Camp Mom summer camp

Ideas for Setting Up Camp Mom

Camp Mom Ideas

I received this email from a reader and I wanted to help because I am in the same position for part of this summer of trying to work on the computer while my kids are home. I know that there is NOTHING more challenging than to keep kids occupied without relying on screen time.

Your suggestions are needed and welcome so thanks for chiming in with ideas!

Hi Mia –

I wonder if you have any tips or might consider a blog post about adding structure to kids’ days during the summer?I’m estimating that I’ll need to devote  about 2-3 solid hours of work to my business each day this summer.  I work from home (as a PR consultant) and for the first summer in several years I won’t be completely stressed about my workload (for the past two summers I took on really cool, but demanding, projects during the months of July and August). I’ve always said that just because you work from home doesn’t mean you can skimp on childcare and I’ve always had childcare in place to cover the hours I was working. In the past I’ve relied on day camp programs during the summer. I’m going to sign both my kids (ages 8 and 11) up for a few weeks of camp and we’ll take a couple of family vacations but I’m considering leaving some time “open” too. I think this will work but I also think I need to be organized to make sure it goes smoothly.What I’m looking for are tips for occupying my kids during my “work” time, when I’ll be in my home office either on the computer or on the phone. I don’t want them to be watching TV during this time (or at least not during all of it) and I’d like to have automatic activities that they can do. I’m thinking this could possibly include chores and it could also be setting up new projects or devoting time to hobbies or possibly giving them new responsibilities. As a working mom yourself, I just wondered if you have any ideas or suggestions of other online sources that might?

Thanks so much for your time and consideration!

I think the first place to start is to create a routine. Imagination Soup just posted on Activity Ideas for Summer so let’s start there.

Create a schedule with times chunked out for the kinds of activities you want to do. You don’t have to stick to the exact time slots — it IS summer after all — but you can stick to the time allotments and sequence of events. Have the kids set a timer to keep everyone on track.

Wake Up/Brush Teeth/Change/Eat Breakfast – 45 minutes (Your kids might be faster, but it takes us this long every school day).

We keep the breakfast stuff in low cabinets and on low shelves in the refrigerator so that our kids can help themselves. Older kids can also help younger kids with things like using the toaster. I can eke out 30 minutes of computer time this way.

Learning Time – 1 hour (The kids are fresh so this is a great time to work their brains).

What do you want your kids to learn? I make my kids do math workbooks (or phonics workbooks if their teacher recommends it for them). They will come to me with questions and they like to work near me, but you can probably get 1/2 hour of work done.Imagination Soup gives a choice of game of activity book and organizes each kid with a basket of stuff. I like her learning activities — they are fun and playful — but they require more set up and planning than just cracking open their workbook.

Outdoor Time – 1.5 hours

You can switch up the activity depending on exactly what you need to get done. You might want to invest in some outdoor toys that you can introduce one at a time to ensure your kids will be happily engaged. Take your laptop outside or watch them from a window.DIY Things They Can Make and Play With. This is also great to teach science and math!

Sidewalk Paint

Bouncing Bubbles

Watercolor paint

Cloud Dough

DIY Floam

Moon Sand

Window Paint

Gloop (tie in with Dr. Seuss Bartholomew and the Oobleck)Here are more fun outdoor ideas:

20 Ideas to Do with Outdoor Chalk

Use Inexpensive Flotation Noodles for Outdoor Games

Sharpie Tie Dye

Foil River

Water Pinatas

Fairy Furniture from Twigs

Indoor Gardening Projects When the Weather Sucks

Colored Vinegar and Baking Soda

Shaving Cream Art

Bird Journal

I have some great ideas on my Pinterest page: Fun Stuff for Kids and DIY Instead of Buy for Kids. Imagination Soup also has a great Pinterest board on Outdoor Play and Learn.

Indoor Quiet Play – 1 hour

This is when you can make calls or do work that requires more concentration. I would let the kids do arts and crafts, writing and drawing, or  play with toys with the understanding that they need to play INDEPENDENTLY for one hour. I would let my kids play educational math or science apps or watch TV IN SPANISH! Plaza Sesamo is my program of choice but there are many options; just check your cable programming. Not into Spanish? How about sign language? I have some free geography, grammar and math games on my footer. Here’s a government game.Clean up and Lunch – 45 minutes

Have the kids do a little clean up while you start prepping for lunch. I think this is also a good time to get the kids in the kitchen. While their “help” might slow you down, it’s a fun way to sneak in math like measuring and counting plus eventually your kids will be able to prepare simple meals for themselves.My kids love to cook and make things like smoothies, lemonade, Mac and Cheese, and brownies or cake from a mix. They can also cut up and peel fruit, bagels, and veggies. We started with a very dull butter knife or plastic knife to teach them knife skills.

