Updated: Aug 7, 2020
A Companion to Busy Toddler's Summer Camp at Home
This post contains affiliate links for which I receive a small commission at no cost to you. Proceeds go to support this blog and my mission of inspiring parents of babies and toddlers to find quiet moments in the chaos to read to their children.
Susie Saves Summer
I was scrolling Instagram on one day in June bookmarking activities to infuse some fun in our day (my best friend call this role "Cruise Director" - another mom responsibility) when Susie of Busy Toddler released her FREE Summer Camp at Home resource. Her opening line really struck a chord:
Day camps canceled. Vacations postponed. School’s out so what will the kids do all day? Summer will still be great and magical – I promise. - Busy Toddler
In a matter of seconds I had clicked, downloaded and printed the free PDF (like, I-didn't even-have-to-enter-my-email FREE). Now, you may be one of those people that excels in coming up with fun and creative ways to keep your toddler entertained and engaged but I'm not... This was exactly what I needed - a flexible "itinerary" of summer fun! Summer was going to be magical after all!
The resource includes six weeks of themed activities and is designed to accommodate a wide age range - from toddlers to elementary students.
STEM WEEK – Science experiments - all the fun, no test
CAMPING WEEK – Camping activities are must for summer camp! --> Scroll down!
NATURE WEEK – Fun in the great outdoors a.k.a. your own backyard
ART WEEK – Explore new art techniques and ways to create
GAMES WEEK – Get ready for some good family fun and games
WATER & ICE WEEK – What says summer more than water play?
As a parent I am in pursuit of raising readers and as a former teacher, I know the importance of front loading, so of course I headed straight to my library's website to put some books on hold to supplement our home library.
I did this each week because I love having a "theme" to guide me when I'm picking out books. Because raising readers is my passion, I scoured the internet to find the best books to go along with each week's theme and I'm happy to share them with you!
Summer Camp at Home with Busy Toddler: Camping Week
I have this fantasy where my husband takes my two boys camping for the weekend and I get to spend the entire time doing girly things and having "me" time. Even though we're still a few years away from that (my oldest is 3 and my youngest is 15 months), I figured it couldn't hurt to plant the seed... With Father's Day weekend right around the corner, I thought it would be the perfect time for Busy Toddler's Summer Camp at Home Camping Week!
My husband and I took a cross-country road trip from Florida to the Grand Canyon in search of adventure the summer after we got married so we had all the gear sitting in our storage shed. When I told my husband about my plan to introduce my toddler to backyard camping and all its glory, he was somewhat skeptical. He pointed out that it's a lot of work and it is sooo hot in south Alabama in the summer.
But after I cleaned and pitched the tent, found the camp chairs and threw some blankets and pillows in, he totally came around. I set up our kiddie pool as a "lake" and put in our Munchkin Fishin' Bath Toys and Melissa and Doug Fishing Magnet Puzzle so they could do some pretend fishing and gave them a copy of Just Me and My Dad for building background knowledge.
Then I headed to the library to pick up all the books about camping that I had put on hold.
Camping Week Activities
Setting up Camp
When my husband and I took our camping trip, we had reached expert level of setting up and breaking down camp by the time it was over. But for my toddler, this was a totally new experience. It's probably my favorite thing about having children (besides the cuddles) - seeing the world and all its wonder through their eyes. He wanted "help" pitch the tent, collect sticks for a campfire and make his comfy spot. He fished in the lake and read books his dad. He even got to stay up late so they could read by flashlight.
We have a large pecan tree next to our house and with every storm it supplies us with dead limbs and sticks. My son usually helps his dad pick them but in this case, they used them to build a fire. Pine straw supplied the kindling and we roasted hot dogs one night and marshmallows another where my toddler was introduced to the melty magic of s'mores.
My husband left bright and early Father's Day morning and came back with my son's very first fishing pole. My parents have a pond beside their house and the two of them did some father-son bonding. See my favorite books for dear ole Dad here.
LEGO Camp Site Map
This activity was one my toddler and I did together in the air conditioning. I asked him questions about the things in our backyard and he watched as I built a replica out of LEGO Duplos, describing things like our raised bed garden, swing set, soccer goals, storage shed and more. After inspecting my map, he played with the figurines for while.
This was a tasty STEM treat for a hot day. My toddler helped me assemble them and we put them in sun. The fact they the S'more were wrapped in plastic wrap protected them from ants, made the graham crackers warm and everything not quite so messy. I almost didn't miss the marshmallows being toasted.
It was a sweet end to a fun week of reading and camping-related activities.
Camping Week Book List
A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee - Van Dusen, Chris <-- Not to be missed!
Just Me and My Dad - Mayer, Mercer <-- My son's favorite!
When We Go Camping - Ruurs, Margriet <-- Great for background knowledge
S is S'mores: A Camping Alphabet - James, Helen Foster
The Little Book of Camping - Bush, Zack and Friedman, Laurie
Hike - Oswald, Pete <-- Lots of buzz about this one!
The Hike - Farrell, Alison
Goodnight Campsite - Gamble, Adam
Llama Llama Loves Camping - Dewdney, Anna
Lucille Camps In - Lasky, Kathryn <-- Perfect for the ones too little to camp out
Maisy Goes Camping - Cousins, Lucy
Little Critter: Exploring the Great Outdoors - Mayer, Mercer
Pete the Cat Coes Camping - Dean, James
The Bear Scouts - Berenstain, Stan and Jan
Curious George Goes Camping - Rey, Margret and H.A.
Olivia Goes Camping - Harvey, Alex
Scaredy Squirrel Goes Camping - Watt, Melanie
Fred and Ted Go Camping - Eastman, Peter
Froggy Goes to Camp - London, Jonathan
National Parks of the USA - Siber, Kate
Outside In - Underwood, Deborah
We're Going on a Bear Hunt - Oxenbury, Helen <-- Pairs well with camping!
The Curious Cares of Bears - Florian, Douglas
Visit my website to shop the Camping Book List or discover more great books based on your child's interest.
See Also: Download Busy Toddler's FREE Summer Camp at Home, Summer Camp at Home: Art Week, Summer Camp at Home: Water and Ice Week, Summer Camp at Home: Games Week, An Introduction to Playing Preschool with Busy Toddler, A Day in the Life of Raising a Reader