Camp Themes


Themes for Merriment and Memories!

Grandma Dottie’s Camps are planned around a theme. Themes make planning for Grandma’s Camp easier than having random activities. Books and Stories are great sources for themes. Activities based on the book become story extensions and teaching tools. Remembering what happened at camp is easier when they can relate it to a theme.

With each theme I analyze what character building lessons might naturally fit. For instance, in Secret Garden, both Mary and Collin are very unlikable children because of their attitude toward life and people, so it is a perfect time to talk about how to be likable and what attitude does and how to control it in our lives.

Ideas from Books:

When we were all reading Harry Potter Chamber of Secrets,   “Harry Potter Camp” was a perfect choice. Acceptance letters to Hogwarts School of Wizards, were the invitations, and each was addressed to the grandchild’s exact bedroom location with a specific date for when school would begin.  Each activity was planned around one of the classes offered at Hogwarts and we had competitions between two houses.

Another camp theme  was  A Secret Garden. I cleared a part of my yard and sectioned it into four pieces and gave each group of kids a garden of their own to plant–“A bit of earth” as Mary said when she asked her uncle for a place to garden.

Kirsten American Girl  gave me some great ideas for doing a Pioneer Camp.  I used other ideas as well, but I planned story-extensions from the book about becoming friends with a Native American girl who couldn’t speak English.

Civil War Camp was built around a few books: Addie American Girl who was is a slave who runs away with her mother, and after the Civil War ends, she is reunited with her father and brother. Follow The Drinking Gourd by Jeannette Winter.  A House Divided by Elizabeth Massie.

Some themes come from whatever the kids are interested in at the time.

My son was on a mission to Australia, so we based a camp around that country with all of its interesting animals, ways of life, geographical features. We also talked about going on missions and things that might be fun or hard. We read the book Alexander and A Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

Boot Camp was held because a member in our family had just returned from Iraq.  The kids were all fascinated by him and his experiences, so I asked him to help with Grandma’s Camp that year, and He became their drill sergeant.

Wild West was a theme when we, as a family, were staying in some cabins. Some of the kids were really interested in Native Americans at the time, so we replayed the Cowboys and Indian days with some instruction on the real history of it all.

Some theme details:

 Secret Garden Camp-based on book A Secret Garden

Goals:  Gardening;  Mysteries; Overcoming Challenges.

  • Children teamed up to create a garden from “a bit of earth” that I assigned them. I cleared out a section of my back yard to become my grandchildren garden. We went shopping to purchase plants or other garden items and they set to work.
  • While digging they found an old key with a note on it. Following the notes they eventually found a treasure box which fit the key. It had tickets to the musical Secret Garden
  • Mary and Collin are not happy children and people don’t like to be around them. Dicken has many good character traits. What character traits do we want o develop?
  • Overcoming all types of handicaps

 Pioneer Camp–based on Kirsten, An American Girl and Ancestors

Goals: Family History; Pioneer Life; Outdoor Fun

  • Bonnets and cowboy hats for each child.
  • We talk about ancestors who were pioneers. Faith stories
  • We pan for gold like an ancestor of ours.
  • We pack up little red wagons and head on a handcart trek where we have to go up steep hills and figure out how to ford creeks.
  • We have a buffalo hunt with water guns (dads have cardboard buffalo heads as shields)
  • We stop at a trading post to trade our gold for cool stuff!
  • Each child got a small book about two of their ancestors—homemade and short

Harry Potter Camp–based on books of Harry Potter

Goals: What makes you special?; Real defense against the dark arts; Fun-Fantasy  Classes

  • Each child receives a letter addressed to their exact location such as Harry Potter closet under the stairs. It is an acceptance to Hogwarts Wizard School.
  • We have Diagon Alley as they arrive, where they can buy their wands, robes, Bertie Botts Beans, owls, etc.
  • The Sorting Hat Banquet where they are sorted into two houses
  • Classes are all together, but there is house competitions in games.
  • Transfiguration
  • Potions–
  • Quittich Lessons and Game
  • Defense Against the Dark Arts is where we talk about life and our real defenses…

Alice and Us in Wonderland Camp

Goals: Crazy Fun; Creativ Craft; Knowing where you are Going in life. (If you don’t know where you are going, it doesn’t matter what road you take.”

