Saturday, August 15, 2015

Grandma Camping 2015 - Part 8 - Final Report!

Over the past few weeks, I've shared highlights from the first Grandma Camp I hosted for my three oldest grandchildren. I've appreciated your gracious comments and the dozen or so email messages from grandmothers who wrote to request more details or share personal stories. I recommend that grandparents host a camp like this. With a little effort, our homes become the heart of the extended family - a welcoming center where cousins and parents bond into a strong, fun-loving unit that benefits every member.

I promised my new grandma friends a summary post of camping tips -  my trial-and-error list of things to do for a happy, successful week of your own! Here it is, in all its "hodge-podgy" imperfection!

1) Determine age-appropriate projects and adventures far in advance; have many more than you think you'll use! Get ideas from books, blogs and Pinterest. Place everything you need for each project into its own box. To do otherwise is to reinforce an unfortunate senior stereotype: "Grandma disappeared an hour ago to look for the glue she's holding in her hand!"

2) Make your camp as "official" as possible. Email a list of supplies to parents a few weeks in advance. Ask them to pack sleeping bags, pillows, jammies, stuffed animals, etc. When campers arrive, host a lunch for everybody - parents and younger siblings, too. Follow that with an "orientation session." Explain your rules and hand out your own supplies. Blow a whistle and act all bossy and corny. Set up sleeping quarters before parents depart.

3) Pull names to appoint the order of "Kid of the Day." Rotating turns solves every single problem you'll have in determining first choice on everything, including who holds the dog leash! Worried you might forget? Ha! Your little campers will remind you. Every day. Every minute of the day. Trust me!

4) Balance your activities to allow for rainy days. Mix in active fun with quiet games. Consider field trips, even if those only include neighborhood walks or nearby restaurants. Be ready to hear, "Oooooh! What adorable grandchildren you have!" Smile politely and say, "Thank you. Yes. I already know that!"

5) Helpers. Don't ever turn anybody down! I relied on grandpa to clean up after us, to prepare a few meals and to entertain while I made dinner or set up a project. After three full days at my house, one daughter took the kids for the entire afternoon and evening. Much appreciated!

6) Schedule a "quiet time" every day and enforce it. Supply the kids with books to read and puzzles to solve. Each of my own also brought a Leap Pad and I gave them new games to play.

7) It's nice to have an ongoing large project that can be returned to time and again over the course of the week. Lego sets are perfect. I presented the boys with a cargo train, and Bree with a box of "girlie" bricks. At the end of the week, we had a fast moving remote control engine and a long line of pink bunnies and birds waiting to hitch rides on the open boxcars!

8) See those bright blue buckets the kids are sitting on? Best idea ever! I learned it from Grandma Shelley's blog, in her camping series, right here. A bucket with lid (from Lowe's) is about $4 total. They are suitable seating and storage. At orientation, I handed them out. Each contained a new kid-size basketball, spinning toothbrush and toothpaste, small flashlight, a nature sketch pad with color pencil box glued to cover and art supplies such as glue sticks, scissors and paintbrushes. Each child is responsible for maintaining those items and storing completed projects for taking home. Perfect, too, for sitting in the woods to sketch the wonder of nature!

9) Keep parents on speed dial! Every time a camper said something cute or funny, I grabbed my phone to report it. (Just make sure they don't hear you!) And have the kids call mommy and daddy every night before bed. It's nice to hear them yak up a storm about how much fun they're having and how they want to stay for an extra week!

10) Extra week? Oh dear. Let's face it. That wouldn't be easy! I held a five day camp. Four days, including the half one at Aunt Christy's, would have been enough. It's me, not them. There's a reason lively, inquisitive kids are born to people less than half my age!

11) Take lots of pictures and compile them into a scrapbook that stays at grandma's. Cousins will have so much fun revisiting their week every time they come over.

12) Reserve some art and craft work to show at a family event later on. The kids and I host a clothesline art sale annually, one like this. Or, you can welcome parents at pick-up time with a chance to view some lovely pieces - many still dripping with glue!

13) Feedback. This is where you learn the most for future planning! Parents will tell you afterwards what the kids enjoyed best. For us, it was individual sleeping quarters. The kids were thrilled with their A-frame tents - their cozy home-away-from-home nests. A small purchased tent, set up inside would be fun too, with room for everybody. And if you're brave, (the way I am not!) just camp outside in the backyard like normal people do!

