When my children were young we moved to Arizona. I grew up in Idaho and spent summers enjoying every minute of summer heat. We rode bikes, jumped on the trampoline, slept under the stars, and played outside every day. (Except the days I was curled up in my room reading ALL the BOOKS I could get my hands on.)
So moving to the land of 115 by day and 95 by night was a shock to say the least. Combine that with special needs children who need constant stimulation and activity (who are we kidding, all kids need that). But my children with special needs seemed to need order and routine more than my others. So I realized quickly that I needed to come up with an idea for summer that didn’t involve passing out in the heat or being cooped up inside all day staring at the television.
I couldn’t afford to send them all to camp, and maybe they were a bit young for that when I started this idea. So in about 2006 I decided to start my own camp. Because we lived in Arizona we called it: Camp Beat the Heat. Everything we did had a camp feel to it. Waking up was Bugle Call. We had cabin inspection every morning before the fun could begin. I taught them KP meant Kitchen Patrol and lights out was serious business. At the start of each summer we made a huge CAMP BEAT THE HEAT sign that hung in my family room all summer. The kids got to decorate and color it every year. I wish I would have taken pictures of each years signs, they were fun to look at all summer and very creative.
Everyday had an activity and every week had a theme. For example, one week we would study bugs. The next the stars. Another week we would learn about mysteries (think Scooby Doo, Encyclopedia Brown, Agatha Christie, and puzzles/games they could solve). All movies, books, activities and learning centered around this theme. I would reserve all my next’s week material at the library and pick it up on Monday. This kept my costs down and allowed more money for spontaneous ice cream outings.
|Learning about ladybugs for bug week.|
|Making root beer is a science experiment.|
|Another fort in a fenced off area of the yard. They loved their forts.|
I still juggled therapy, play groups and swimming lessons with this schedule but it all seemed to work together. Mondays were play groups/cubs/library time. Tuesday’s were Summer Movies. One day a week we would plan an Adventure Day (think field trip) and another day was for cleaning and quieter activities at home. I’ve included 2009’s agenda below for you to see our weekly list of activities. I also would have a more detailed plan for each week that was more specific.
|Where we spent part of every day!|
I even had a Summer Theme that we would use for our family reunion as well. In 2009 it was Who’s Your Hero? We learned what a hero was and tried to show that each child had characteristics of a hero inside them. Each week would still have a theme (bugs was a favorite), but the overriding summer theme helped me to incorporate character building oppurtunities.
My planning took a few weeks before school let out, but each succeeding year was easier to plan. During the summer I didn’t stress too much if we missed an activity, or if one activity didn’t go off well. We just moved on to the next thing. And if something threw us off schedule, that was fine. I adopted a go with the flow attitude in order to keep things fun and happy.
|Annual field trip to Tortilla Flats to eat Cactus Ice Cream and swim in the lake.|
|Baseball night with Dad field trip.|
This summer my children are 9, 10, 13, 14, and 16, and I’ve already told them we are doing Camp Beat the Heat again. (Camp ended about 2 years ago when my daughter attended summer school.) I have 3 old enough to be “Camp Counselor’s” this year. Maybe I’ll work in Mom’s nap time.
What are your ideas for summer fun? How do you keep your kiddos excited about learning and away from the television all summer?
|Swim Team craziness|
· Monday: Library, Cub Scout Morning, Speech Morning, Play Group
· Tuesday: Leave from swim team, MOVIES!
· Wednesday: Friends Day
· Thursday: Field Trip Day
· Friday: Splash Park
8:30 Lights OUT! (Look For Drive-In Night)