  • Down the Rabbit Hole adventures
  • Mad Hatter’s Tea Party
  • Mad Hatter Mosaics—craft
  • Wonderland Wilderness Treasure Hunt –find the tea cups
  • Musical Hat game
  • Make a Queen of Hearts Cake
  • Wonderland Cup Cake Wars—choose two teams-parents are part of this.

Boot Camp

Goals: Self Discipline; Love for our Country and Servicemen-women; Physical Fun.

  • Draft Notice received by each person
  • Member of the family who is in Military was the Sergeant for this.
  • Early morning taps—report for duty
  • Learn how to stand, march, salute, address the Sergeant, the military code, etc.
  • Mud Crawl, Physical Training Course
  • Mess Hall
  • Qualities needed for discipline
  • Patriotism

Wild West Camp

Goals: Truth about Cowboys and Indians, Western Life, Wild Fun.

  • Cowboy hats and guns, Indian headbands and bows and arrows.
  • Games–herding pigs relay, Sheriffs and Outlaws chase
  • Stay in bunkhouses/cabins
  • Guitar singing around a campfire
  • Target Shooting
  • Good Guy/Bad Guy discussions
  • Taking care of Mother Earth-Native American philosophies

Music  and Dance Camp

Goals: Music Appreciation–all types of music;  Everyone Has Talent–Show; Music Fun—dancing, rocking, rhythm, games.  (I used a dance teacher for some of this.)

  • Rhythm—make shakers, learn a stomp for talent show
  • Teach smaller children some songs for talent show; teach a song in Spanish, etc.
  • Treasure hunt using teaching about composers and music
  • Mood music—how does each of these pieces make you feel?
  • Song Charades, Word dances, Dance games
  • Music has power in our lives
  • Music and Dance bring out gifts in all of us. Some play; some dance; some enjoy.

 Architecture Design  Camp

Goals: Observe many styles of architecture; Dealing with Dilemmas; Build and Creative Fun.

  • Driving Tour of the city—identify which styles of architecture you like
  • Story Extensions based on the book The Wright Three by BlueBalliett–Frank Lloyd Wright designs, dealing with dilemmas, great architecture has a personality or life to it.
  • Victorian style homes and times (We did this in Port Townsend, WA)
  • The Winchester Mystery House–analogy of our crazy world. Entering the mystery house you need a map, and a guide, like life.
  • Build a skyline out of candy bars—two team competition
  • Build bridges out of Popsicle sticks, etc.
  • Building Bridges in Life is important too.

Book of  Mormon Camp

Goals: Appreciation for Book of Mormon people and stories; Values we can learn from the stories; Fun with War and Peace

  • Children use tin foil to make their own armor, shield and swords
  • Make tents to listen to King Benjamin’s Speech
  • Make journals; Go to the canyon and find “A Grove Of Our Own”
  • Blindfolded Maze Game–tuning into the right voice
  • Battles: with swords and armor, with water balloons, Anti-I-Over (two teams sneaking to other side and Marshmallow Guns)

Civil War Camp

Goals: Understanding the slavery situation and the Civil War;  learning about the kids’ Southern Roots; Appreciation for Freedom; We should treat all people dignity and kindness.

  • Children were slaves for the morning; Free people in the afternoon
  • Game with the Drinking Gourd
  • Craft of the Big Dipper
  • Hide and Seek–Half were slaves on the run, the other half were dogs and slave hunters
  • “Malice toward None and Charity for All” and other Abraham Lincoln examples.
  • Talk about ancestors who lived in the South and fought in the war on both sides
  • Freedom comes with choices

Australia Camp

Goals: Learning about Australia; Teaching about missions; True Blue Aussies.

  • Used a large cardboard cutout map of Australia
  • Australian Animals
  • Australian food and way of life using Mem Fox books
  • Geography of the land that made it necessary for Air School, Flying Doctors.
  • Children drew on the map favorite things they learned about Australia.
  • Alexander’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Voirst. Alex wants to move to Australia. How do we handle bad days?
  • Kids wrote letters to our missionary giving him advice when he has a bad day.
  • Learned some Australian songs.

In Great Grandma’s Day–Turn of the Century

Goals: Learn about when Great Grandma Sammy was young; Being Kind to Others; Being a Good Friend

  • Samantha American Girl story
  • Tin Can Telephones
  • Tea Party
  • New Inventions everywhere
  • Ask Grandma Sammy questions about her life
  • Make a book

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