Camp in a Box – Books, Crafts, and Adventures

What are your plans this summer? Some families like to take it one day at a time, attend camp, or  plan their whole summer with activities. Either one works, it just depends on what works for your family and schedule. I had considered a camp, and I probably will when my boys are older but I still want to give them the opportunity to learn about new topics by crafting, reading and visiting places related to our themes. Have you heard of the summer slide? It sounds fun, huh? On the contrary, it means that on average children are losing 2.5 months of reading and math skills during the summer. And then 6 weeks in the fall are spent re-learning material that was lost over the summer. My oldest is starting TK and my youngest is starting Pre-k so I want to make sure we establish a good routine and love for learning to help beat the summer slides over the years with Camp Mamahood Adventures.

So I opted to create a Camp in a Box (thanks, sister, for the name). I collected the following items from Dollar Tree and Target and placed them in a box. All of these items will be used to make all the crafting-with-a-purpose over the summer! See my Pinterest board called Summer Crafts (link here) for sample pictures! I am going to accompany these crafts with Usborne Books and More that I sell, and a day trip. Who wants to do it with me? And it is simple enough so that anyone can do it with the kids!


What’s in my box? paper plates, scissors, tape, rhinestones, popsicle sticks, crayons, paint and brushes, construction paper, one poster paper in white, glue stick, tissue paper (multi-colored), beans, straws, pom poms, glitter glue, clothing pins, aluminum foil, eye stickers, pipe cleaners, Legos and Lego base plate (yes compatible from the Dollar Tree), play dough and chalk, toothpicks and marshmallows

Try to collect the following items around your home: toilet/paper rolls and egg cartons!

Here are the details! Feel free to rearrange your themes or message me if you have a cool theme in mind and I can make a plan for it. You can also opt to go to the library and check out books on these themes! But definitely check out some of my Usborne Books and More and Kane Miller suggestions because they are some awesome books that can be used to start your family library!

Week 1: Ocean Adventure –  It is summer, we need an ocean adventure theme! Let’s include our love for sea animals and pirates! Arrgh Matey, help me find my lost booty!

Book suggestions: Lift and Look Under the Sea, Under the Sea Jigsaw puzzle, Under the Sea Activity book, On a Pirate Ship (available in Spanish) , Secrets of the Seashore (available in Spanish) , Wind-Up Pirate Ship

Craft ideas: 1. Treasure Chest and pirate ship out of egg containers 2. Make sea animals out of paper plates ( seahorse, seashells, fish, shark, narwhal, sea turtles and a jellyfish) 3. Mermaid with a popsicle stick (perfect as a reading stick) 4. Playdoh rainbow fish 5. Chalk up the sea animals in Slippery Fish and sing the song

Field Trip Ideas: 1. Go on a treasure hunt around a park and collect fun finds (rocks, flowers) or get a couple of gems, treasure coins (Dollar Tree), and beaded necklaces and hide them around a park and let the kids find them. Heritage Park (Cerritos) has an awesome ship that makes you feel like you are on a port. Sail away on a pirate ship at Brookside Park in Pasadena (behind Kids Space), South Beach Park Playground, Harry Dotson Park, or Shane’s Inspiration Griffith Park 2. Visit an aquarium such as the Aquarium of the Pacific (Long Beach),  Cabrillo Marine Aquarium (San Pedro), or the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium 3. Get a little fancy and experience the Pirates Dinner Adventure (Buena Park) 4. Taking a Disneyland trip –Pirates Lair on Tom Sawyer Island is all about pirates and searching for the treasure 5. HELLO, visit a beach!!! We love Zuma Beach, Annenberg Beach House, and Marina Park (Newport Beach)

Week 2: Space Rangers– Calling all astronauts! Launch into space on your rocket ship. Learn about what makes up a solar system while learning the role of an astronaut.

