This summer, we decided to create a camp experience for our grandkids in our backyard. This camp is referred to by Cousin Camp because usually, you're intermingling cousins together. However, our daughter has our only grandchildren, so technically ours wasn't a “cousin camp,” but it was still a fun way to create sweet memories with our grandchildren.
My husband and I recorded this as a podcast and share much more information in our time together. I encourage you to listen to the episode below.
Listen to the Podcast Below or Subscribe on Your Favorite App:
Cousin Camp: A Grandparent's Guide to Creating Fun, Faith, and Memories that Last by Susan Alexander Yates
The Gospel Story Bible by Marty Machowski
Cousin's Camp Podcast @Family Life Today
Our camp was a five day, four-night literal camp at our home with our three grandchildren. The idea came about from a book by Susan Alexander Yates called Cousin Camp: A Grandparent's Guide to Creating Fun, Faith, and Memories that Last. It was a helpful resource, and there are many free resources online, but as a Christian grandmother, I appreciated the guidance in being intentional in our time with our grandkids.This summer, we decided to create a camp experience for our grandkids in our backyard. It was a fun way to create sweet memories with our grandchildren.
Please don't check out on this option if you're not a grandparent. This would be such a fun idea for parents or aunts and uncles to do at their homes. Moms, you can host a summer camp, at home, for your kids.
Before you start planning, determine the goal or vision for your future camp. Hold to this reminder: do not compare your camp experience with anyone else's. What I'm sharing in our experience worked with our lifestyle and home and schedule. It's not for everyone.
After we figured out the logistics and length, the first step in our planning was to put together a tentative weekly schedule. My husband and I sat down and made a list of the various activities we'd like to include and determined how to fit different ones into each day.
Our activity list included things like: An obstacle course, arts & crafts, nature activities, a skit, songs, scavenger hunt, outdoor games, swimming, Bible time, nature center outing, playground time, storytime, journaling, quiet time, snack and meal times and free time. The kids received a drawstring bag filled with pencil pouch filled with colored pencils, a journal, and a small gift.
My schedule wasn't rigid but was broken down into morning, afternoon, and evening and revolved around mealtimes. I set up a whiteboard in the family room, and it was the starting and ending point of each day. We reviewed the schedule in the morning and set up the new plan every evening before bed. I used the Trello app to keep it all organized.
Heres's an example of one of our days:
Wake up 7:00 AM -Get dressed, make beds and brush teeth
Skit and Song Practice
Playground Time & Snack time
Arts & Crafts (Snack Time)
Journal/Quiet Time activities
Campfire Time – We did stories or movies and dessert during this time
Flexibility is the key. Not one day went precisely according to plan. We had rainy days, super hot weather, and one of our kiddos wasn't feeling well one morning.
Meals & Snacks:
Our food options were super simple, and I did menu plan ahead to make it easy. We ate cereal, fruit, and bagels for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch. Dinners consisted of items like macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets. I didn't focus too much on the food.
I kept a snack bin filled with granola bars, applesauce squeezes, goldfish crackers, and trail mix. I did keep some juice boxes on hand for snack time too.
We used refillable water bottles for the week and kept them filled throughout the day. Every evening after the kids went to bed, the water bottles were washed, and the snack bin restocked.
We sat and read God's Word each morning and utilized The Gospel Story Bible by Marty Machowski for our bible lessons. My husband engaged the kids with questions, and they wrote or drew in the journals about what they learned in the lesson. Walking through the gospel with them was part of every lesson. We had a memory verse we worked on throughout the week too.
On the first day of camp, we took their photos and printed out their photos to put in their journals to signify their first day of camp. They utilized their journals for bible time and quiet time to note each day of their favorite memories. We kept the journals at the end of camp, and they'll get them back next year.
With a simple scavenger hunt and a clipboard, this kept them busy whenever they had free time to do a bit of nature exploring.
