Things to Do With Grandchildren at Grandma Camp

Keep Them Busy, But Leave Room for Spontaneity

Masks_kate_sept2004.jpg
Mask-making is a craft that is simple but fun. Photo © kate_sept2004 | Getty Images

So you've decided to become a Grandma Camper. You've read basic information about Grandma Camp, and you've consulted some of the experts who have been doing this for years. Maybe you even have a book or two about cousin camp. But you're still not sure how you are going to fill the hours.

These suggestions will kick your imagination into gear, and soon you'll have enough ideas for years of Grandma Camp.

Make Something to Use During Grandma Camp

Make something to keep belongings in, says Grandma Shelley, a veteran camper. "The first project at both of my camps is creating a tote, a basket, a bag, or anything that they can place their finished camp projects in. The craft/tote project always includes a space for their name. The completed totes are then placed all together in a row from youngest to oldest." The next-to-last activity of Grandma Shelley's camp is gathering everyone's belongings together. The grandkids are motivated to participate because the final activity is always something really fun that can only be enjoyed when everything is packed for departure.

Another of Grandma Shelley's suggestions is to make each child an individual hand washing station, created from two-liter plastic bottles. These come in really handy at Grandma Shelley's Grandkids Camp Out, since the focus is on outdoor activities, and the grandchildren enjoy using them at home as well.

Try Other Crafts

If you are a grandma who likes to craft, you’ll probably have a ton of ideas for things for your little campers to make. If you aren’t a crafting sort, check out the wide variety of craft kits available in stores and online. Remember to be relaxed about crafts. The grandchildren will bring their own unique touches to their crafts, and that’s okay.

Messy crafts are best done on a table outside.

Here are some crafts that my grandchildren have enjoyed:

  • Fusible beads
  • Bead jewelry
  • Paper crafts
  • Masks
  • Suncatchers

If your Grandma Camp falls near a holiday, you'll have a chance to make something holiday-themed. I especially like these Valentine crafts and Christmas ornaments. Fall crafts can include Halloween and Thanksgiving motifs, or for a more original theme, teach the grandchildren about the Day of the Dead.

Outdoor Fun

Classic outdoor games like Hopscotch and Four Square are great choices for Grandma Camp. Perhaps you want to go with an Olympics theme and have off-the-wall competitions. Quirky sports like bocce or croquet are fun.

My grandchildren always enjoy treasure hunts, where one clue leads to the next until the final clue leads to a treat of some kind. I've devised some clues for outdoor treasure hunts and ones you can use if you have to move the treasure hunt indoors.

Nature activities are both fun and educational. My grandchildren especially enjoy geocaching and nature scavenger hunts. Be sure to take along extra helpers if you are going into rougher terrain.

If grandkids will be spending the night, being outdoors at night has a special charm.

Go for a moonlight ramble, play flashlight tag or invest in some glowsticks. Nighttime makes all these magical.

For Older Grandchildren

If your grandchildren are tweens or teens, Grandma Camp can still work for you. I don't think grandchildren ever get too old to enjoy a sleepover. Outings are also more doable with older grandchildren. Going to an art museum is my personal favorite. 

Grandma Camp is a great time to introduce older grandchildren to one of your passions. They can participate in a collecting hobby, volunteer work, genealogy research or a special craft. Just be sure to notice if their interest lags.

Some politically active grandparents encourage their older grandchildren to get involved. A local issue is sometimes the springboard for a lifetime of political involvement. If your community needs more parks or bike lanes, show the grandchildren how to speak out about the issue.

You can help them write letters to elected officials or take them to visit the appropriate office. 

Remember Their Tummies

Filling the grandkids' tummies is not only a necessity, but also an activity that can be enjoyed. Older grandchildren will enjoy baking cookies, cakes or cupcakes, and younger ones can participate in preparing sandwiches or salads. Creating sundaes, banana splits or milkshakes is always a hit. With supervision, kids can roast hot dogs on Grandpa's grill, or make s'mores.

Documenting Grandma Camp

Of course you want photographs of the grandkids at Grandma Camp, but you can't do everything. Grandpa or an older grandchild may be able to fill in. If you have school-age grandchildren, consider investing in a disposable camera for each and let them shoot away. You may be surprised by what good photos you get.

Photographs also make good Grandma Camp souvenirs. Create your own "photo booth" with a special photo backdrop or setting and funny props. Make prints at home or send them electronically to a local processor. Pick them up before the kids depart so they will have their own photos to take home.

Photo books also make good keepsakes for the grandchildren, but creating one is more time-consuming. You probably won’t have them ready for the grandkids to take home with them. Also, they can be expensive, but some options are available for less than $10 each. Check services like Shutterfly, Snapfish and Kodak Easy Share, as well as Walmart, Walgreen’s and CVS. Photo albums or photo books can also become prized Christmas gifts, says Judy Smitley, who hosts Day Camp Grandma each summer.

Crafting a Souvenir

A special picture frame can be a crafting project and a place to put that Grandma Camp photograph. You can buy frame kits at a craft store, or make your own using buttons or puzzle pieces.

A Grandma Camp tee is another good souvenir idea. Craft stores have inexpensive shirts and fabric paints. If your campers are older, they might want to make tie-dye shirts. Flip-flops, aprons and hats can also be customized to create unique souvenirs.

Embrace the Unexpected

It's good to have planned activities, but if something isn't working, don't be afraid to abandon it. Also leave some time for free play. Have a couple of movies on hand in case everyone gets tired and squabbly, and have extra indoor options available in case of bad weather.

In short, expect the best, be prepared for the worst and always, always have a Plan B.