A Solution to a Boring Summer of Shelter-in-Place

A friend posted online to ask friends, “What are you going to do this summer, since none of us can do the normal fun things we do?” Pools are closed, travel is a bad idea/nearly impossible. We’re fine with the closures, they’re the right thing, and also, what on earth are we going to do all summer?

You know how sometimes when someone else asks a question, you come up with a better answer for them than you might have for yourself? In pondering my friend’s question, I came up with a great solution for my family too! It’s kind of art day camp, but with a twist.

See, when presented with a very bored kid, who has none of the usual options, I might have lots of ideas but they need my involvement and preparation and what if I’m in the middle of something? That’s what can cause stress.

I thought, okay, if I could plan in advance… what if I made a sort of “advent calendar” of activities, put them in boxes, taped them shut, and then each day, my youngest kid goes to the treasure chest — oh, did I mention that? We have a treasure chest. Really, it’s an old steamer truck that I bought at a garage sale, and it has a rounded lid so my kids call it the treasure chest. So each day, the kid goes to the treasure chest and takes out the box of the day!

We started this morning with a clue, that led to the treasure chest.

Rolled up piece of paper, tied with a ribbon, containing a clue.

Rolled up piece of paper, tied with a ribbon, containing a clue.

Today’s activities include:

• an invitation, featuring Ramona Quimby, to go to a “Drop Everything and Read,” event. Location: our couch.

• Two nature observation worksheets. (we may have to venture out to a nature center, if it’s not too crowded, as there’s a lot of construction on our block and it’s difficult to social distance, even in our own yard.)

• An art project! I hadn’t planned on starting Camp Quarantine this morning, but school is already out for us and a long, boring day was stretching out ahead of us. I knew we had to start today. I looked through some art books and chose a project from the book Map Art. Here’s mine:

Map of the Heart. Work in progress, by Elaine Luther.

Finished heart by Elaine Luther, from a project in the book Map Art.

The magic of this “advent calendar” of boxes of activities is that each day is a surprise. A surprise to the kid, yet I’ve had the luxury of planning time. Sometimes getting kids excited about doing something can be a lot of effort, you know, all that camp counselor energy, “Come on kids, wouldn’t it be fun if we did this!?” I can call that energy up now and then, but I can’t do it every day, all summer.

With this system, the kids are excited, and I don’t have to be the world’s best camp counselor.

What are you doing this summer? Could this idea work for you? Need more ideas? More below and I’ll keep posting throughout the summer!

Here’s the terrific book that today’s project came from:

Image of Book Cover of Map Art.

Image of Book Cover of Map Art by Jill Berry and Linden McNeilly.

More Ideas for Crafts, Activities and Themes for Summer Day Camp at Home during the Quarantine/Social Distancing Time

The basic categories are: go somewhere, do an active activity, do a sitting activity, do an outdoor thing, do an indoor thing, do a normal thing, but make it epic—project the movie, make epic pop corn, buy movie style candy.

• Abigail has a terrific video tutorial on how to make flowers with tissue paper: https://www.yeiou.com/2020/03/tissue-paper-flowers-video-tutorial

• Build “Kiddie Car Wash”

• “Road trip to nowhere.” Look up lists of “only in your state” or “Roadside America” for odd ball attractions that are outdoors. Do all the fun things you’d normally do for a road trip, including car games, favorite snacks, and then drive to the odd ball attraction. Take a picture, have a picnic, road trip it back home! You’ll *feel* like you went somewhere. I promise, it’s good for your mental health, and it kills a lot of time.

You could also do a tour of statues, murals and outdoor art, depending on the interests of you and your crew.

• ”Kid picks everything” day – each sibling gets a day, child whose turn it is gets to pick the meals and activities (within reason!).

• Ice cream sundaes at home day.

• Your mom bakes you a cake day.

• You bake your mom a cake day – sprinkles and such are in the box.