Book Suggestions: What’s it Like in Space, Questions and Answers about Space, Wipe Clean Space Activities, Astronomy Academy, My Very First Space Book (available in Spanish)

Craft Ideas: 1. Chalk the planets and turn it into hopscotch  2. Cardboard Tube Space ships 3. Rockets out of paper towel tubes 4. Astroid Toss with a poster board (add numbers, math problems, differentiate by what they learned that year) 5. Space Themed Wreaths

Field Trip Ideas: 1. Pretend City Space Week will focus on different activities related to space (July, Irvine) 2. Columbia Memorial Space Center, an interactive museum for all ages (Downey) Rocket Fever (FREE event) will be held Saturday, August 17th, it is worth it! 3. Griffith Observatory  (Los Angeles) 3. Organize a play group/camp with Play-Well TEKnologies (lego inspired and STEM focused activities located all across SoCal)  4. Griffith Park Shane’s Inspiration Rocket Ship play structure 5. California Science Center has the space shuttle Endeavour (DTLA)

Week 3: Music Appreciation! We all need to appreciate music and the bonus is that it’s therapeutic. Children love music so lets introduce them to variety of instruments and sounds.

Book Suggestions: Play Me Some Music, Musical Instruments, First Book of Orchestras, Famous Composers

Craft Ideas: 1. Use empty containers with a smooth round top as a drum 2. Paper plate tambourine with beads/egg shakers 3. Paint to music by introducing different types: Jazz, classical, rock etc. (canvas also available at Dollar Tree) 4. Drum painting with popsicle sticks 5. straw flute science experiment

Field Trip Ideas: 1. FREE LA Philharmonic morning rehearsals, all ages (Tuesday and Thursday starting in July, 9am, Hollywood Bowl, Hollywood Hills) Bring your breakfast in a basket, sunglasses and listen to the LA Philharmonic rehearse. Parking is easy, you will be directed in front of the Hollywood Bowl. 2. Music with Boys II Men, Shawn Stockman at Scootie Gootz (Woodland Hills)! Every Wednesday (June 12, 19, and 26), children 0-4 can sing along, play instruments or dance with Shawn Stockman. Admission includes open play, RSVP is required. 3. Skirball Multicultural Center (Brentwood) offers Musica Para Todos, a music class in Spanish for all children. This class is offered only on Sundays. Noah’s Arc also has a lot of up-cycled material that makes music. 4. Pretend City‘s Music Room is back! This interactive exhibit features demonstrations, instruments, and an interactive stage so your kids can learn about a variety of instruments. (Irvine) 5. Attend a summer concert at your local park. Most of them offer weekly concerts and they are FREE! Just bring a picnic basket, blanket and enjoy the music! Another concert is World Rhythms at Descanso Gardens (advance tickets required), six Tuesdays starting June 18th.

Week 4: Garden and Bug Party – The weather will either be perfect, or doable so let’s learn about nature by exploring gardens and our little friends who help the ecosystem called bugs.

Book Suggestions: Little Lift and Look Garden, Secrets of the Vegetable Garden, Wipe Clean Garden Activities, 1000 Things in Nature, 1001 Bugs to Spot, Bugs

Craft Ideas: 1. Nature Color Hunt with chalk and things in nature  2. Bug Fossils (play dough and insect figures) 3. Create bugs – Pipe cleaner dragon fly, Caterpillar with pom pom, bug craft with clothing pins, paper plate butterflies 4. Exploring seeds in food we eat 5. Paper plate sunflower 6. Invitation to create – flower garden art

Field Trip Ideas: 1. Descanso Gardens (La Canada Flintridge); Little Owls Reading Nest storytelling (Tuesdays, 10:30-11am) 2. South Coast Botanical Garden (Palos Verdes), find the fairies and trolls hidden throughout the garden 3. Sit on a tree stump, sip on some pretend tea in a garden while admiring the bugs around me and listening to music at the Conejo Valley Botanical Gardens, Kids Garden 4. LA County Arboretum, (Arcadia); Bookworms Free storytelling program inside the children’s library 5. Kids Space  Museum (Pasadena) has an amazing insect library, outdoor learning center and Ant Hole climber 6. Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Preserve is all about finding insects on the trail

Week 5: Animals Around the World – Let’s learn to appreciate all animals by learning about what they eat, their habitats, and what makes them so special and important.

