Planning Grandma Camp: The Complete Guide

Planning Grandma Camp: A Complete Guide

Kids roasting hotdogs on sticks over a backyard firepit at Grandma Camp

Some call it cousin camp. Others call it grandma camp. Still others call it grandparent camp. What ever you call it, get those little grandchildren (or cousins) together and call it FUN!! We’re here to help you in planning a grandma camp for maximum fun and memory making!

Here in NanaLand, we call it CampNanaPapa. So for the rest of this post, we will refer to it as grandma camp and call the little people grandkids. . .because, I do not want to keep typing all those names. My fingers would fall off! But whether you are a grandparent getting the grandkids together or a parent getting the cousins together, it’s all the same.

It’s super exciting to hold a camp for the grandkids! If you need help to set up a timeline or schedule to get it all together, check out this post for putting together a schedule for successful camp. After you have your schedule together, I recommend you block your planning into 3 phases: The months before, the week before, and the day before. Let’s get started on planning grandma camp!

I apologize that this post is a super long one. I put lots of detail in so you could get your camp planned with minimal surprises! If you would like a FREE Checklist of how to schedule a camp, fill out the form below and download it today!


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Grandma Camp Plan: 4 – 6 Months Before

  • Plan the Dates – It is a good thing to plan out your dates for camp well in advance. This way families can plan around vacations and other obligations. In our family, we have grandchildren whose parents are divorced and spend time with their dads during the summer. So, we try to get things arranged well in advance so that we know what dates the kids are available or can arrange for them to be with their mom. This also gives you plenty of time to think about what you want to do and save up if needed.

Grandma Camp Plan: One Month Before

  • Invitations – Make and send out invites to the families that has the dates and times for drop off and pick up. This gets the kids excited and looking forward to camp. Along with this, I send out little tickets that give them the date and time for the first day. They have to bring their ticket to get their unity item (either a t-shirt or cinch sack). I usually include some water bottles with the theme on it and a flashlight.
  • Packing List & Rules – I send out a copy of what gear the kids should bring, reminder for the parents to label EVERYTHING with their child’s name, which activities are for all the kids or just older kids, sleeping arrangements, what chaperones/vehicles I will need, and all the rules (including what discipline has been laid out) for camp. (Just a note: When planning grandma camp, don’t leave out the discipline expectations. This is just as important for the kids as it is for you. Look through this post on what to think about before you actually begin planning grandma camp.)
  • Menu Planning – I get the menu together and a list of items I will need for each meal. Then I watch sale papers to get the best prices on those items. I separate my list into dry and canned goods (that can be purchased ahead of time) and fresh items that will need to be purchased the day before camp begins. This is also the time when you need to check with parents on current dietary needs of the kids.
  • Purchasing – Watch for the best prices on food items, craft supplies and paper goods that you will want for camp. When planning grandma camp, you don’t want to break the bank by waiting until the last minute. This will often cost you time and money. Utilize Amazon or Walmart as they both have 2-day free shipping on some orders. Oriental Trading has bulk items for craft or theme ideas. Most dollar stores will have things you can use for crafts or décor but are subject to availability. So if you shop early, you have time to wait for them to restock. This also gives you a chance to find coupons that might apply to items you need. Remember that you will need supplies for protection as well – sunscreen, bandages, insect repellant, etc.
  • Welcome Banner – The first year, I purchased a vinyl banner from my local party supply store for about $20. I kept it somewhat generic. There is a place to put in the date every year and to welcome the kids to Camp NanaPapa. We hang it on our front porch so the kids (and neighbors) know it’s camp time!
  • Kitchen Helpers Schedule – You can go ahead and put together the Kitchen Helper’s schedule and create some badges or special aprons for the kids to wear while they are helping. It just makes cleaning and prepping a little more fun! Kitchen helper badges for planning grandma camp, Kitchen helper badges on lanyards
  • End of Camp Awards – If you want to do a closing ceremonies and awards, you can prep these ahead of time. Print out some generic awards where you can fill in the child’s name and accomplishment. This way, you can be watching during camp for those funny moments to create a fun award for each child.
  • Daily Schedule of Events – Create a sheet for each day of camp that you can display for the kids to see. Trust me! It will save on the kids constantly asking you, “What are we doing next?” I create these on my computer but don’t print them out until the day before. Sometimes there are changes to the schedule.
  • Research – Do your research for any outings you want to take when planning grandma camp. Don’t wait until you get there to find out that the Dino Museum or Zoo is closed for cleaning during your camp. Check times, dates, availability, cost (sometimes prices change depending on time of year), advance ticket sales (can sometimes save you money), group pricing rates, passes available (I have grandparent passes to some of the venues in my local area), travel time, best time to visit, and any other pertinent info you may need.
  • Volunteers & Rules for Kids in Cars – secure a commitment from any of the adults who will volunteer to drive or chaperone any of the activities for camp. Check on car seats and make sure you understand all the rules of buckling up those kiddos in the car.
  • Sleeping Arrangements – You may need to have separate rooms, tents or just sleeping space for the Littles to be comfortable. Make sure you know how to set up and take down the tent if you’re using one. Or make sure that there is enough room in the living room for all the sleeping bags. This year, we got a few of those little cots for sleepovers. Some of the children needed those to be able to sleep well. Or you may have a need to separate boys and girls. Make sure you have that planned out as well.
  • Plan for Teasers – This is not a must on the list, but it is fun if you want to use little teasers throughout the month to get the kids excited about coming to camp. I plan small things like mailing a postcard to remind them to get their things packed. Or a text to the parents to share with the kids talking about a countdown of days. Our family has a Group Me message board where I put up a picture of Papa and I in front of the banner telling the kids how excited we are and that we can’t wait! Like I said, it’s not a must for planning grandma camp, but it’s fun!
  • Think Ahead to Post Camp – After camp, I like to put together pictures and little stories from the time we had together. This is fun for the parents to see and serves as a great memory for the kids.

