Allergen-Free Summer Day Camp
Written by Melissa J. Taylor, 2004
Following are instructions to give your children (and maybe some of their friends) an exciting and fun allergen-free camping experience. You can pick and choose what you want, how many days it will last, and have it fit your needs.
Setting Up Camp
Name the camp! It could be your last name, such as Camp Smith or Smith Camp. Or it could be a combination of your kids' names. Alan and Sarah's camp, for example, could be Camp Alasar.
Every camp needs a cheer! Use a song already in existence, such as "Home on the Range" or "God Bless America." By adapting these songs, you can come up with an excellent camp song. You may want to plan this ahead of the kids so they're aren't any arguments. Here are a couple of examples. Pay close attention to the number of syllables in each line of the original songs, because this will aid you in creating your camp's song. Sometimes you can add or delete one syllable without a noticeable problem.
God bless America (6)
Land that I love (4)
Stand beside her (4)
And guide her (3)
Through the night (3)
With a light from above. (6)
Becomes this song...
Hail to Camp Washington (6)
Camp that we love (4)
With mosquitoes (4)
Biting our toes (4)
As we sit (3)
With the campfire above. (6)
Home, home on the range (5)
Where the deer and the antelope play (9)
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word (11)
And the skies are not cloudy all day (9)
Becomes this song...
I love Foster camp (5)
Where we hike and we craft and we play (9)
This camp is not real, but it sure makes me feel (11)
That I should be outside here all day (9)
Equip the kids with the camp name, lots of acrylic paints, clothes that are okay to get accidental paint spills on, and an old, used pillowcase. Ask them to paint on the camp name as well as to put on anything else they feel fits, such as their handprints, footprints, fingerprints, thumbprints, and drawings of what they feel makes camp...camp (like a campfire or bugs).
Once the paint has dried, tie the flag to a large stick or dowel rod.
Badges are optional, but if you would like to offer them, check your local craft store. Bandanas work well for camp neck scarves to add buttons to. Buttons can represent earned badges, are easier to find (you may have a lot of scrap buttons laying around your house, especially if you save the free spare ones that come with clothes), and are easier to attach to a bandana than badges...Mom or Dad can attach a button quickly (with just a few simple stitches) after tasks are completed.
To make the bandana even more special, you can pre-print some words (in just one corner) in marker and then embroider them by machine (just use a normal sewing machine on the zig-zag setting). It does take a long time, but even with a cheap sewing machine you can do this. I have the most basic model sewing machine, and did embroidery in many colors, spelling out: "Camp Pinewood*. '04" along with a pine tree. Block-type letters are the easiest to embroider on this type of sewing machine. You will find great motivation here in coming up with a short camp name!
The most important thing to do with buttons is to write down what they represent. Kids might forget, but if the button looks like it represents an activity (for example, a globe might represent the Earth badge) or has a color that seems to "fit" with that activity, it will be easier to remember. The colors mentioned on this page are only a guide and do not need to be followed. It's more fun to use novelty buttons. The ones I chose were:
Earth button: a little white button that pictures a girl next to a daisy
Nature button: a little white daisy, to go along with the flower activity
Craft button: a gold-toned button that is a pair of craft scissors
Fitness button: a red speedster car to go along with the pinewood derby activity
Campfire button: a star, to represent the night sky
Kids may want to "prepare" for camp by packing a back-pack with things they will need, like a magnifying glass, binoculars, bug box, sweatshirt, flashlight, canteen, map, and other little things every camper needs.
Having a meeting place or base camp is great. If you have one, you can set up a real tent outdoors, or use spare room in an exhaust-free garage, a screen porch, clubhouse, shed, or anything else. If you don't have something like this, you can set up a clothesline and drape a large sheet over it.
Following are some activities that can be done in any order you would like. I have tried to place them in categories that would help lead toward earning merit badges/buttons, but these can be done in any order you wish. You can also add activities that your children might enjoy. A great place to check for more activities is your local craft store...just walk down all of the aisles! Kids may also have ideas of activities that they feel every camp needs.
Don't forget to also sneak in object lessons if you would like to. I haven't included them since family's opinions on these subjects vary. Some ideas include:
Earth badge: Both activities in this section teach how to clean up not only after ourselves but also after others. Environmental lessons could be worked in here. This badge could also be turned into a general "helping" badge, where kids are encouraged to reach out to others and do good deeds.
