Some of kids' best memories are formed during their days at summer camp, so the fact that a lot of people's summer camp plans are up in the air or altogether cancelled at the moment is kind of a bummer. But you can help to fill the void with a steady scream of popsicles and these great
summer camp craft ideas. Sure, it's not quite the same, but a makeshift quarantine camp is better than nothing, and you'll have lots of handmade memories by the time September rolls around.
What makes summer camp crafts so special isn't just the fact that they're made somewhere fun, it's that they tend to turn everyday items into something totally different (so save all of those toilet paper rolls you probably have lying around now). Anna Lisa Lieber, Program Director for
Art Buzz Kids Camps in Raleigh, North Carolina, tells Romper that because kids are "tactile learners," "projects that feature yarn, recycled materials of varying textures, or beads always get them excited." If you don't have access to those materials, Lieber says, "Don't be afraid to try projects using at-home supplies! Coffee filters can become flowers, paper towels can be tie-dyed, [and] socks can be stuffed and turned into snowmen."
The best summer camp crafts are the ones that bring summer to mind in some way or another. Maybe they have a nature theme, or honor the friendships made at camp, or they're so messy you have to make them outside on a gorgeous hot summer day. While these activities obviously can't totally replace the camp experience for your child, you can still help them
have a fun summer with some classic camp crafts. If memories of your own days of summer camp are a little fuzzy at this point, here are some favorites. 1 Painted Flower Pot Geri Lavrov/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images
You can order inexpensive terracotta planters from just about any retailer (assuming you don't have some lying around the garage already), and they make for great canvases. Set up a paint space for your kids with some paint in their favorite colors and let them get to work. Once the pots have dried, you can then use them to plant a flower for your child to take care of this summer and watch it grow.
One note: The best paint to use for this project is acrylic, according to
Get Busy Gardening. Make sure it's not a washable kids paint that will wash off in the rain, and that you dress your kids in clothes that are safe to get paint stains on them (because acrylic paint will not wash out). 2 Tie Dye Shirts
Tie dye is basically considered a staple this summer, so this activity will give your kids something fun to do (and they'll get some trendy clothes in the bargain). Order a tie dye kit (
Tulip has some great easy to use kits) and some basic white tees or tanks and get to work. There are all kinds of patterns and techniques to try. Just make sure to follow the proper safety precautions. 3 Hand-Painted Canvas Bag
This could be a great "first day of camp" activity because they can use their bag for the rest of camp when they're searching for rocks, leaves, or other nature treasures. Order a basic canvas tote bag, some acrylic paints, and paint brushes, and let your kids go wild.
Tote Bag Factory has all kinds of tips and tricks for making it a fun activity that will result in a lasting keepsake. 4 Friendship Bracelets Cyndi Monaghan/Moment/Getty Images
It doesn't get much more classic than friendship bracelets. If you go for this craft, tell the kids they can still make one for their best friend and then mail it to them. Stock up on some yarn and craft cord in bright colors and teach your kids some cool techniques. If you can't remember how to make them,
The Neon Tea Party has tutorials for all kinds of patterns. 5 Paper Mache Anything
Lieber tells Romper, "Sometimes, it's not even about the product as much as it is about the experience and journey of creating" when it comes to crafts, and that's definitely the case for paper-mâché. This classic craft has a
very messy "journey" and is a great outside activity. The first thing you need to do is make the glue ( Good to Know has a great recipe), then use it to create a 3D work of art like a hanging planter your kids' initials (find the tutorial for these here). Just remember to go into the project knowing it'll be a mess. 6 Paper Lanterns
Do you remember making paper lanterns out of construction paper as a kid? They were so much fun and they're so easy to make. You'll need basic classroom supplies like scissors, glue, and tape, and a variety of colors of paper to jazz up the lanterns. If you need a refresher on how to make them,
First Pallet has a great guide. 7 Make Your Own Birdhouse
Lieber takes a whole different approach to classic crafts like a birdhouse. "I love to present camp crafts as an 'invitation to create,'" she says, rather than as a structured how-to. She will tell her campers to "design a birdhouse" and simply put out "a variety of materials presented in an appealing way" for them. She suggests putting things like "sequins, googly eyes, [and] pompoms into cupcake tins" and just watch how the kids decide to use them for the project. She says the directions "can be interpreted in so many different ways, by kids of all different interests and ideas!"
