This past month, my friends and I ran our own programming: Mom Camp. We planned activities, went on excursions, and let our kids run around in our backyards. If you’re thinking that this just sounds like your own childhood, well…yeah. That’s pretty much what it was: an organized version of a 1970’s / 80’s Midwest summer.
Two thirds of our mom squad’s job is year round CEO-of-the-house. One of our mom squad has the month of July off every summer. Our time frame became that month, with camp taking place in the afternoon hours. Between the three of us, we have seven kids (all boys), ages 4-11.
Here is the 3 – 2 – 1 on how we ran Mom Camp:
3 – We three met last November and blocked out the month of July for Mom Camp. We decided that leaving the afternoons open would be best. This allowed for individual families the choice of activities in the A.M., or the option of slow summer mornings. Having three families was key, because if one was unavailable, there were still two families present. Usually, we moms hung out, but occasionally, one of us would have another commitment. Mom Camp gave us the security that our kids were being cared for by two other moms in a fun, familiar environment.
2 – Having two plans and being flexible kept us all on the same page for Mom Camp. The need for two plans arose if the weather turned crummy, or if one mom had another place to be. The formula we used was generally 25% structured activity and 75% free time. This free time was mostly outside, and we had a no-screens policy. When we discussed our values, and what we wanted camp to be, we kept going back to memories of our childhoods, where we simply played.
1 – One big highlight to our Mom Camp was season passes to Six Flags Great America. (Talk about bang for your buck: the cost was $70 per person, and one of my boys has already visited 10 times this summer!) A membership takes the pressure off of spending an entire day somewhere. The theme park was really exciting for the kids, and again: we moms were all on the same page. We said “yes” to one treat per visit and “no” to all the extras (souvenirs, rip-off games). In terms of mealtimes, we only shared one meal during all the weeks of Mom Camp (our *finale!), which greatly simplified things.
*Mom Camp Finale: When we reflected on our budget, we realized that Mom Camp cost about $100 per child for the entire month. That gave us reason to celebrate, so we did. We did an overnight in Milwaukee that also cost $100 per child and included: UrbanAir Adventure Park ($35), one dinner and one lunch ($30), hotel sleepover including pool, movie, and breakfast ($35), Sprecher Brewery root beer / pop tasting ($1), and a hike to the beach (free).
While our three families participated in varying activities during the summer (sports camp 9am-3pm, YMCA day camp 9am-12pm, summer school 9:30am-12:30pm), the boys concluded that Mom Camp was their favorite part of summer. When asked why, the response was, “Because we get to play with our friends!” When you consider that many kids these days go from a seven hour school day to extra-curricular activities, it’s no wonder that simply playing with friends is (somewhat sadly) what becomes the novelty.
As I’m typing this, my seven year old is asking me, “Why can’t we do Mom Camp ourselves?” To say this July was a smashing success would be the understatement of the summer. In her book, “The Power of Fun: How to Feel Alive Again,” author Catherine Price explains the three components to True Fun as playfulness, connection, and flow. Mom Camp was all of those things, not just between kids or between moms, but from moms to kids (their own and others’). It’s telling that on the night of our finale, my four year old asked if he could snuggle with one of the other moms. 🙂
It’s never too early to find those like-minded moms and plan your own camp. I’m pretty sure that all seven of our boys will be receiving Great America passes for Hanukkah/Christmas. Here are the other (FREE!) activities that we did this summer: Iron Chef competition, game day, 7/11 slurpees, football/tag/Gaga ball/play at parks, photo scavenger hunt, Camp Mom (build-a-fort & create a Mom Camp logo), sprinkler, basketball, local pool (additional cost).