A clear blue lake, canoe ride, log cabin and campfire all signal the classic summertime getaway of a summer camp. Summer camps are popular for kids because they teach social, fitness and survival skills while nurturing a love for the outdoors and providing a fun, safe environment for exploration.

However, summer camps can be cost or time-prohibitive for some families. Many camps come with a high price tag and intense time commitment, making it hard for all families to attend and enjoy. And this year specifically, COVID-19 restrictions have closed or postponed many camps altogether, forcing many parents to get creative with at-home activities

That’s where DIY summer camps come in.

 For families who can’t make it to the real thing, summer camps can be recreated at home. DIY summer camps are a great way to channel the summer camp spirit without breaking the bank or traveling too far from home. Your camp can fit your family’s exact needs and schedule while still allowing your kids to grow and learn. 

This guide will teach you how to make your own DIY summer camp, including themes, games and printables to get started. 

Step 1: Pick a Theme

One of the many benefits of DIY summer camps is that they can be tailored directly to your child’s interests. Whether you decide to keep it traditional with log cabins and campfires or mix it up with an unconventional idea, there are many fun ways to make your camp unique and special. 


The traditional camp theme is so popular because it’s worked for dozens of years, bringing kids together and letting them enjoy the outdoors. Recreate the feeling of peace and seclusion by unplugging from your phone and camping out in the backyard. 

Activities for this theme include: swimming, building a campfire, telling stories, playing tag and stargazing.  You can also download this welcome sign and coloring page activity to get your ideas flowing as you begin making your camp.


Once Upon a Summer Camp

For Disney and storybook fans, the tale of a brave knight and independent princess is tried and true. Let your kids indulge their fairytale fantasies by transforming your camp into a magical wonderland, complete with tiaras and foam swords. 

Activities for this theme include: a royal relay race, dragon’s egg hunt, a puppet show and a dance contest. You can also download this welcome sign and fill-in-the-blank word game to bring the fairytale to life. 


A Pirate’s Life

Those who dream of a life on the ocean will love this swashbuckling theme. Let your kids flex their imagination by bringing the ocean into your living room! Complete the theme with bandanas and DIY eye patches. 

Activities for this theme include: foam sword fights, crab walk races, water balloon fights and a hunt for hidden treasure. You can also download this welcome sign and maze activity to create the ambiance of the ocean in your living room. 

Welcome to the Jungle

Bring the wild safari, dense rainforest or mysterious jungle into your backyard with this fun, animal-themed camp. Adventurous kids will love this camp theme, complete with explorer hats and whistles. 

Activities for this theme include: animal walk races, scavenger hunts, face painting and tag. You can also download this welcome sign and scavenger hunt activity to bring the jungle indoors. 

Step 2: Schedule Activities

Once you’ve nailed down your theme, it’s time to brainstorm ideas that will fit. Don’t be afraid to get creative — after all, summer camps emphasize the importance of imagination and creativity. 

You can use this printable itinerary to schedule activities — make sure you include a lunch hour and some time to rest in the middle of the fun activities. 

Some more fun activities you can include: 

  • Planting a garden
  • Building a blanket fort
  • Telling scary stories
  • Going hiking
  • Birdwatching
  • Stargazing
  • Making a meal together
  • Playing I-Spy
  • Kickball tournament
  • Three-legged race 

Step 3: Have Fun and Get Creative 

Summer camps — whether near or far — are meant to be fun, creative and empowering. Once you’ve got your theme, decor and activities handled, it’s time to have fun and enjoy the outdoors as a family. And as an added bonus: you get to sleep in your own bed. 

Emily Gibson is a content marketing specialist.