All of this can be done in the weeks leading up to camp. Don’t put off the things that can be done well ahead of time. This will keep you from going crazy that week before. Planning ahead also can alert you to any changes you need to make in case things aren’t coming together quite as you wanted.

Grandma Camp Plan: One Week Before

  • Final Arrangements for Outings – Make any final arrangements for places that you will visit. Check on things like reservations, construction on the roads to your destination, advance ticket purchases, etc.
  • Goodie Bags – If you have a goodie bag or welcome packet for the kids, get those put together. This way you will know if you are missing something or are short on supplies. These are our favorite drawstring backpacks to use. They come in all colors and they’re not expensive. Great combo, right?
  • Finalize Schedule – Hopefully, there won’t be any last-minute changes, but now is the time to find out if there is. If all looks right, you could go ahead and print your daily schedules.
  • Prep Your Home & Vehicles – Over the next week, take a look around your home and make sure that everything is ready. Take a good look around the outside. Mow the lawn a couple of days before. Trim back any bushes that might cause problems. Also make sure all hoses and other tools are secured, etc.On the inside, just make sure all the rooms are ready for whatever they need to be used for. I like to get my kitchen extra clean as that makes it easier for the kids to keep clean. One of my other suggestions would be to put away any knick knacks or special items that might become collateral damage during camp. My our house, Papa is on car wash duty so things are ready to go. We don’t want to spend time cleaning out extra stuff from cars so we can cart the Littles around.
  • Gather All Craft/Activity Supplies – I like to gather all my supplies for each activity or each day into a box. A good example of this is when we did our marshmallow shooters in the schedule above. I made sure all the pieces of PVC pipe were cut to the right length and that we had enough of each one. I put the pieces for each shooter along with visual instructions on how to put them together into a bag. That way, I only had to grab the box and hand out a bag to each kid. I also made sure that we had a nice variety of printed duct tape, scissors,and markers, and put those in the box as well. You can do this for any activity that has “parts.”
  • Outdoor Handwashing Station – I brought out and put together a simple handwashing station DIY hand washing station for camp, 5 gallon blue bucket with spigot and roll of paper towels strapped to topthat we use for camping. I also put out a cooler of water and ice with cups. It is great so that the kids aren’t coming in and out of the house when they need to wash hands or get a drink. Even if the boys don’t come inside to use the facilities (yes, I catch them “watering” the bushes sometimes), I still make them wash their hands. Ugh! Boys!! We just have to laugh.
  • Music – Gather up some silly camp songs that the kids can sing. This can be a fun way to bring some unity. We haven’t gotten good at making this a tradition, but we’re working on it.
  • Responsibility Charts – You can make up and print off responsibility charts for the kids to follow. I like to make mine kind of visual so that the little ones can understand. Here is one of our Kitchen Helpers Charts:



  • Test All Equipment – Test out anything you need to ahead of time – the firepit, the outdoor movie, crafts, painting, camp stove, dutch oven, car seat installation (yes, make sure you know how to do it right!), or anything else that could cause you to waste time “fixing” while the kids have to wait.

Well, that brings us up to T minus 24 hours.

Grandma Camp Plan: The Day Before

  • Shopping – Finish all shopping for your fresh foods. Check to make sure there isn’t anything else that you have forgotten at the store.
  • Food Prep – Make sure to finish prepping any food that needs to wait until the last minute. Clean out the fridge and freezer and make room to store anything that needs to stay cold.
  • Set Up Sleeping/Changing Areas – Set up and divide off the sleeping quarters and areas for changing clothes. Just make sure you clearly mark these areas. You are trying to avoid getting a thousand questions during camp.
  • Clean Inside & Make Things Easy to Find – Clean up all the areas really well where the kids will be. That way you can show them what it should look like before they leave camp. Also, make things easily accessible and easy to find. Put food fixings on lower shelves. Stack all paper and plastic goods in one spot so kids are not hunting around the kitchen. On the flip side, make sure all medicines, cleaners, and other potentially dangerous items are stored up and away from the kids and secured. When planning grandma camp, you need to think through anything the kids will be helping with and make it accessible.
  • Get Your Camera Ready – Make sure that you have a camera ready to take pictures and video of all the fun things at camp. The parents will want to see and so will the grandkids. You may want to be able to document that you really did this! Also, depending on what you may have planned for preserving the memories after camp is over, you will undoubtedly need some pictures to go with it.
  • Decorate with Theme Items – Hang the banner if you have one. Put up any décor that you have as to give the fun ambiance of “camping” away from mom and dad.
  • Kiss Your Sanity Goodbye – Lol! Just be prepared. . .for anything! You may need to prepare mentally to have the kids around 24 hours a day for the next few days. So, don’t be unrealistic about your expectations. Yes, you’ve spent a lot of time planning this; and yes, you want all to go well. However, don’t worry too much if things don’t go exactly as planned. Let go! And. . .remember why you are doing this.

Are you ready for one of the greatest experiences of your life? You have done a wonderful job planning grandma camp! Now go enjoy it! You will make memories and build relationships that will last long after the fun is done!

Please let us know how your camp turns out! Leave us a comment below to ask a question or tell us about your fun experiences! Like I tell the Littles. . .It’s a lot more fun when everyone shares!

Cookies & Milk for Everyone!

Nana Jill Signature with yellow flower



P.S. If you want that great Checklist for Planning your Grandma Camp, download it today!

24 thoughts on “Planning Grandma Camp: The Complete Guide”

  1. Papa and I have will be hosting our first “grandma papa camp” this summer and I can’t begin to tell you how thankful I am for all the valuable advice you have posted! This is awesome! We have 11 jewels ranging from 5months -14 years of age and they all live within 20 miles from us and I pray 10 of them will be able too attend camp! I especially like idea of having a banner too welcome our grands! Very exciting!! Can’t wait to share our camp experience with you! Great job!!!