Book Suggestions: 1000 Animals, Secrets of Animal Camouflage Shine a Light Book, Lifsize, Little Stickers Zoo, Across the Savannah, Peek Inside the Farm, My Very First Animal Book 

Craft Ideas: 1. Who Lives in the Zoo? Differentiate which animals are zoo or farm animals 2. Animals plates 3. Toilet paper animals 4. Animal Track stamps 5. Build a zoo – invitation to play: so use play dough, pip cleaners, toilet paper rolls, blocks, popsicle sticks and animals 6. Popsicle stick alligators

Field Trip Ideas: It is exciting to know that we have so many zoos in Southern California! 1. America’s Teaching Zoo (Moorpark) is one of my favorite hidden gems! Run by students, this zoo is home to many displaced and injured animals that can’t go back into the wild. They focus on educating the public. Take a behind the scenes tour because it is worth it! 2. Santa Ana Zoo has such a variety of animals, but my favorite area is their barn! There are so many hands on activities such as milking a pretend cow!! 3. Wildlife Learning Center (Sylmar) focuses on teaching us to care about wildlife by providing a sanctuary to many displaced animals. 4. Want to go on a day or weekend trip? Try Santa Barbara Zoo or the San Diego Zoo! Both are fabulous and definitely a must when you are in the area! 5. Parnell Storybook Zoo (Whittier) is the cutest hidden gem I have found! There’s a functional barn within the playground! My dog once befriended the donkey there and it was definitely an unconventional friendship that lasted a summer. Last time we went, the farmers gave us farm themed coloring books!

Week 6: Building, Bridging and Believing –  If you can believe it, you can build it. Let’s find ways to build things such as homes, bridges, furniture, and even cities. Note: I am a huge STEM advocate starting at a young age. And I tend to lean towards everyday science but I really wanted to get out of my comfort zone and focus on civil engineering.

Book Suggestions: Architect Academy,Build Me a Home, Bridges, Towers and Tunnels, Look Inside Construction Site, How Things Work, Engineering Scribble Book (for older kids),  On the Construction Site (Shine a light),

Craft Ideas: 1. Painting blueprints (with blue paint) 2. Invitation to build bridges and buildings – use any materials you have – cups, bathroom rolls, clothing pins, popsicle sticks, cups, play dough etc. 3. Build a skyscraper with popsicle sticks 4. Popsicle furniture 5. Build a House with different cut out shapes  6. Build a Castle – provide the picture sample with different shapes and let them use magna-tiles or Legos to recreate the picture. 7. Invitation to play with toothpicks and mini marshmallows – This idea came from Playing With Chanel, who provides OT related activities and this one happens to help fine motor which we need to work on!

Field Trip Ideas: 1. Why not bring a field trip/playdate to your home? Engineering for Kids provides mobile services for parties, too! They offer a civil engineering curriculum and can provide a bilingual lesson from that unit! Enter your zip code for a program near you or contact them to organize one for your friends/family/community!   2. Another trip to the beach? If you can help me build a sand castle! 3. Visit an indoor playground like Kids World (Oak Park) and see how the structure is made by asking questions about the material, they also have a small area where kids can build with soft bricks or their 0-3 area. 4. Take a stroll through the Venice Canals, there are a ton of bridges to walk through and entertaining for the kids to do a scavenger hunt too (25th St. in Venice Beach) 5. Legoland! Where else can you experience the ultimate building experience, but Legoland! A day trip is fine and there are so many promos available so you don’t have to pay full price. 6. Take a trip to a local college or university and check out the buildings!






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