Getting Ready for Camp
The summer fun begins with my three grandchildren, my niece's four children, another very young niece, and the kids, grandkids or nephews of four dear teacher friends of mine. The tiniest boy is twelve months, and the oldest boy is nine. In between are three more boys between one and two years, and two five-year-old boys. My guests include a two-year-old littlest girl, two three-year-olds, a six- and a seven-year-old girl. Indispensable to me are three big girls, ages twelve, fifteen and twenty-one, who help me every week. We meet every Wednesday from one to four, and play, play, play.
What We Did
My weekly gathering of wee folk is known far and wide as simply Playdate. It began four years ago with two tiny boys. One was my first grandboy, and the other, the first child of a beloved niece. My sister has been very challenged medically for sometime. She isn't able to do all the grandma things she'd like to do. I didn't want to call it Grandma Camp since I'm not my great nephew's grandma. So, Playdate it became and has remained. Each one of the talkers can tell you all about Playdate.
Playdate takes place each summer week here in southern Indiana. It includes water play in a water table, an old wash tub and small wading pool with a slide. We had to add more swings, as no Playdate is complete without lots of swinging. If the weather has been kind enough to send a storm to swish out the creek, then creek play is a favorite activity. Nets and buckets abound for the creekers to play catch and release with tadpoles, crayfish and minnows. A long tramp through the deep, dark forest is always enjoyed, unless one wanders onto a ground bee's nest ( ahh, a story for another day).
We enjoy themes like Princess and Pirate Day, Science Day, and next week, a Civil War Reenactment to honor the sixth birthday of a history-loving grandboy. When we started, a friend passed on a truck her children had outgrown. I'm sure to have the battery charged for riding. Halfway through each camp, we sit together on a blanket to enjoy a story or two. It might be related to the theme, or perhaps just for the love of a good story. During the story, hungry wee folk devour snacks and juice from the snack basket.
An easel graces the front porch for painting anytime the artistic urge strikes. Sketch notebooks and pencils are provided in case something worth noting crosses our path, like a turtle or beautiful butterfly. Homemade bubble solution provides an activity that appeals to all ages. A favorite pastime, not for the faint of heart, is mud play. An empty area of the garden becomes a mud bath, and too-big cucumbers are torpedoes. Playing in the spray from the hose is a worthwhile activity to pursue after a mud bath.
As we move on towards four, we let the chickens out to play and throw them lots of scratch. Then it's time to wash hands and enjoy a popsicle to end a delightful afternoon. As the littlest ones head home, some older ones slip back into the creek to build dams, have battles, and completely entertain themselves, in hopes of going unnoticed and extending Playdate for a bit longer.
- Don't let age appropriateness hold you back, unless it's dangerous. I'm so surprised and tickled to see the two-year-old wee ones just as interested in dancing raisins and GAK on Science Day as the older ones.
- Toss your plans away and smile when imagination kicks in and an activity goes on longer than expected.
- Be prepared. Before the first wee ones arrive, I have a laundry basket filled with my oldest washcloths, towels, bug bite cream, sunscreen, diapers, wipes, and white tee shirts that anyone can slip on if needed. The snack basket is full and ready, along with a story.
- You cannot have too much good help.
Our Favorite Activity
Picking a favorite activity is difficult, but Science Day is wildly loved by all. Mixing colors to stamp with vegetables, making Gak, discovering what happens to Mentos and Coke-enthralling all.
The Hardest Part
Making sure you have enough help. Some activities, like Gak, I would never do if there weren't an older person for each child four and under, unless I did it one on one. Safety is number one.
What I'll Do Differently Next Time
After four years, I have it down pat, so nothing comes to mind to do differently.
Susan Adcox, Grandparents Guide, says:
My hat is off to Gramerly for making summers special for a whole gang of kids! I am jealous of her acreage and creek. I'm not sure about the chickens.
Learn more about Gramerly, Playdate and the chickens at her blog, Free Ranging Chickens and Grandchildren.