Nature badge: Religious lessons could be brought in here, such as Creation or appreciating the world around us. Science object lessons could also be introduced, by observing and discussing any "critters" that kids find.
Craft badge: The importance of helping one another can be brought up here. Older children can help younger children to thread beads or work on their lanyards. Once kids have their lanyards finished, you can teach them another object lesson--common whistle signals (check the Internet for instructions if you do not already know them).
Fitness badge: Here you can introduce the importance of physical fitness and good sportsmanship.
Campfire badge: This time can be a special time of story-telling and sharing memories with one another.
Brown Earth Button/Badge
Part of camping is getting into dirt and making a mess! Here are two ways to encourage kids to get on their hands and knees and not mind getting a little sticky or messy. You can also turn this badge into a general "helping" badge by adding activities that encourage kids to reach out in other ways.
Head to a local park with the intent of cleaning up after those who have not been quite so kind to the environment. Some states offer cash incentives to recycling bottles and cans, and no kids can resist this! Make sure to specify that everyone must be careful. We have found rusted cans, broken glass, and beer containers. Mom or dad should be diligent in watching and making sure that items that are found are safe before they are picked up or touched.
Mini Scavenger Hunt
With the kids' help, fill a plastic cup full of safe miniature items (one of each item for each child). As you add the items, have each child write them down on a sheet of paper. Here is an example of a list of items that a child might make:
...anything else you can think up! But don't use anything valuable or anything that you want back. You will probably lose several of the items. Anything small and green or silver colored proved to be impossible to find. Also, stay away from anything breakable or sharp.
Once the list has been completed and the plastic cup is full, go outdoors and have the children close their eyes. Take the cup away from the children, and throw all of the contents up and forward into the air. The children are then allowed to open their eyes and begin the scavenger hunt. Each child may only pick up one of each item, and whoever finds them all first wins. If all of the items are not found, when everyone is exhausted it's time to count up who got the most!
Other activities that could fit with this badge: Helping someone in need, helping Mom or Dad plant a tree, building a bird-house or bird-feeder, doing a random act of kindness, pulling weeds.
Green Nature Button/Badge
You may have to take a car ride to get there, but a hike is a great way to observe nature. You can tie in bird-watching or hunting for bugs or other critters while you hike. Check for a nature center or nature park in your area. Remind kids to be very quiet when walking. Take along binoculars, magnifying glasses, and bug boxes for added fun. If you can't find a place to hike, maybe there is a place you could go canoeing or paddle-boating.
Flower Lady or Wreath
Children's creativity can really shine here, though kids with pollen allergies will want to pass this one up. You will need access to a wildflower garden (perhaps a friend or neighbor will allow you to use some of their wilting flowers if you don't have one).
Making a wreath is simple. Make a slit near the top of each flower stem with your fingernail. Insert another flower into this slit. Continue this pattern. When the wreath is big enough to sit atop your head, tie the two end stems into a knot. The flowers that look prettiest in this type of wreath are daisy-like flowers such as daisies, tickseed, and blanketflower.
Flower ladies can be left completely to children's imaginations...no instructions are really needed. Flower centers can be used for heads, stems for arms, and whole flowers or petals can be used for skirts. Boys can make flower men if they prefer.
Other activities that could fit with this badge: Growing a plant from seed in a small pot and monitoring its growth, collecting leaves and correctly identify them, bird-watching (with a check-list for native birds), making a placemat out of objects found on a nature walk (sandwich between two pieces of clear Contact Paper), wearing a spare sock outside of one's shoe during a nature walk and then planting it and observing the growth of seeds collected on the way.
Blue Craft Button/Badge
A bracelet is very easy to make! Unfortunately kids don't seem quite able to grasp the process of making a pretty pattern with fancy beads. A cheaper way to make a pretty bracelet is to buy size 10/0 Rochaille beads all one size and color, or in a bag already mixed with complimentary colors. Accompany this with size .5 mm stretch cord. The bracelets at right were ones done in such pre-packaged bead mixes, so every bracelet is guaranteed to be a pretty one. The best thing about this size bead is that it takes a long time to make a bracelet, and the activity is therefore one where kids will feel like they really are "earning" a badge. Boys who do not wear bracelets can make rings or necklaces.
