games or trips out of the house — there are tons of activities that can be done at home! Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Collect rocks and paint them
  • Go on a sunrise walk around the neighborhood
  • Sing campfire songs
  • Read books aloud to each other
  • Play hide and seek
  • Decorate jars and plant a succulent inside
  • Have a water balloon toss
  • Perform a puppet show
  • Make drums from cardboard boxes and spoons
  • Build a fort in the living room

You can also download our printable budget tracker to help keep track of costs.

Create Structure for Your Kids

A summer camp’s rigid schedule can help you create structure for your kids and yourself by planning camp activities hour by hour. This way, you can also plan quiet time for yourself while helping your children settle into the normalcy of a routine for the duration of at-home camp. 

Plus, an itinerary like the one we’ve included in the download link below will help you stay organized while hosting. 

There is no standard for a DIY summer camp. You’re in control of the theme, budget and activities, all of which can be tailored to your needs and interests. Have fun and get creative in your planning! True summer camp spirit is simply togetherness, exploration and activity. 

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