Monday, March 10, 2014

RE-Inventing Camp: MOM CAMP Part II

Many people have become fascinated by MOM CAMP since I made my first post about it  HERE in MOM CAMP PART I .   Woman's Day Magazine even called and I am quoted talking about MOM CAMP in their December 2013 issue on page 138.  The reporter wanted to know how to do MOM CAMP and asked for tips which my friends and I have learned from experience. I hadn't thought about MOM CAMP that way until she asked, but now I've come up with my 10 best tips for anyone considering organizing a MOM CAMP themselves.

What is MOM CAMP?

MOM CAMP is a cooperative summer camp concept in which a group of moms (or other guardians) take each others' kids for a day of fun.  Think of it as one day of kid supervision in exchange for 4 days of free camp for your kids.  Each Mom (or set of moms) decides what the kids will do on their assigned day & covers the cost of the activity.  There is no expectation of providing snack or lunch, however a Mom may provide food & drink if she wants.  Kids are dropped off in the morning & picked up in the afternoon.   Drop off is set for a fixed time all week to help with scheduling transportation.  


MOM CAMP is a low cost summer camp, but the biggest advantage of MOM CAMP is picking your company.  I have sent my kid off to a camp taught by strangers with a bunch of kids I don't know and hoped for the best. With Mom Camp, I know my daughter will spend time with adults and children I like.  Mom Camp wouldn't work with unruly, disobedient kids, bullies or irresponsible adults who don't supervise kids carefully.  For the safety and enjoyment of all, you should be selective when setting up a Mom Camp.   Our Mom Camp started with a playgroup that morphed into a Mom book club as our kids entered school so our kids have known each other all their lives.  If you still keep in touch with playgroup friends, send out an email to ask if any are interested in doing MOM CAMP.  Have a bunch of cousins? Get your calendars out and get the parents or grandparents to volunteer one day to make a MOM/COUSIN CAMP happen.  Or, before the school year ends, bring up MOM CAMP to other parents at a school function and see if any are interested and exchange email addresses.  Facebook friends, church, work & neighborhood groups may also be good places to recruit campers.


How many adults do you need for MOM CAMP?  To me, our situation was ideal. We had 10 Moms so 2 Moms could share responsibility for 1 day of camp for a week.   How many adults you need for safety depends upon the age of the children, whether any have special needs and what activity is planned.  If the kids are going to be inside a private home, then that requires less supervision than an outdoor activity (e.g. swimming or hiking) or an activity in a public place (e.g. a museum or public park visit.)  When our group has Lake Day, several extra moms usually volunteer to help supervise the kids.  Out of consideration & caution, moms with pre-school age kids or kids with special needs either came along themselves to help supervise or sent someone to give their kids the extra attention they would need. 


Even with responsible adult supervision, the buddy system, in my opinion, is crucial to making MOM Camp work.  At the beginning of each camp day,  tell the kids who their buddies are and that they need to keep together all day and keep an eye on each other.  Go with whichever groupings seem natural, but I'd limit the buddy group size to 4. If you have 5 kids that could be buddies, I'd split the buddy assignments into 2 & 3 kids.


Having a theme to work around helps organize the day.  Here are 20 sample themes. 
*Cooking Day *Nature Exploration Day 
* Art & Craft Day *Swimming/Aquatic Games Day 
*Science Experiment Day *Lake/Beach Day
*Movie Day *Make Believe/Theater Day 
*Museum Day *Community Service Day 
*Space Exploration Day *Sea Exploration Day 
*Zoo Day *Farm Hand Day 
*Earth Day *Pottery Day 
*Bowling Day *Tennis Day 
*Music Appreciation Day *Survival Skills Day

As moms, of course, we can't help trying to sneak some life lessons into Mom Camp (e.g. philanthropic projects, life skills like cooking, sewing and map reading) but fun should be priority #1.  


Once you've picked a theme, do a Google or Pinterest search for activity ideas to fit your theme day.  Look for fun ideas that are still pretty simple. Also, the activities should not be expensive.   I have a Pinterest Board set up for Mom Camp Ideas that I am always updating so if you want a place to start, you can follow it here:



As you sort thru your google and pinterest search results, focus on activities that will engage the kids.   The photos above are from our Theater Day in which we had the kids create costumes from old newspapers and act out skits.  I had plenty of newspaper, scissors and tape and let the kids take charge of the activity.  Even young kids could work independently for this activity.  I like to stay away from activities that require long complicated instructions which will probably lose their attention.  Bored kids get into mischief.  It is ok if the activity needs to be broken up into steps, as long as each step is simple enough for the kids to work independently. I try to pick hands on activities because if you keep their hands occupied, their minds are likely to stay focused on the activity which makes supervision easier.


Definitely ask about allergies before you begin planning activities.   Also, our kids have gotten minor cuts and scraps while playing so  I keep an American Red Cross First Aid Kit handy when I am hosting Mom Camp.  

At the very least, I highly recommend keeping baby wipes, bandages and antibiotic ointment (e.g. Neosporin) around in case a child skins a knee or cuts a finger. Make sure you also have all the kids' emergency contact information in case a child ever gets really sick during the camp and needs medical attention or to go home and rest.  Also, the organizers should establish upfront what to do with any unruly kids.  In our group, we agreed a time out until a parent could pick up any child who misbehaved was an appropriate response for most situations.  


As Mary Schmich and Baz Luhrman wisely advised us, wearing plenty of sunscreen is a smart choice. Our group asks each child to apply sunscreen before they arrive and to bring some for re-application during the day.   I always have some back up sunscreen for kids that forget.   It's easy to forget that the sun can burn skin even on cloudy days, but it can, and a bad sunburn on a Monday can ruin a whole week of Mom Camp for a camper so trust me on the sunscreen. ;)  Similarly, kids forget to drink water and the summer heat can be brutal.  Make sure each kid brings a water bottle along and schedule drink breaks, ideally in a shaded spot so the group will cool down. 


It's a bummer, but sometimes Mother Nature doesn't cooperate with our outdoor plans.  If this happens to you, you can try switching days with another mom who has indoor activities planned but make sure to inform everyone of the change.  If no one can switch, or the weather changes too suddenly to change days, then make sure you have some place warm and dry for the kids to gather and an alternative activity for the day.   This is especially important for moms planning field trips like park and nature hike days.


Pick an activity you find interesting yourself.   If you have a hobby, then this is a great opportunity to share it with others. Whatever you pick, don't volunteer for an activity that you are not comfortable performing even if other moms think it sounds cool.  If you haven't exercised in years, then don't sign up for nature hike, yoga or tennis days.  You're  not suppose to pull a muscle to do a Mom Camp.  Also, have a good breakfast when it is your day because once camp starts the day is busy and you'll need the energy.  Take lots of photos.  Remember this is a memory you're making with your kid(s). And if it works, I suggest playing some fun music during your day to keep the mood up.  Everyone should enjoy Mom Camp, including the moms. 


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