10 Grandma Camp Tips:
A Successful Camp with Happy Campers!
Grandma Camp (or Camp NanaPapa as we call it) is the highlight for everyone in the family each year! The grandkids love it for obvious reasons. The parents love it because they get a little break from the kiddos. And, Papa and I love it, because we LOVE spending time with our Littles! Here are our best grandma camp tips to produce lots of happy campers!
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#1 – Grandma Camp Tips: Have an Assistant
Find yourself an assistant camp director! It’s invaluable to have another pair of eyes, ears and hands. This person could be your spouse, one of the parents, a friend, or an older grandchild.
In our case, I have a niece that is the last of the cousins by a long way. So much so that she is just a couple of years older than my oldest grandchild. So, she is perfect! She has participated in our camp every year and has been a huge help! This year, she is being promoted to Assistant Camp Director! (In the past, it’s been our Papa, but he just wants to play with the kids. 😉)
#2 – Grandma Camp Tips: Hold a Special Welcome or Opening Ceremonies
Our first grandma camp tip is to have a special welcome for the kids when they arrive. We had a huge banner made that stretches across the top of our porch that says: Welcome to Camp NanaPapa! You could do one that says: Welcome campers! Or even just the name of your camp. Be creative!
I also print out little tickets that I deliver with their invitations. They are supposed to bring these with them when they arrive the first day. Dream up something that will make coming to your home different and exciting than if they came on a regular day.
We do an actual Opening Ceremonies. We have a gathering activity that consists of a flag ceremony, singing camp songs, making up a silly cheer, and this:
Going over the rules and consequences!
The first year, we let the kids have some ownership in setting the consequences for breaking rules. We’ve just kept the same ones over the years. The last consequence is that if you break the rules too often, you will be sent home. This is a huge deterrent for misbehavior, because NO ONE wants to go home!
#3 – Grandma Camp Tips: Check Bags
Do a bag check sometime near the beginning of camp. Either during welcome time or immediately before or after. This way, you know that everyone has a toothbrush, PJs, underwear, and any other needs. Encourage the parents to do this before they leave their house, but if not, you should do a double check. You know. . .just in case.
If your grandchildren are old enough to have electronics, this would be a good time to have them put them away (hopefully for the duration of camp). Our rule is NO ELECTRONICS at camp. I know that they go through a bit of withdrawl, but this is a relationship building activity. That happens much better without electronics to distract and isolate them.
#4 – Grandma Camp Tips: Have a Schedule
Make sure you have a schedule and well-planned activities. But. . .be flexible! Things can and will happen that could cause things to need adjustment. Just go with it! Don’t stress out over having to change up the schedule. Whatever you do, don’t expect perfection! It’s just not going to happen!!
#5 – Grandma Camp Tips: Parent Info
Make sure the parents get a copy of your schedule and itinerary in case they need their child or you. Also, make sure they have a copy of the rules and discipline that will be used or at least talk to them about it (see #4 below). Remind the parents that it is your house and there will be lots of kids to deal with, so you will need strict rules and consequences to keep some sense of order.
#6 – Grandma Camp Tips: Don’t Skip the Discipline
That brings us to the “how” of disciplining the grandkids. Here are the 5 guidelines that we use for Grandma Camp (or any time the Littles are at our house):
- Inform the parents of the discipline rules (either before or when they drop off the kids).
- Remember that it is your home, and the kids need to obey your rules.
- Set clear expectations and consequences
- Follow through and be consistent
- Love, Love, Love!! Make sure all your actions are done with love.
If you want to read more in depth about these guidelines, we wrote about it in this post about disciplining and grandchildren.
#7 – Grandma Camp Tips: Give the Children Responsibilities
Make sure that everyone is helping! This camp is for them, and they don’t need you worn out from cleaning up after everyone. Besides, there are lots of benefits from working together. It builds relationships when you serve with others. It also gives the kids a sense of ownership in the camp and keeping the schedule.
(I’ve had people ask about the little plastic badge holders and lanyards from above. I got mine at Walmart, but Amazon is quite a bit cheaper. Plus, you get a variety of colors.)
#8 – Grandma Camp Tips: Take Pictures. . .lots of them!
Take lots and lots and lots of pictures! And. . .make sure that you’re in some of them as well. I actually hand off my phone to someone else and ask them to take pics of me doing stuff with the kids. I also take lots of pics with the kids doing things with Papa as well.
This is a special time and these kids will never be this age again. You’ll never do this camp this way again. And, let’s face it. . .you never know who might not be around next year. I know that sounds morbid, but after losing a parent suddenly, I don’t take any chances.
The kids are going to love it so much that they are going to want to look back at the memories. Our Littles LOVE looking through the photos of camp! You can even make photo books and give them to the kids for Christmas or some other special occasion. Check! Another Christmas taken care of during the summer! (Don’t you just love when you can combine stuff??)
#9 – Grandma Camp Tips: Create Balance in the Schedule
Make sure that you keep a good balance of scheduled time and free play time. We found that the kids like the unstructured time as much as the planned activities. They love having that bonding time with their cousins. You may find that you need to adapt your schedule if the kids are requesting more or less free time together.
#10 – Grandma Camp Tips: Closing Ceremonies
Create a closing ceremonies event. This can be as elaborate or simple as you want to make it. You can do awards, sing, clean up, signing t-shirts or little camp books, or anything that will help the kids wind things down. We found that if we didn’t have something that marked the official end of camp, the kids just kept playing and acting as though they weren’t going home. We needed an official “end” to camp!
So. . .How Do You Judge a Successful Camp?
One way that we know we had a successful camp are the moans and groans from the children when they realize that camp is over, and they have to go home. Often, the kids tell us that they want us to extend camp for another day, or they tell us that they want camp to last 2 or 3 weeks the next summer. We always smile and say, “We’ll see.” The good news is that we have left them wanting to come back for more!
Whether you are holding camp for just a day or a whole week, we hope these grandma camp tips will help you avoid some of the pitfalls that we’ve experienced over the years. Above all, remember that this is supposed to be a bonding experience for you and your grandchildren. Everyone should have fun. . .including the grandparents!
Cookies & Milk for Everyone!
P.S. If you are still thinking about whether or not to hold your own Grandma Camp, we have some questions you can ask yourself to see if you’re ready. If you are ready and want to hold your own Grandma Camp, check out our Complete Guide to Grandma Camp. If you’re not quite sure about how to put together a schedule for your Grandma Camp, we’ve got you covered!