8 Painted Rocks
During one of your walks, search for and gather rocks you find along your way (maybe carry them in your cool painted canvas bag!). Take them home and paint them with non-washable acrylic paint and let them dry. On your next walk, hide the rocks around the neighborhood for other people to stumble upon and smile. You can keep picking up and hiding rocks for as long as its interesting for the kids.
9 Paper Plate Dream Catcher
For this one, you'll need a paper plate, some yarn, beads, paint, feathers, and fun embellishments like stickers or glitter. Have your kid paint the paper plate whatever color they'd like, then once it's dry, cut it in half and cut the middle out. Punch some holes along the plate's edge to weave yarn through, dangle some feathers attached to yarn and beads from the bottom, decorate with stickers, and you have a dream catcher! Check out a more
detailed tutorial from Baker Ross. 10 Rain Stick
If you're going through paper towels quickly during quarantine, keep the tube to use for a homemade rain stick.
Gift of Curiosity has a great tutorial for the craft. You'll need a paper towel tube, rice, foil, construction paper, tape, and scissors to make this fun project. Fair warning, it'll make some noise but at this point in quarantine, what is noise anyway? 11 Finger Knit
Lieber suggests finger knitting "if you're definitely looking for something new and exciting" to do with your kid this summer. For best results, she says you should "find the most obnoxiously colorful yarn you can." It's one of her campers' favorite crafts and "it's fun [and] simple." To learn how to do it, check out this
beginners tutorial from Bean Creative on YouTube. 12 Marble Painting
If you have a bag of marbles that's just collecting dust, get them out for some marble painting. You'll need some paper, paint (washable is fine for this one), a marble or two, and a small box. You'll ultimately roll the marble around the paper to create a totally one-of-a-kind picture. Get
details and a video tutorial here from The Artful Parent. 13 Tissue Paper Suncatchers
You can use all of that extra gift wrapping tissue paper you have lying around to make some really fun crafts, like a suncatcher. For this project, you'll need some wax paper, small cut up squares of tissue paper, and glue sticks. You can take two different approaches: the first is to cut the wax paper into a square and cover it with glue before having your kid cover it with tissue paper and framing it with Popsicle sticks; the second is to use a large piece of wax paper and then cut out shapes from the big piece (
Sarah Titus uses cookie cutters to cut the wax paper into shapes). Either approach works and will leave your windows with beautiful works of art. 14 Colored Sand Art Peter Adams/Stone/Getty Images
You can buy a sand art kit that comes complete with colored sand and bottles, or you can DIY for an even bigger project. First, you'll need to color your play sand using food coloring (here's a tutorial from
Something Turquoise). Once you have all the shades of sand you want, layer the sand into recycled jars (like spaghetti or jelly) or bottles (no judgement if it's wine), and fill to the top to preserve the creation. If you don't have a cork for the bottle, add some faux flowers in to make it look like a vase. 15 Paper (Plate) Fan
For this project, you'll need a paper plate, Popsicle sticks, and markers. You can keep the paper plate whole, cut it in half, or cut it into a wedge and have your kid decorate it however they like. Then, simply glue the Popsicle stick to the bottom and you have a fan for those hot summer days.
16 Flower Crowns
If your kids are little, you'll want to prep this craft first by cutting out the flower and leaf shapes yourself (but if they're older they can do that themselves). Cut a piece of construction paper long enough that it will wrap around your child's head snug enough to stay put (but not so snug that it will tear easily). Then have them glue on flowers and leaves cut from various colors of construction paper. Once it's dry, tape together each end of the long piece of paper and you have yourself a flower crown! Check out
Crafts Ideas for Kids for a visual guide. 17 Toilet Paper Roll Binoculars
Finally, something to do with your toilet paper rolls! Turn them into little explorer binoculars. You'll need the rolls, some paint, ribbon, stickers, and glue for this craft.
Red Ted Art has all the details for how to make them. 18 Squirt Gun Painting
This craft combines two kid favorites, paint and squirt guns! Set up a makeshift easel outside (you can use painter's tape to attach a piece of paper to a cardboard box) and fill inexpensive squirt guns with different colored washable paints. Have your kids squirt the guns from different distances to make a fun work of art. If you have multiple kids, you can even let them have a paint fight after they're done (just hose them off before they go inside).
