My family and I are participating in a one-week co-op camp this month, where each mom signs up to host a day camp (9A-3P) for her kids and the rest of the group for one day during the specific week-long period. In exchange for hosting the one day, you get to send your kids to a day-camp with the other moms for the other days of the week. The kids love it, (about 10-12 kids total each day), because they get to be with their friends all day, doing fun activities. The moms love it because it keeps the kids busy and engaged while they work, run errands, or get stuff done. It has been a wonderful experience. I highly recommend it if you have a group (6 families in my case) of moms and kids that you socialize with and can coordinate.
I had so much fun during my day that I thought I would share it all with you. As you might expect, I decided to plan a cooking-themed camp. We made a series of plant-based recipes, learned some new skills (hulling strawberries), did some food related puzzles and games, and planted personal herb gardens. We ended the day with a cooking-themed movie: Ratatouille. The kids loved it!
Below are some tips for creating your own summer cooking day camp:
1. Create a plan
I used Chop Chop Magazine as inspiration for creating my schedule and “lesson plan” for the day, but Raddish Kids’ has some great group boxes with extended curriculums that would be great too (in fact, I think I will use one for a Girl Scout patch with my Brownie troop). I used the articles, games and recipes to carve out my schedule as follows:
9A – 11A Skills (hulling strawberries) and cooking
Build-your-own grain salad
11-11:30A Crossword puzzle, “Table Talk” and tasting
11:30-12:30P Herb tasting (fresh and dried) and plant personal herb pot
1-3P Screening of Ratatouille
I used recipes and the crossword puzzle from Summer 2014 issue of Chop Chop magazine. For the herb garden, I found $1 plant kits in the dollar section at Target, but you could easily buy small terracotta pots and fill with potting soil and seeds.
2. Be prepared
I let parents know the plan ahead of time and asked them to send them with an apron. I also made sure I had enough whisks, mixing bowls, cutting boards, and other tools for all of the kids. I wanted to make sure I could keep things running smoothly without having to stop and wash stuff, or entertain kids who had nothing to do while others were cooking.
3. Add games
Chop Chop magazine had some fun food-related word searches and puzzles that I used for my schedule, but you could easily create your own.
4. Buddy up
I wanted each of the kids to be able to make each of the recipes, so I grouped everyone in smaller pairs so that older kids could help younger kids. This was a great learning experience for everyone and made sure everyone had enough time to make everything.
5. Select easy prep recipes
I knew that I didn’t want to spend hours cleaning up my kitchen at the end of the day, so I purposefully selected recipes that were less mess than others. Avoid recipes that require blenders or other equipment where pairs will have to wait to take turns. Instead, use recipes that can be made using one or two tools like a bowl or a whisk. Wraps and salad dressings were good picks.
6. Taste test
Before I had the kids plant the herb pots, I set out an array of herbs for a guess-tasting game. It built excitement around the herbs they were about plant and got the kids eating stuff they may not have tried before.
7. Screen a themed movie
After lunch, the kids (and I) were ready for some down time. A movie was a great way to slow things down, and selecting Ratatouille, I was tying in a theme related movie that continued the cooking education.
I love to send home handouts with every “party” I do, so I made little packets of the recipes and games from the day that the kids could take home to remember the fun and re-create at home.
This was a fun day-camp theme and it is easy to do on your own. How are you keeping your kids entertained and enriched this summer? For more ideas and fun to do with the kids this summer, check out “What To Do With The Kids This Summer,” and “Fun Places To Go With Your Kids This Summer.” Please share your summer activities with me in the comments section below.