Camp Gigi, Part 2
Last summer I hosted Camp Gigi, a one-week summer “camp” for my grandchildren, with the simple goal of creating strong memories for them with me and with each other. I was very excited to do this but will admit that, even as a retired teacher, it seemed a bit daunting to plan a full week of activities. Although I spend a lot of time with my grandchildren so I feel I know what they like to do, there are so many things to think about: age appropriateness, attention span, engagement, fun, amount of structure, etc. So, I did some research!
There are many resources available to get ideas for fun activities—I used lots of them. There actually are books written about Grandparent Camps...who knew?! Two good ones that I referred to were: Camp Granny by Sharon Lovejoy, and Camp Grandma by Marianne Waggoner Day.
I also checked out many websites, but I found Busy Toddler to be the absolute best for finding ideas and themes. I used it almost exclusively to put together Camp Gigi as it is very user-friendly, with easy activities that are age appropriate for my grands. I encourage you to check it out if you are looking for ideas for activities with toddlers—it’s a gold mine!
My research turned up three basic principles that I recommend you use to guide your planning:
- Set up a daily schedule to keep you on track—but don’t be so tied to it that you force activities or time spent on things
- Plan engaging, age-appropriate activities based on their interests
- Provide a structure that is comfortable but allows an understanding of expectations
With those basic ideas in mind I went to work. First up was to put together the daily schedule of activities. I decided to give each day a theme—Nature Day, Water Day, Field Trip, Art Day, and ABC Day—that I used to help select our activities, book choices, and more. Since my two campers were both aged 3, our schedule set aside the mornings to do our fun, theme-related activities and afternoons were for quiet time/free play/outdoor time.
Once I had the sets of activities decided, I gathered all of the materials I needed for each activity and organized them by putting together a bin for each day. I also prepared journals for each grand to “document” their week. With toddlers on hand, it’s important to be organized for your day and have all of your materials ready to go. It will make for a more relaxed time for sure!
We started each day with a read-aloud of a book connected to the theme of the day. Some of our books were:
Nature Day: Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature, by Nicola Davies, and I Took a Walk, by Henry Cole
Water Day: Water, by Frank Asch
Art Day: The Dot, by Peter H. Reynolds
ABC Day: Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault
(Note: I've included links to various online sources for the books in this post so that you can quickly learn more about each book, but most of the books should also be available at your local library or bookseller.)
After reading, we then drew in our journals and talked about what our day would be like, sometimes making predictions of how the day would go! The journals are a great way for the kids to show their parents what they enjoyed, and for them to remember what their camp week was like. I wrote in their journals as well, documenting their comments and our activities.
We spent our mornings doing our planned activities, and the afternoons were more open-ended. And when necessary, we changed things up as needed. And of course, there was time built-in for snacks and lunch—very important not just for campers, but for camp leaders too!
Those are the big points of how you could put together your own camp for your grandchildren. It doesn’t need to be a full week, you could make it a day camp or an overnight camp—make it whatever you are comfortable with as well as what you think would fit your grandchildren’s needs, personalities, interests, and abilities. No camp counselor knows your grands like you do!
What kind of memories/traditions have you created with your grandchildren? If a grandparent camp is something that interests you, what else would you like to learn about my experience? If you have put a camp together for your grandchildren, we would love to hear from you about your experience!
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