    1. Michelle, I’m so happy you found some info that will help with your camp. I’m excited for you to hold a camp for your little “jewels.” I’ll look forward to hearing about it! Have fun and let me know if you need any other info. I’m always happy to help!

  2. Fantastic post. I need a bit of direction if you can, for my situation. This would be my first year and I think I’d like to start out with a day camp format. My sister passed in 2010 so I am trying to fill the gramma role for her grandkids, whom she never met. Some are step grands that only see each other at Christmas time, so they aren’t super familiar with each other. They range in age from 6 months to 7 years old with only a total of 6, 4 of those are potty trained. I would love to work up to a several day affair but that is not for this year. Any thoughts for creating those bonds in such a short amount of time?

    1. Wow Andrea, you have taken on a big job, but what a labor of love! It sounds like the kids really do need a little more connection to create the bonds you’re asking about. For the most part, relationships take time and attention. However, kids often connect much faster as they just want someone to play and be with. They don’t get into the complexities of adult relationships.

      I do have a lot of ideas and info but probably too much to put in a comment. Please email me at jill @ and let’s chat about how those little ones can connect.

  3. this is my 1st year doing nana camp and we are all super excited but it wasnt until i was penteresting activities to fill in the time gaps that I came across this site and am super excited that its a thing and I can use all your wisdom and experience. thank you

  4. Nancy Campbell

    We’re having our 10th Cousins Camp next week, Monday-Friday. We always have a theme (Hawaii, Wild West, Emojis, Character….), and this year’s theme is the Circus. We have 15 grandkids, but only 10 are coming, ages 5-19. The other 5 either have jobs or are too young. (They must be at least 4!) I found lessons on people from the Bible who have something in common with circus entertainers….Some examples are Samson, the strongman; Sarah the clown, when she laughed because God told her she would have a baby in her old age; Peter, who escaped from prison, like the escape artist; and Daniel, the lion tamer.

    We’ll have lots of fun during the week, and on Friday night we’ll have dinner with the 3 sets of parents. Friday morning the kids will help decorate outside, and that night they’ll put on a circus for their parents! I’m so excited, but I wonder (as I do every year) if I’m going to be ready in time!!!

    Thank you so much for your posts and the huge help they’ve been to me. No matter how many of these we do, we always need fresh ideas!!

    1. Nancy, I’m impressed with the connections you made between Bible characters and circus people. That’s awesome! It sounds like you’re camp is going to be so much fun, and I’m sure your grandchildren look forward to it every year.

      I’m so glad you found some helpful suggestions. And I hear ya, Sister. . .I sometimes wonder if I’m going to be ready too. Ha ha! There’s always too many fun things to do with the kids but only so much time to get it all together. ❤ Have a great time!

  5. I am getting ready to do a 3 day 2 night camp with my 4 local grandchildren. I sure wish I had seen this sooner! I have things mostly set; food, activities, etc. Because the older children have phones and all have small handheld game systems I have decided to establish an electronics “safe” to hold them all until free time each day. I have planned a Pirate Themed day for the middle day with a treasure hunt as one activity and a pirate movie that night.

  6. Is there anything similar to Airbnb or Couchsurfing for grandparents looking to travel with grandkids and connect with other grandparents with local grandkids across the US?
    We like to travel with our grandkids – ages 9 and 11 yrs. We’ve camped locally and at state parks with our grandkids. They readily make friends and enjoy playing at the park campgrounds.
    Now, we would like to make an across the USA trek – this summer if travel restrictions are lifted. We will travel from Washington state to Utah to New York state to visit great-grandparents. It would be so wonderful to have a few stop over adventures along the way with local grandparents/grandkids – new friends and local experiences.
    Am I crazy?

    1. No Lori, you’re not crazy. LOL! That sounds like such a fabulous idea! I’m not aware of anything like you have described. I’ll do some looking around. This sounds like something fun to share with other grandparents if it exists. Thanks for stopping by!

