Summer is Coming (and So Is Camp Pepperhouse)

And now we are at the point in the spring where I begin to panic about summer a little. That long, unbroken stretch of days with all of the children home all of the time, in which I inevitably discover how some of The Things That Worked Last Summer no longer work for us. The lap baby who loved outdoor concerts is now the toddler obsessed with tearing into the street/through the poison ivy/onstage. The preschooler who delighted in the baby pool now thinks she can swim independently in the big pool (she can’t). That kind of thing.

Swinging over the Sprinkler

I’m sure this ended well.

But I must admit that I am a little excited to start our at-home summer camps, affectionately called Camp Pepperhouse. The kids pick themes around which we loosely organize our activities.  Past and present themes have included Water, Careers, Animals, Frozen, Space, Big Machines, Princesses and Castles, Dinosaurs, American Girl Dolls, Construction, Holidays, Pioneer Kids, Colonial Kids, Musical Theater, Toymaker, Fairy Tales, A Salute to Summer, and Farm and Garden.


Planning for Camp Pepperhouse, 2015. With contributions from all of the children.

Perhaps because I spent many years planning and running summer camps, I do better with the summer laid out this way. Right now, we’re brainstorming activities and outings, and I’m gathering supplies and picking up a few special surprises for later. I’ve found great things on sale at the craft store, and online at places like Bare Books, which also has blank puzzles and board games. I’m also saving recyclables that can be turned into craft projects.

Hammer Time

Hammer Time, Construction Camp, 2014. AKA fun with wood scraps.

We go on an outing most mornings. Sometimes there’s a direct correlation with the theme (Farm and Garden Week: go fruit picking at a farm) and sometimes it’s more loose (Construction Week: go to a park where they’re building a road and we can watch the construction equipment while we play). We visit lots of parks and playgrounds and smaller historical sites, which abound around here. There are many wonderful free and low-cost things to do, but occasionally it’s worth it to pay to visit special places, too.

Checking for Chickens

Checking for Chickens at Frying Pan Park.

Picking Up Rocks

Picking up rocks in the parking lot at Claude Moore Park.

Strawberry Picking

Strawberry picking at Great Country Farms

In a Dugout Canoe

Hanging out in a dugout canoe, Shenandoah Discovery Museum.

Every week we go to the library and participate in the summer reading program, and we usually catch a story time and check out some books related to the theme while we’re there. My eldest daughter loves non-fiction, and likes to choose cookbooks or craft books related to the next week’s theme, so she can find recipes or crafts for us to do.

Reading Together

Plotting and planning together.

We spend the afternoons doing art or craft projects, going to the pool, or having free play time in the backyard or in the neighborhood with friends. Writing it all out here it seems like a lot of work, but it really is a lot of fun, too. It’s always nice to have an excuse to go on little adventures, isn’t it?

Walking Stick

About rbpepper

Rebecca is an artist, writer, and photographer with degrees in Theater and Social Work, and is currently a Stay at Home Mom to her three kids. Some part of her house is always a mess, she lets her kids paint on the table and design their own costumes, and she makes excellent allergen-free cookies. She lives with her equally creative husband and children in a part of Virginia known for being "pretty close to Dulles Airport", and dreams of moving to an old farmhouse in New England.
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