My husband built a simple but great course the kids loved. They spent the week trying to beat their best time and everyone else's.
We have an above ground pool, and it was a convenient option to have on hand for the week. Our weather was scorching. Papa and I enjoyed it too!
One morning we spent a couple of hours at a local playground, and this activity became a favorite on all their lists.
Arts & Crafts:
I'm not naturally artistic, and it's not my thing, but I did find some fun painting projects online, and we did some rock painting and canvas painting. I did use plastic disposable tablecloths on our tables and found some disposable art smocks. Arts and crafts time ranked up there with playground time. Hobby Lobby was a helpful stop in finding supplies and art activities.
In addition to planned craft time, we had a table set up with various art supplies to utilize it whenever we had a free time slot in the day.
Outdoor Activity Area:
My husband set up different outdoor games in a specified area, so the kids could choose various options when they had free time. We had sidewalk chalk, bubbles, bikes, scooters, and other options on hand. The Flying Turtle has been in our family since our kids were little and was a top free time activity choice.
Indoor Play Station:
In case the weather was just rough, we set up an area with blocks, legos, dominoes, and board games for indoor free time. We didn't have much indoor time, and when they did, dominoes were the popular pick.
We headed to a local nature center and took a hike. We observed what was going on in the woods. We did some nature time at home by identifying various birds and reading some fun facts about them. We had a lot of frog catching going on.
Skits & Songs:
We are not a musically gifted couple, so this stretched us a bit. We utilized YouTube and Spotify to help in our dramatization of a story and our songs. The kids loved working on both the skit and songs. Down by the Bay was the favorite song choice because we could keep making up all kinds of fun rhymes throughout the day. How about one of their favorite verses, “did you ever see a Nana, eating a banana? Down by the Bay.”
You get the idea there.
In the evenings, we read stories, had a couple of movie nights, and made fun campfire treats like S'mores and banana boats. It was sweltering here, so we didn't have a campfire but utilized the microwave and oven to make our yummy treats.
The kids were able to share with mom and dad and great-grandpa some of the items they worked on all week. We made a program and set up a display area for artwork, their journals, and anything else they wanted to display to their family. They shared their skit, songs, memory verse, and favorites from the week. We gave them awards based on various character traits we saw displayed throughout the week—things like courage, responsibility, compassion, cooperative spirit, joyful heart, and encouragement.
We ended the evening with pizza and ice cream sundaes.
These were most of the logistics, and I'd love to share a few of our takeaways from the week.
Our extended time with our grandkids was a good reminder that raising children is not easy. It allowed us to see what a good job our daughter and son-in-law are doing. Our grandchildren are very respectful, loving, caring, and kind. We saw areas of discipline that need some help, and we can assist in that as their grandparents.
Keeping well organized and having a schedule with planned out activities helped us to enjoy the week with them and simplified our days.
We will never regret taking the time to do this. It was a special week together, and we plan on doing it yearly, Lord willing. We were reminded again so clearly how fast life goes by, and we don't want to waste our precious time we get with the grandkids.
Don't overthink your camp activities and schedule. My husband shared in the podcast the obstacle course was pretty basic, but our grandkids felt like they were participating in American Gladiator.
Getting so much of your time and attention is what they desire most. Having time to laugh and play with them was one of our favorite takeaways.
Remember, there is eternal value here as well. While we're making those sweet memories, we are also showing them Who and What is most important in our lives and that all of this fun is an outpouring of a forgiven life in Christ.
When they pulled out of the driveway to head home that last night, my husband and I cried like babies. We missed them, and they weren't even out of the driveway yet, plus they only live 20 minutes away.
If you are in Christ, you have the most wonderful privilege to share Jesus with them. I pray they will hear the gospel from our lips, but I pray they will also see the importance of it lived out in our lives.
This is one way to get some intentional time with your grandkids and even to bring families together so cousins can develop closer relationships. It was a blast, and we're are already beginning to plan for next year.