A Companion to Busy Toddler's Summer Camp at Home
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It's officially August and the focus is starting to shift to going back to school (or not) but there is still time to make some magical memories this summer. But you don't have to panic-search Pinterest for ideas to squeeze the last drops of fun out of the season. Look no further than Busy Toddler's FREE Summer Camp at Home!
This is our six and final week of using the program and what I love the most about it is that it is there when I need it - no pressure. I also like that its not academic. The rest of the year we use Busy Toddler's Playing Preschool curriculum (click here for my review) but summer means school's out for us. Busy Toddler's Summer Camp at Home is a less-structured version of Susie's play-based curriculum that puts the focus on fun experiences and self-guided discovery. We still read tons of books because I am in pursuit of raising readers, but we read them for the pleasure of it.
This amazing resource is completely FREE (no email required) and comes in the form of a simple, easy-to-use 10-page PDF that 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-related activities are must for summer camp!
NATURE WEEK – Fun in the great outdoors or your own backyard
ART WEEK – Explore new art techniques and ways to create
GAMES WEEK – Get ready for some good family fun and games --> Keep scrolling!
WATER & ICE WEEK – What says summer more than water play?
As a former teacher, I know the importance of front loading (yes, even the fun stuff) so each week I head over to my library's website to put some books on hold to supplement our home library. I love having a "theme" to guide me when I'm picking out books.
Summer Camp at Home with Busy Toddler: Games Week
I saved this week for last because my son is only three and I wasn't sure how it was going to go, quite honestly. I mean, we are still working on learning to take turns. It turns out, it was the perfect way to send summer out in style; Games Week was family fun at its finest.
I will admit that this week forced me to shift my thinking. Most of the time, I am thinking about doing engaging "activities" or creating learning opportunities for my toddler, I finally started to embrace playing for the fun of it. It also challenged me to try some new things. I started to feel like a kid again, if only for a few fleeting moments.
Games Week Activities
Water Balloon Baseball
Sad to say, but my toddler had never seen a water balloon (he thought they would make a good sensory bin). I'd bought them at the beginning of COVID shut down but had not mustered up the effort it would require to make them. I was kind of dreading it but I figured it was now or never. And you know what? I sat in my chair in the shade on a hot-as-blazes-day and I stretched each balloon over the tiny nozzle that came in the package, waited for them to fill with water and tied them (at the the expense of my nails) and I'm SO GLAD I DID! It you was just one of those simple, shared moments that you know you'll remember.
When I had filled a sufficient number of balloons, I tried tying one on a string to my swing set for him to hit, but that didn't work out. I tried tossing them for him to hit but that was beyond him. I finally had the idea to use his t-ball stand and that was the ticket! He was thrilled when he made them burst, so much so that I willingly returned to my chair to make more.
This one didn't last long before the sticks came unglued and the balloons floated off, but it was fun while it lasted. For sentiment, I should mention that I used a balloon left over from my toddler's first birthday (with a Daniel Tiger theme... his dad made our Radio Flyer wagon into a trolley... I think I might cry now). Tennis kind of turned into more of a game of keep-away from the baby but it was all-around wholesome family fun.
At the beginning of quarantine, I remember seeing a lot of videos on social media of kids making chalk art and sidewalk obstacle courses, but I filed that away in my mental folder of "things to try someday." With summer slipping away, my husband would be heading back to the classroom soon so we took Games Week to the streets, that is our local walking park. I didn't get the whole thing on video, but you get the idea.
I did not do the giant memory game as described in the program, but I had picked up a Paw Patrol memory game that I had been saving for a special occasion (I'm started to see a trend here) and I decided to use it because I thought it would be high-interest. I was raised on PBS shows, so that's pretty much the only screen time I allow during the day when it's just me and the boys, but with my husband home since March, we've discovered a whole new world of Nick Jr. and Disney Junior not to mention Amazon Prime and Disney Plus. (We're all doing our best here...)
I started by having him just match a few pairs side-by-side, then we started small with six cards and practiced flipping them over and back until we found a match. It was a good introduction, but after a while he just wanted to play with the character cards.
I'm not sure my toddler had ever seen board game, so instead of making our own, I decided to start with the simplest game I could think of: Chutes and Ladders. Since it is just a matter of spinning the spinner and counting and moving the spaces, no strategy is required, but it does develop skills like number recognition, turn-taking and stamina. We stopped when it wasn't fun anymore, which was somewhere in the sixties.
We played "Red Light, Green Light" when we were learning about stop and go as part of our Playing Preschool Transportation Unit, but Games Week made me realize there are a lot of other outdoor games I've yet to introduce him to, but I must surely do before he is completely lost on playground a recess someday. So yesterday during the baby's nap we played Hide and Seek (which is the perfect nap time activity, btw). He only gave me to the count of ten, but the look on his face when found my hiding spot made me realize once again that simple things really are the best.
Games Week Book List
Raising readers is my passion and children's books are my jam, so each week I scour the internet to find a wide variety of books to go along with each week's theme and I'm happy to share them with you!
Books About Games and Sportsmanship
Fun and Games: Everyday Play - Cortright, Celeste --> Releasing August 2020
Jumanji - Van Allsburg, Chris --> Caldecott Award Winner
The Cat in the Hat - Dr. Seuss
Oliver's Tree - Chase, Kit
Have You Seen Elephant? - Barow, David --> Hide and seek
High Five! - Rubin, Adam --> From the creators of Dragon's Love Tacos
Five Flying Penguins - McGrath, Barbara Barbieri --> A game of tag
Pass Go and Collect $200 - Stone, Tonya Lee --> How Monopoly was Invented
Pete the Cat: Go, Pete, Go! - Dean, James --> The race is on
Pete the Cat: Play Ball - Dean, James
The Ultimate Book of Family Card Games - Ho, Oliver
The Great Big Book of Children's Games - Wise, Debra
Winners Never Quit! - Hamm, Mia --> Women's soccer legend
Stephen Curry: The Boy Who Never Gave Up - Curcio, Anthony
Long-Armed Ludy and the First Women's Olympics - Patrick, Jean L. S. --> True story!
Howard B. Wigglebottom Learns About Sportmanship - Binkow, Howard
Pug the Winner - Blabey, Aaron
The Berenstain Bears Play a Good Game - Berenstain, Jan and Mike
I Want to Win! A Story About Being a Good Sport - Graves, Susan
Visit my website to shop the and discover more great books based on your child's interest.
See Previous: Summer Camp at Home: Water and Ice Week
See Also: Summer Camp at Home: STEM Week, Summer Camp at Home: Camping Week, Summer Camp at Home: Nature Week, Summer Camp at Home: Art Week, An Introduction to Playing Preschool with Busy Toddler, A Day in the Life of Raising a Reader