Be sure to warn kids that:
(1) The beads are not to be put in the mouth. They are made of glass and can break (in fact, sometimes broken beads are in the packages). If children cannot follow this rule or are young, plastic pony beads are a better alternative.
(2) The cording can and does break if stretched. It should only be stretched with the purpose of getting the bracelet over the wrist...no more.
Lanyards are a great activity to do first so that campers can have a bandana to collect their badges/buttons and a handy whistle to use during games and activities. It also makes for inexpensive camp attire!
Whistles can be difficult to find. You might exhaust every toy store in town looking for a quality metal whistle. The best place to check is actually your local sports supply store!
Directions to make lanyards can be found on the website mentioned here: http://www.cam.com/gimp/ (click on the instructions for the lanyard; you will also need to refer to both the instructions for the rope braid and box stitch there).
Lanyards take a lot of time and effort to make, so be sure to have a clip of some sort ready for breaks, so the cording can be clipped and held in the correct position until ready to be worked on again.
Other activities that could fit with this badge: Learning basic hand-sewing stitches, embroidering, sewing a pincushion, sewing a small quilted item (such as a throw-pillow or sunglasses case), learning how to tie various types of knots, finger-painting with shaving cream (with food coloring added).
Red Fitness Button/Badge
Capture the Flag
I absolutely loved to play this game growing up. It is loads more fun to play with a lot of people, but even only two people (such as two kids, or mom or dad and one kid) can play it to some degree (the rules just need to be changed).
First, divide your yard into two even sections with a line dividing the two (such as sticks). At the far end of each side, place a ball or flag.
Divide the number of kids into two groups, and place each group in one half of the playing field.
At the blow of your whistle (or your yell of "go!"), the kids try to capture the flag of the other team and return to their half of the yard with it. Once they cross over into "enemy territory," the team there can tag them. If a person gets tagged, s/he is placed in a "prison" area of that side of the playing field. The only way to get free is to have a teammate reach the prison and tag/free him or her. The way to win is to have the flag of the opposing team back on your side. When many people are playing, usually someone guards the prisoners and another person guards the flag, and the rest of the campers do whatever they wish to tag the opposing players or attempt to get their flag.
When only two people are playing, there is no prison. Once a person is tagged that person must go back to their side of the playing field as punishment. (If that person has the flag, it must be returned.)
The game is won when one team gets the opposing team's flag on their side of the playing field.
This favorite stand-by has been made much easier by the introduction of kits! You can now get kits for these that are only a couple of dollars and come in pre-cut pieces. The only things necessary are a hammer, sandpaper, and glue (no sawing!). Of course, acrylic paints are also a must so that each car can be personalized.
At your discretion and within your rules, kids can be allowed the opportunity to enhance their cars to make them go faster. For example, will taping pennies to the front make it go faster, or slow it down?
A speed competition is not necessary (though most kids would love it!), but homemade certificates can be awarded for things such as the fastest car, nicest design, etc. Make sure everyone gets one!
Other activities that could fit with this badge: Running relay races or going through obstacle courses, beating an old record for sit-ups or jumping-rope, water sports (even something as simple as playing catch with water-soaked sponges).
Orange Campfire Button/Badge
If you aren't going to have your camp at night, feel it is unsafe, or can't light a fire outdoors, there are other ways to have a campfire and create the night sky.
Gather sticks and rocks, and place a few flashlights in the center of the pile (with the light shining upwards) for an instant campfire. This can be difficult to see when outdoors, and works best when there is a bit of shade.
You can create a "night sky" by punching holes in black construction paper or several layers of tissue paper and taping it over one of the flashlights. Of course, with this type of "night sky" you will need to be inside an enclosure, such as your tent, in order to see the "stars."
Don't forget to sing your favorite camp songs!
A non-scary adaptation of the horror story is a "roundabout story." One person begins a story, and after a few sentences passes it along to another person. A flashlight or other camping item (such as a stick) can be used to signal when it is the next person's turn.
Other activities that could fit with this badge: An overnight camp-out in a tent in the backyard, making s'mores with safe ingredients, studying and correctly identifying constellations.
* "Camp Pinewood" referred to on this page is used generically, and does not refer to the real Camp Pinewood or Camp Pinewood programs.
Article by Melissa J. Taylor, 2004. Some of the extra ideas were provided by Gigi and Melissa P.