• Do a Good Turn Day – your parent assists you in doing whatever good deeds one can safely do these days. Pick up litter on the block, donate food to food pantry, etc. Beyond that kind of charitable work, how can you surprise or delight someone who might need a pick me up? (This would be a good one to do once a week.)

• Tie-dye t-shirts.

• Play drama games: https://www.dramanotebook.com/drama-games

• Make classic summer camp crafts.

• Have a summer camp-style sketch night! Time limits help!

• Buy affordable art classes at AlisaBurke.com, such as the Nature Journal, and do that with your kid (the needed materials are affordable and easy to find.)

• “Set up a carnival style game with bean bags, ping pong balls or even paper airplanes. Use a large box with cut out holes as targets. Click here to see how our carnival game works.”  Source: <strong>https://www.whatdowedoallday.com/indoor-activities-tweens

• Make candy (brittle, bark or bird’s nest candy are all relatively easy. Must have thermometer for brittle and follow safety instructions.). Bird’s nest candy is also known as chow mein candy, because you make it with fried chow mein noodles!  And yes, you can even buy gluten free chow mein noodles!  Here’s a recipe: https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/chocolate-chow-mein-clusters

• Giant bubbles – must buy ingredients ahead of time, really helps to mix it up and let it sit for 12 hours. You can make your own wand tool or buy one like this:

Here’s the recipe for bubble soap for giant bubbles:

1 cup soap (Dawn Ultra Concentrated)
12 cups water (up to 50% more on dry days)
1/4 cup glycerine

Mix up the day before and allow to sit for 12 hours for best results.

You can find food grade glycerine at Whole Foods or online. (It doesn’t need to be food-grade, it just happens to be food grade at Whole Foods. I think it’s in the bath and body/nutrition section.

• Good for younger kids: soap boat race in a rain gutter you buy: https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/craft-ideas/how-to/g1389/diy-kids-activities/?slide=48

• Learn outdoor cooking skills, including pie irons, dutch oven with coals, build a box oven and bake something in it, build and use a hobo stove. Include that as part of a “classic summer camp” week, where everyone gets a name tag on a string where the name tag is a slide of a tree branch. Add classic camp crafts, sketches and drama games to make this theme week complete.

• Finger Paints and Finger Foods Day. Only make art with your hands today and eat only finger foods! Fish sticks, french fries, baby carrots, canned black olives that you stick on your fingers and eat off one by one.

Here’s a recipe for Homemade Finger Paints

These recipes and craft ideas come from The Best of Children’s Art & Crafts.

Source: a now defunct website in Australia.

Add to ordinary paint or add food coloring to use as finger paint; use as an economical extender for paint; use as a paper glue or use in papier-mâché.

You will need:
3 parts water (3 cups)
1 part cornflour (1 cup)
food coloring

Step 1
Adult: bring the water to boil in a saucepan. Remove from heat.

Step 2
Adult: dissolve cornflour in a little cold water and add to hot water, stirring constantly. Boil until clear and thick (about one minute).

To make finger paint, add desired food coloring. This mixture will be very smooth. Offer it to the children while it is still warm to touch. A tablespoon of glycerine may be added to make it glossy. A ½ cup of Lux soap flakes may be added to give finger paint a lumpy texture.

Store in refrigerator as it spoils in hot weather.

*aka corn starch

Here are some links to list posts with ideas for themes, I’ll be putting some of my ideas/projects/activities together in theme weeks.

Good list here of over 100 ideas:


Nature Scavenger Hunts:


List of things to do with tweens:


Some of these look fun:


List of themes for camp:




Looking for more art and craft ideas?

Check out this blog post of mine, What to do when you are quarantined:

What to do when you are quarantined

If you click the word Blog in the top level navigation, you can travel back to a recent blog post where I recommend some favorite audio books.  Or click the category “About Creativity,” to see the 100 Creativity Tips!

Update, there’s a Camp Quarantine T-shirt!

Camp Quarantine T-shirt available for sale at Red Bubble.

Click to choose your shirt color for a Camp Quarantine T-shirt:


The same design is also available on a mask! Design by artist Maria Meep.

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