Summer camp is like orthodontic care: it’s a great idea in theory; it can change a child’s life; and it is very, very expensive. So, if you are like me (read: poor ) I sympathize. As much as I’d love to send my kids away to the wild north woods of Ontario for several fun-filled weeks, it just isn’t going to happen because my daughter’s new braces cost the same as one hundred years at camp and our orthodontist wouldn’t even entertain the idea of bartering what are essentially twist ties in your mouth for some beautiful hand-crocheted dish cloths.
But I don’t want my kids to miss out on camp camaraderie or straight chompers, so I’ve come up with a few ways to accomplish camp fun right here in the asphalt and strip-mall jungle of suburbia.
There is nothing like sleeping in a cabin in the woods. Kids make life-long bonds sharing secrets and stories with their bunk-mates and an occasional good-natured prank or two is character building, and you can recreate that experience at home with little effort. Suggest your kids sleep in the garage with the door up tonight. Then, when they’re fast asleep, put a frog in your son’s pajama leg and run your teenage daughter’s bra up the TV satellite antenna.
When they wake up screaming, gather them close for a personal bonding chat. This would be a great opportunity to tell them about their birth! Make sure to employ vivid detail and maybe some reenactment sequences. You want them to know how much you care. You’re making memories here, Mom.
I’ve spent a night or two at camp in my youth and what I remember with the most affection is the nightly campfire sing-along. If you’re in an urban or suburban setting, there’s likely a fire-ban in effect within city limits. Circumvent this issue and multitask by simply preparing an exceptionally greasy meal on the charcoal BBQ. You get a delicious fatty meal with lots of fiery flare-ups, and the heat is safely contained to a metal vessel, so everyone is happy.
If you’re not familiar with traditional camp-songs, may I suggest something a bit different? My family is particularly fond of classics like “Take this Job and Shove it,” “Tweeter and the Monkey Man,” and “Oh My God What Have I Done with My Life I Think I Made Huge Mistakes in Several Areas.”
Overnight camps offer kids countless activities to choose from. Here in town you’re not going to be able to offer the same choices, so make your peace with it. Make a list of all the things your family has misplaced this year: things like iPod chargers, odd socks, car keys, your will to live… you get the idea. First one back in six hours with the most items gets sheets on their bed tonight!
Fruit and Berry Picking
Doesn’t your neighbour have some peach and cherry trees in their backyard? I’m not saying you should send the kids over there with a basket mid-afternoon while you keep the neighbour busy on the front porch with completely fabricated neighbourhood gossip, but I’m not not saying that either.
At any rate, your kids will learn stealth, you can get back at cranky-pants down the road by starting rumours, and besides, we both know half that fruit is going to rot on the ground anyway because how can a retired Italian couple eat 173 bushels of peaches in one season? You’re doing everyone a favour.
Many of the larger chain grocery stores have expansive selections of fresh, live seafood. You know what you probably have? A fishing rod or two in the garage. Go check; they’re there. Look way up high in the rafters under the pile of festering hockey jerseys your husband refuses to throw out because they are somehow tied to his virility. See them? No? Okay, check near the moldy box of homemade salt-dough ornaments your kids made in nursery school. No; Not that one – the one the mice got at. YES! There! Do you see them? Okay. Take those rods down to the grocery store and get to it.
Starting sometimes around the last week in May, stop all lawn care. Yep; everything. Cease mowing the grass, don’t trim your hedges, leave all weeds where they are and maybe scatter a few extra dead branches around to create a wildlife habitat for neighbourhood raccoon and opossum.
When we had a severe ice storm here in Southern Ontario last December, I was thinking ahead to the summer and left all the dead and downed wood where it fell in my backyard. Sure, some neighbours complained and there were a few complications retrieving the kid’s bikes from the shed that one limb fell through, but the payoff is that we now have a small-scale abandoned forest right here in our backyard!
If you do it right, a yard that used to take 30 seconds to traverse will now take an entire afternoon. Send your kids out for some hiking while you relax on the front porch with a cup of coffee. Just make sure to equip them with flashlights in case they don’t make it back until after dark.
With little cost and a bit of planning you can keep your kids as busy and entertained as they would be at sleep-away camp, but without the high cost and potential malaria risk.
Image Sources: WikiCommons