Are you wondering how to host a virtual Camp Grandma or Cousins Camp with long distant grandchildren or during the COVID-19 shelter-at-home guidelines?
Last week, one of the members in my private Shelter In Him Facebook group posted this note:
I need some ideas and encouragement for our Grand Camp. We have had camp with our ‘grands’ for several years during the summer months. They all live out of state, from 5hrs to 12 hrs away. Ages range from 8 to 16. Their parents have always ‘made a way’ to get them here. As it looks now, it will not happen this summer, due to situations brought by the pandemic.
Any ideas for a virtual camp? How to help them get over the disappointment?
I was so excited about this question because I’m facing the same type of situation this year! It was a great motivation to complete my research and share the results with you in this post.
All of the following ideas can be adapted for connecting online with your grandkids throughout the year, but are presented here for a Camp Grandma or Cousins Camp.
If you have a mix of older grandchildren and young grandchildren, as I do, consider using the older grandchildren as camp counselors.
Let each teen counselor be in charge of specific virtual activities for the younger ones. Then schedule some time alone with your counselors online to do activities more appropriate to their ages.
Invitations and parent coordination
Think through what your Virtual Camp Grandma will look like. Be realistic about what you can handle AND what the families of your grandchildren can contribute.
Coordinate the dates AND a schedule for your camp with the parents of your grandchildren.
Then send the kids an invitation with any details they will need to know BEFORE camp starts!
In your Camp Invitation, include a Parent Letter to let the parent know what they will need to do to help their children participate across the miles. You can’t do this alone!
If you are going to have a printed schedule for your camp, print it out and mail it with your invitation. (Kids love getting slow mail!) Ask the parent to tape it to their refrigerator the day camp starts.
If your grandchildren live in another country, you might need to send your invitation via email. I know from experience that slow mail to a foreign country doesn’t always arrive during a pandemic.
You will want to follow up with several phone calls before camp starts to be sure everyone:
- Is onboard with your timetable
- Has purchased any supplies your grandchildren will need for participating in camp games, crafts, or meals
- Any pre-camp preparations they will need to do on their end
(Believe me, parents forget these things, which can result in a child feeling left out.)
Do you want to gather online during mealtime? Would you like everyone to eat pancakes for breakfast? If so, the parent needs to know to have a pancake mix bought and ready for Camp Breakfast.
Are you planning on s’mores being part of your evening gathering? Be sure parents know this and will have the ingredients ready to create in their kitchen or next to their own fire pit.
Maybe cupcakes can be a together time dessert with the children each frosting their cupcake in their own kitchen. The accumulated big mess won’t be in your house, but the joy and laughter will.
Or you can leave the meals to the parent’s preference, and then have each child share whatever their meal is and if they helped make it.
More pre-camp prepping for the parents
What activities, crafts, games, and surprises are you planning that a parent needs to be prepared for at their house?
Is there anything that would make this Virtual Camp Grandma special? Maybe matching t-shirts you send to your campers several weeks before camp starts?
Ask the parent to keep the t-shirts secret until the day camp starts. Then bring them out for the children to wear during your camp.
Or consider having each family that participates in your camp create their own indoor blanket fort before camp starts. The children then get to show off their forts and use them as the central meeting place when you are “zooming” or “Facetiming.” Include the suggest link with your invitation: https://prettyprovidence.com/how-to-build-blanket-fort-tips-tricks/
Establish some fun etiquette rules for kids to use during your virtual camp sessions. Include these in your invitation, and repeat them during your first camp session.
Fun activities for your virtual Camp Grandma
Zoom Scavenger Hunts – Carol Beaver suggested doing Zoom scavenger hunts. So I’ve pinned a variety of these on my Camp Grandma Idea Board. Choose one that fits the ages of your campers. (The Pinterest link is listed below)
Bedtime stories! Maybe you can’t gather around a campfire, but you can tell bedtime stories with s’mores. Or have each child share a fun experience they had over the last year.
20+ Games to Play on Zoom includes all ages of children
10 Easy Zoom Games to Play With Family and Friends (Thanks goes to Carol Morrison for this link!)
Check out my Pinterest Camp Grandma Idea board for more ideas that can be adapted for a virtual camp.
Pros and cons of live video connections
Obviously, the lack of physical touch is missing when we connect online, even with live video. So is the intimacy gained through direct eye contact.
If you look directly into your computer camera, the person on the other end will feel like you are looking directly at them. You, however, will only see the camera and not your computer screen, thus missing seeing your grandchildren.
Try looking at only the camera whenever you can during your virtual Camp Grandma. It will help your grandchildren feel like you are looking into their hearts, which is important for your relationship. It won’t personally give you that heart connection, but camp is about the kids connecting with you, right?
Most of the time, it is a no-win situation.
Instead, we can focus on what can be achieved:
- Shared experiences
- Learning more about each other
I use FaceTime a lot to connect with my kids overseas. However, I have used Zoom with my clients for some years. So it is my go-to recommendation for hosting a Camp Grandma.
The added advantage of using Zoom is the ability to record your camp sessions for those that miss it or to save as a virtual scrapbook. Each family can be sent the Zoom link to the recording.
Tips for using Zoom, Facetime, or Skype
Most of our grandkids are used to using online classrooms since they’ve had to do school online during the COVID-19 shelter-at-home pandemic.
But most grandparents aren’t used to hosting an online video call. Don’t worry. I’ve got your back. I’ve included some helpful links below.
Cheap and Easy Ways to Look Great on Video Calls For Women Over 50. Yes, this matters. Choose the tips that will work for you and then practice them before camp starts! It will improve your Camp Grandma in pleasant ways.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, free Zoom calls would only last 40 minutes. During the pandemic, that rule was dropped. However, it will, if it hasn’t already, be reinstated at some time. So you might consider using the Zoom paid feature during Camp Grandma so your camp sessions don’t get cut off.
How a Grandparent can join a Zoom call/meeting. Just in case your husband needs to know this (or your grandkids or adult kids need to know how to join).
Don’t forget to practice using Zoom, FaceTime, or Skype with your long-distance family before camp begins!
Is that it?
Well … no.
Check out my past Camp Grandma or Cousins Camps for ideas that you can adapt to a virtual camp.
Or add some virtual sessions for faraway grandchildren to participate in with their cousins who can physically attend your on-site adventure.
If you have additional suggestions for a Virtual Camp Grandma or Cousins Camp, please share them in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you!