  7. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Our camp is next month and you have really helped my planning efforts. 8 grands ages 9-19 months. It will be fun!

    1. Mimi, I’m so excited for you! It sounds like you have a gaggle of grands like I do. Ha ha! I have no doubt it will be so much fun for all of you. Grandma camp or cousins camp) is a place where you and your grands can bond and make so many memories that will last a lifetime. I’m glad you found some helpful suggestions and good luck with camp! Please come back and share with us how it went.

  8. I LOVE and appreciate your camp info! We too do a cousins camp with my grandkids. Every July in Minnesota north woods! Have you ever heard of “the Rainy Day Theater”? Kids prepping theater plays for others… we may do The Three Little Pigs this summer. Drop cloths to make scenery. I copied outlines from book onto dropcloth from Mennards. They will paint in, etc. I have so many ideas! glad to share with you. I dont post … but will share for sure!

    1. Susan, I love those ideas!! There will probably be others who would like to try the “Rainy Day Theater.” I’ve never heard of it, but I think my Littles would absolutely love an idea like that! Thank you so much for sharing this awesome idea!! You will probably get an email from me asking about some of those other ideas. I would love to share them here with everyone.

  9. I have so enjoyed your posts about Grandma Camp, especially as we planned our first camp. There are lots of ideas out there, but I found yours the BEST! Your tips and fun ideas were so helpful! Since grandpa helped, he suggested we call it Grand’s Grand Camp, which our grand blessings love! Our five oldest grands live in our city, and we see them often. They even have their own room at our house. 🙂 Mom and Dad had asked if we could watch them for two days so they could go on a short trip. I said we needed them for 4, because I wanted to host our first camp. We created an invitation and sent each grand a brochure that included a packing list (and what not to bring), some basic rules and a few of the things they could look forward to. I’m happy to say, it was a huge success! They are excited this will be an annual event. We have a 5 month old granddaughter across the country, and when she is older, she, and any added siblings, will be joining us! Thank you so much for all the great help!!

    1. Karen, I’m so excited for you! It sounds like you are off to a great start creating your Grand’s Grand Camp (btw, I love the name!!) as an annual event. I’m sure your grands will look forward to it every year! Last year was the first time we were able to have all of our Littles together (including the long distance ones) and the cousins were all in heaven spending 3 glorious days together. Grandma Camp is by far the highlight of the year for us and our Littles. You’ll have to circle back around here each year and let us know how it goes and what fun things you did! I’m so glad that you were able to find our ideas helpful!

      1. We don’t have a local party store close by. Could you possibly refer me to somewhere I could purchase the welcome banner online?

        1. Susan, I have never ordered a banner online. However, there seem to be many sources that could do this for you. If I were to recommend one, it would be VistaPrints.

          I have done some other types of printing through them and found them to be reasonably priced and good quality prints. I’ve never had a complaint about them.

          If you do print a banner online, please come back and let us know who you used and how it went. I would even love to see a photo!

  10. This looks amazing! Thank you! I was wondering if you have an age limit, of how old they need to be, or do you recruit parents?

    1. Hi Kris! Papa and I will take the kids full time without parents once they’re potty trained. Before that, parents need to help out during the days and take the kids home at night. As a matter of fact, we’ve had 3 sets of parents be motivated to quickly get their kids potty-trained this past month with all our talk of Camp NanaPapa coming up. Ha ha!

      We decided to make this rule, because with so many Littles, it was too hard to have to stop our activities to always be changing a diaper. Besides, it created too much baggage when we took the kids places.

      I hope you find some info that will be helpful to hold your own camp. Thanks for stopping by!

  11. You are so organized and this all looks awesome!

    You always do such a great job at Camp NanaPapa. The kids love it!

    1. Thanks, Karen! Our Camp NanaPapa is a big hit with our Littles. They look forward to it every year! I love the memories that we are making together.

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