40+ Fun Summer Camp Ideas You Can Do At Home with Kids

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Last Updated on May 14, 2024 by Sarah McCubbin

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If spending months at home during the summer sounds a little bit stressful or you want to have a unique experience with friends, consider these summer camp ideas that you can do in your own back yard. That’s right…there is no need to pay for expensive day camps…or a week away if you are looking for fun on a budget! 

When I was growing up, I had a ton of cousins. And my grandma started a tradition I’m hoping to restart with my younger kids. My grandma did Cousin Camp! For 2 days, about 15 elementary aged grandkids descended on their old farmhouse. And for 24 hours, we did races and crafts. We played in the corn field and trapsed through the woods. We ate Grandma’s chicken noodle soup and Grandpa’s homemade bread. And of course…ate piles of pancakes for breakfast. 

Cousin camp wasn’t fancy. There were no bunkhouses. About 4 of us slept in a queen bed…two at the head and two at the foot. They had huge bedrooms so it was kind of like a dormitory! Those strong childhood memories are something I’m so thankful for. It doesn’t take a lot of money to do these summer camp ideas at home. More than anything, it takes a bit of planning and a loose schedule! 

Whether you are doing a camp with your family, friends, neighbors, church…or an actual camp…these are a great way to have fun with kids of all ages. Many of these activities will work with so many different themes. To create a unique summer camp experience, simply make modifications to go along with whatever camp theme you think of! 

summer camp ideas

Best Summer Camp Activities

As you are planning different activities, you will need to be aware of a few different things:

  • Budgets
  • Summer Heat
  • Plans for Rainy Days
  • Time Constraints 
  • Managing Different Ages and Younger Children
  • Delegating to team members

Arts & Crafts Project Ideas

There are an endless number of art projects you can do at home. I like to use this as an opportunity as the perfect time to use up some of my vast craft supply stash! Many of these would be a fun activity if its too hot outside…or on rainy days. 

Tie-Dye T-shirts 

Tie-dye is an easy activity for elementary and older. Having a finished project to wear is so much fun…even if the finished product is less than perfect!

Nature Collages 

Looking for (nearly) free projects? Create artwork using leaves, twigs, and flowers. Use cardstock or recycled cardboard as your base and create original works of art! It is possible that you may need to use hot glue depending on the type of nature creations you make. 

Rock Painting

I like to use smooth 2-4″ river rock from the landscape store to do rock painting, but if you have a supply of rock, anything will do. We use acrylic paint and have found that the color stays vibrant for quite a long time even when the painted rocks are added to the garden.

Sun Prints 

If you are looking for something a little different, try creating prints using sun sensitive paper. 

Recycled Art 

Do you remember making collages in school? Teachers would bring in assorted magazines, newspapers and packaging and we could create a collage that represented us somehow? I always loved that. Recycled art can be anything from collages…to using up the random art supplies you have around your house!

Building bird feeders

If you have someone handy with wood, building bird feeders is a great summer camp activity. They can be built with a simple pattern using scraps of wood…or you can easily buy kits to make the process quick and easy.

summer camp ideas

Water Games Summer Camp Ideas

Water activities are the perfect way to cool off while having fun. With a little bit of planning, you can keep kids busy for hours with water balloons and other water gadgets. Of course, if you are inviting other kids over, make sure they bring along swimsuits and a change of dry clothes!!

Water Balloon Toss 

On a hot summer day, a water balloon is the perfect friendly camp competition. And all you need is a bag of balloons and a bucket to hold them once they are filled. Try different competitions to see who throws them the furthest…or blind folded or backwards! 

Water Balloon Fight

After you have your friendly water balloon toss, a water balloon fight is the perfect ending to the competition while using up all the balloons! 

Mini Water Obstacle Course 

Who doesn’t love an obstacle course? Set up with sprinklers and kiddie pools.

Sponge Bucket Relay

Its crazy how many things you can use a bucket for! For this game you just need sponges (probably those big ones used on cars) and a bucket. Divide the kids into teams and race to see who can fill their bucket with water squeezed from sponges first!

Slip ‘N Slide 

Slip N’ Slides are a childhood classic. You can set one up using a purchased slip and slide…or repurpose a giant sheet of plastic with soap on it to make it extra slippery!

DIY Splash Pad 

If you have ever taken your kids to a splash pad, you will know that there is endless amounts of fun to be had with a sprinkler! Combine this with any of the other water activities to create a full afternoon of water fun!

Squirt Gun Fight

Stock up on inexpensive water guns. Give each team of kids buckets of water to refill and watch everyone get in on the fun! 

Science & Nature Camp Ideas

  • Backyard Camping – Set up a tent and camp overnight.
  • Stargazing – Identify constellations and planets.
  • Gardening – Plant vegetables or flowers.
  • Insect Safari – Explore and learn about local insects.
  • Bird Watching – Identify local bird species.
  • Scavenger Hunts – Create a scavenger hunt for your unique location and let the kids race to find all kinds of nature treasures.

Physical Activities Great For Camp

  • Obstacle Course – Create a course with hurdles, tunnels, and more.
  • Yoga – A morning session to start the day right.
  • Hula Hoop Contest – See who can hoop the longest.
  • Jump Rope Challenge – Count how many jumps you can do.
  • Mini Olympics – Host a series of competitive events.
  • Potato Sack Race

Sports & Games Adventures

Most of us have a variety of balls, bats, gloves and random sports equipment around our house. You can use it to create your own backyard fun in a way that it may or may not look anything like the original activity!