19 Bird Feeder
It doesn't get much more classic than this craft. Help your kids search for pine cones (if you don't have any in your area, you can buy some online and "hide" them), and then tightly tie a string on them that's strong enough to hang from a tree. Have your kids cover the pine cone in peanut butter and roll it in a bowl of bird feed until it sticks to the peanut butter. Then, hang the feeder in a tree and watch as birds flock.
Another use for those toilet paper rolls!
Buggy and Buddy has instructions for making your own kaleidoscope from them. You'll need materials like a straw, scissors, cardstock (or construction paper), and mirrored sheets (or foil). Your kids will be in awe of the craft once it's done. 21 Faux Campfire Images By Tang Ming Tung/DigitalVision/Getty Images
Since you're camping at home, you'll need a campfire! Have your kids make an indoor "fire" using paper towel rolls as logs and different shades of red, orange, and yellow tissue paper for fire. Stack the rolls to serve as a strong, level base for your fire and glue them together to stay put. Then, but your finger in the center of each piece of tissue paper and pull the corners up toward you (to make a center "point") and crinkle it up before gluing the paper to the logs so that the paper stands up like flames.
22 DIY Boats
Let one of your camp days have a beach or nautical theme and make paper boats as your craft. Debbie from One Little Project at a Time has a
great tutorial for making them out of regular old paper or construction paper (nothing fancy here). Once they're done, have boat races in the bathtub or a kiddie pool outside (you can use straws to help push them along), or just watch them float in a bowl of water. 23 Clothes Pin Butterflies
Lieber mentioned that "paper towels can be tie dyed," and they make great butterfly wings afterwards! To tie dye the paper towels, all you need are some washable markers and water if you use the tutorial from
Happy Hooligans. Once the paper towel is dried, pinch the middle together and hold it with a clothespin so the towel looks like wings coming out from either side of it. Then, have your kiddo decorate the clothespin with googly eyes, pipe cleaners for antlers, and/or markers to complete their creative butterfly. 24 Bead Bracelets
As long as your kid is old enough to be around beads without choking on them, this is a fun and easy craft for them. You can have them stack beads on a pipe cleaner before twisting the ends together as a bracelet. If they're older, use nicer thread and have them spell things out on their bracelet (like their name or a word they love) to make it a little more fun.
25 Popsicle Stick Art EllenMoran/E+/Getty Images
You can either have the kids save up all of their Popsicle sticks (or, just buy a pack of them) until they have enough to make something. It can be as small as a little stick frame or as big as a bird house. Use Lieber's "invitation to create" approach and see what they can come up with using the sticks.
26 Wind Chime
For this craft, you'll need some beads, yarn or ribbon, and paint. There are a variety of different approaches to this craft, but most of them include stringing beads from yarn or ribbon and having them dangle down from something light enough for it to be hung and sway in the wind.
First Pallet uses a paper cup as their topper but you can also paint a stick you find in the backyard. 27 Yarn Weaving
One classic camp craft is a yarn weaving creation called "God's Eye." All you need to make it is two sticks (they can be Popsicle sticks, shortened skewers, or anything else that are sturdy) and lots of yarn. From there, your kid will do some simple weaving with different colors of yarn to complete the craft. You can get more details on how to do it from
Happy Hooligans. 28 Puffy Paint Creations
Remember puffy paint? It's not a trend by any means, but it's still really fun for kids and a great craft. Have a few bottles in different colors delivered as well as some t-shirts, pillow cases, or anything else that can be puffy painted, then let your kids go wild with their creations!
29 Painted Leaf Art
Take your kids for a walk and have them pick up some leaves they find on the ground along the way. Once you're home, get some paint out and have your kids paint one leaf entirely (just do a light layer, don't soak it in paint) and then press it onto a piece of paper to see the design it makes. Have them do this with a variety of types of leaves to see how they are different from each other.
30 Paper Plate Masks
It doesn't get much more classic than paper plate masks! Have your kid color a face of some sort (an animal face, happy face, silly face, whatever they can dream up) on a paper plate and then glue a Popsicle stick to it. You have a mask! They'll love running around making animal noises or silly sounds with their masks.
Remember, none of these crafts can replace camp for them this year, but they can help bring a little fun and creativity to an otherwise mundane day of quarantining.
Expert: Anna Lisa Lieber, Director of Art Buzz Kids Programs in Raleigh, North Carolina