What Kids Learn When Baking

Or have the kids help plan what’s for dinner based on the ingredients you have on hand. That will help kill two birds with one stone!

Reading Time – 30 minutes

Try books on tape or an eBook with Read To Me function for kids who can’t read independently yet or just prefer to be read to. This is your last hurrah to get work done. Your kids are probably clamoring for attention by now. Free Audio Books

Outing – 1.5 hours

An outing might be nice just to get out of the house. Take the kids on your errands – they love going on errands though it does make them more expensive or at least mine make me buy them stuff. Or visit a new park in your area or one town over. The public library is another great stop once a week and many will have summer reading programs to keep your kids motivated. Bring your charged smart phone so that you can check and respond to email while your kids are playing at the park or looking for books.Choice Time – 1 hour

Depending on what you need to get done and the state of mind of your kids, you can offer screen time (hey, it has to be educational apps!), or more indoor or outdoor playtime. Imagination Soup suggests drawing from a bowl.Snack Time – 15 minutes

Make Stuff Together – 1 hour
This can be arts and crafts, creating something together for tomorrow like homemade sidewalk chalk, watercolor paint or  sidewalk chalk paint. When in doubt give the kids some supplies like colorful duct tape and aluminum foil or art supplies. Delightful Children’s Books has both picture books and activity ideas. Artchoo has a comprehensive list of art supplies for kids.

Duct Tape Project Ideas

Clean Up/ Make Dinner / Plan for Tomorrow
The key to Camp Mom is to plan ahead so that each day is full of fun surprises to keep your kids occupied and happy so that you can work but it is exhausting to be this organized.

Take time at night to do some planning. When you run errands, you can also be buying supplies you need for the week’s activities. Repeat fun activities as necessary too.

And be sure to get some babysitting or a mother’s helper lined up for those times when you really need to work for longer chunks. Even two hours twice a week will help to keep you sane. Alternately if you want to say on babysitting, see if you can switch off with play dates. Use Outdoor Time/Indoor Quiet Time/Clean Up and Lunch as a chunk of time you can trade off. Even if you did this once a week, you’ll get 3.5 hours of alone time.

Camp Mom summer camp


p.s. Here is how Week 1 of Camp Mom went.

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By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. I love this post for my kids during this summer….looking for this kind of info for a long time.


    Elle – Parenting Informer recently posted…Quotes On Parenting With Special Needs KidsMy Profile

  2. Alison

    Mia – thank you so much! I love this! You’re right…the critical piece is planning ahead and your ideas and links are inspiring.

  3. vanita

    OMG you just fixed my summer. lol. really i was wondering how i was going to do this because when the teens are home, the toddlers forget routine, but this is a great routine to put in place and will keep all of us on schedule. The teens will be starting their own blog too, so there will be learning time for everyone!
    vanita recently posted…How Clogged Ears and Boogers Can Change Your LifeMy Profile

  4. These are great suggestions! We have actually already started over here. The girls are finishing-up their half day fencing camp tomorrow so next week we will have more time to fill. They will start with their breakfast/bathing routine and then move into Life of Fred Math, Writing Strands, and then 30 minutes of reading. Then we will likely head over to the library for a few hours and if it’s not too hot, we will go for a walk afterwards. I’ve already explained that they can expect some form of mental exercise M-f…LOL
    Monise recently posted…The Kid’s Pick: ‘Amelia’s Notebook’ SeriesMy Profile

  5. LOVE this post. Though I only have little ones right now, these are such great ideas and love how you structure the day. Can’t wait to share.
    Charlene ( recently posted…Baby Style at BlogHerMy Profile

  6. Ann

    Lot of great ideas here! With this schedule is seems like you could get more than 2 or 3 hours if you needed to with all the multitasking. I am definitely in this boat this summer with blogging and freelance work. Luckily I have day camp 3 days/wk in July for mine and my sister and I trade off baby sitting. Oh and my kids have insanely long attention spans for independent play.
    Ann recently posted…I Need a ChangeMy Profile

    • Hi Ann,
      Your kids have long attention spans for independent play?! LUCKY! My son seems to have this for screen time or legos. I need to buy more soccer balls and 4 square balls too to entice everyone outside.

  7. This is sososososo great- Thank you for such wonderful information- it seems as though a lot of us have been looking for exactly this. You rock.
    Artchoo recently posted…The Illustrations of Leo and Diane DillonMy Profile

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