14) Finally, start to plan for next year the second your little loves back out of the driveway. Keep a notebook for your ideas. Watch for sales on the craft supplies you'll need and squirrel those away. It won't be long before those adorable little faces show up again, dragging sleeping bags 'n pillows, quizzing you on "What's for fun this time around, grandma?"

I often reflect on what a privilege it is to have these moments, knowing well that just a few years separate us from these long, lazy days and the frantic pre-teen pace of sports camps and outside-the-family friendships that will eventually preempt them. The effort? The expense? The exhaustion? No regrets. None. So worth it. Just so worth it!

2016 events continue here with "Ladybug Camp's" puppet show and here with our Magic Show!


  1. Such a great review - full of good ideas and also super memories.

  2. Hello, I am just amazed at how organized you are with this camp. You have so many great ideas and suggestions. I am sure your grandchildren loved every minute of your camp. Thanks for sharing! Have a happy weekend!

  3. Joyce you are always a total blast and inspiration and no, most of us are not going to keep up with you and what you do, lol...but if we can do a small portion...what an amazing person you are :) I am laughing to myself still recalling the dinosaur :)

  4. I stand amazed at the creativity you have and share, wow!
    You have such a beautiful heart for your precious little grand children, J. What a praise to the Lord as you minister to those little ones as well as to us.
    Thank you for sharing your ideas, there is wonder in them all. :)

    The Lord bless you ~ Debbie

  5. This was a great wrap up of a wonderful week! I am sure your notes will help lots of other Grandmas plan a camp of their own! You really are the craftiest Grandma ever!

  6. You are right about that blue bucket idea!! love it

    This was a great wrap up post. You AND THOSE CUTIE PIES are Amazing!!! :)

  7. What a great wrap up on your camping adventures. Your grandchildren will have these wonderful memories forever. Thank you for sharing with the Clever Chicks Blog Hop! I hope you’ll join us again next week!

    Kathy Shea Mormino
    The Chicken Chick

  8. What a fabulous camping time with your precious grandchildren :) You have given many helfpul and fun ideas, my friend. Thank you for sharing with Roses of Inspiration. Hugs!

  9. Great project, great report, lots of ideas for activities with our grandkids. Thanks!

  10. You deserve a huge hug and a pat on the back because you win the craftiest grandma award. Lady, you are truly something else and your grands must think you are the rock star. :-) Love those blue buckets.

  11. I wish I had a grandma like you! Your grandchildren are adorable :)

  12. How CUTE! We did something similar but just used blankets to make forts. These are SOOOO COOOL! Thanks for a lovely visit via the Enchanting Rose.


  13. I just keep being "blown away" by what an awesome grandma you are! For people out there who are not yet grandparents, you could consider "Auntie Camp" or "All My Friends' Kids Camp",,, if you dare!

  14. Yes, this idea of grandma camp has just been wonderful to see it unfold! You did so many fun things and what a special bond you have created with your grands. I pick things up for mine all year and have a basket in my closet with each childs name on it. Then when it's their birthday of a special holiday I check their basket first before going out to buy. Buying things on special really saves me big bucks! Thanks for sharing all the tips of your fun camp with SYC.

  15. What an incredibly fantastic idea! Hope I remember it in 5 years! lol
    Here from HomeMatters.

  16. You are the best Grandma!!! Your Grandkids are the luckiest!!
    Thank you so much for sharing on our Saturday Bowdabra Crafty Showcase!!!

  17. Oh my gosh, J, you are AMAZING! Your grandkids are so blessed! And you are such a doll to leave a comment about your prayer to St. Francis of Assisi! You and I definitely think alike! Have a great weekend!

  18. It is so awesome that you did this, and the tents in the bedroom really are an amazing highlight!

    One thing, just in terms of administrative stuff, stood out: "Determine age-appropriate projects and adventures far in advance; have many more than you think you'll use!"

    Yes, yes, and yes. I'm training to be a teacher right now and I can tell you that this is absolutely true.

    Your grandchildren are lucky to have you!

  19. This was a lovely post to read, your grandchildren must love you dearly. I also have a bag that I collect through the year for them .They visit and ask ,"have you anything in the bag grandma" of course I do for the 4 little ones .The 4 big ones poor (as in no money) uni students living away and one Infantry Army . They love home cooked food and sweets sent to them and a few dollars. haha Your Grandma camping days will leave such loving memories with them as they get older.