DIY GAME!

One of the easiest camp activities is to come prepared with a variety of balls and objects and lead the kids in a brainstorming session to create their own games. What will the rules be? How will someone win? Let everyone chip in their ideas and then narrow down the rules!

Backyard Bowling

Use water bottles and a rubber ball to create your own backyard bowling alley. This will work best on a hard surface like a driveway.

Mini Golf

If you have a few putters and golf balls, you can create your own mini golf course with random household objects. Mark each “hole” with a number and let your camp crew put their way to the win!

Frisbee Golf

Frisbee golf normally happens on a permanent course…but you can make your own using a similar plan to mini golf. Mark each target with a number and use frisbees to try and kit each one!

Kickball

Divide the family in half and have a competitive (or non competitive) game of kickball.

Here are the official kickball rules, but you can modify these to work for your group!

Soccer Shootout

If you have a soccer goal handy, you can have a soccer shootout with two teams. The most goals wins!
Or if you don’t have a soccer goal, you can create your own target that teams must shoot through. Two closely planted trees would work…or other objects in the yard!

Relay Races

Set up relay races using any objects you have on hand. Here are some ideas.

  • Race balancing a book on your head (or something else)
  • Race with an egg (or golf ball) in a spoon
  • 3 Legged Race
  • Crab walk race
  • Walking backwards
  • And more!

Creative & Imaginative Play

Breaking up your camp with opportunities for creative play is a wonderful way to create some unstructured, relaxing fun. For maximum fun, provide a few props, a unique environment and a few directions and let the kids work together in a group to come up with their own world!

  • Pirate Treasure Hunt – Hide treasures with clues.
  • Outdoor Playhouse – Decorate a playhouse or tent.
  • Superhero Day – Dress up and create superhero adventures.
  • Fairy Garden – Create a magical garden space.
  • Knight Tournament – Cardboard armor and pool noodle jousting.
  • Talent Show – Talent shows can be a great way to showcase unique abilities and practice being in front of people. Help each kid in the group identify a talent they can share so everyone can participate!!

Relaxation & Quiet Time Ideas

If your summer camp at home is going to be all day, its a good idea to break up the day with something quiet to give everyone something to do that is less stimulating. When my kids go to overnight camp, they have “Back on Bunk” time where they chill out in their cabins. These aren’t quite like that…but you could easily have a daily quiet activity.

  • Reading Nook – Set up a cozy spot with pillows and books.
  • Outdoor Movie Night – Set up a screen and watch a family favorite.
  • Puzzle Day – Take on a large puzzle as a team.
  • Tea Party – Set up a mid-afternoon tea time with snacks.
summer camp ideas you can do at home

Food & Cooking Activities

Food and cooking camp activities are the perfect way to “kill two birds with one stone.” Feed the crowd but keep them busy by letting them prep their snack or lunch. It’s a win win for everyone!

Backyard BBQ 

A back yard BBQ can include anything from hot dogs, to chicken or hamburgers. With older elementary or young teens, teaching them how to be grill chefs can be a great helpful skill. After all…how do you know when the burgers are done…or the chicken? How can you prevent the hot dogs from getting burned?

S’mores Night 

Roast marshmallows (or other foods) over a fire pit. All you need are marshmallows, roasting sticks, graham crackers and chocolate!

Picnic Lunch

My kids love the idea of “packing up” their food and eating it outside as a picnic. This is an easy win. Let them help prep the lunch, wrap it and pack it…and then make are short trip across the yard to eat it under a tree…or on a trampoline!

Ice Cream Social

Why is ice cream with toppings so magical? Set out a variety of fruits and sauces and let kids create their own sundaes. Don’t forget the maraschino cherries and whipped cream!

Lemonade Stand 

If your house is on a road with a bit of traffic, creating a lemonade stand is a great inexpensive learning experience in entrepreneurship. If you plan to do this, this would be a great thing to post on your town’s local social media and your personal page to make sure the kids get a few more customers!

Edible Bugs

Let your kids make ants on a log or other fun “creature” snacks. For this you only need celery, peanut butter and raisins! So easy!

Plant Seeds

If your “camp” is early in the summer, planting seeds is such a fun educational activity. You could plant something like sunflower seeds which sprout quickly….or create something fun like “chia” pets.

Educational Activities

  • History Day – Learn about different periods and dress up.
  • Science Experiments – Simple experiments using household items.
  • Geography Bee – Quiz on states, capitals, and countries.
  • Language Day – Learn basic phrases in a new language.
  • Writing Workshop – Create short stories or poems.
  • Field Trips to Local Sites
  • Famous Artists

Musical Activities

  • Backyard Concert – Perform music or karaoke for family.
  • Instrument Making – Create simple instruments from household items.
  • Music Appreciation – Listen and discuss different music genres.
  • Dance Party – Learn new dance moves together.
  • Nature Soundscape – Create music using nature sounds.

There are an endless number of camp activities you can do. The best summer camp ideas to do at home are ones that you can do simply and without a lot of stress. If it works great, add to the ideas the next year (or next month) and build from there. Starting with ideas that are too difficult or frustrating isn’t fun for anyone!

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