When I created the At-Home Summer Nature Camp – an 8-week guide to DIY summer fun – my hope was to help families foster a connection to the natural world, encourage togetherness, initiate learning through play, and support a commitment to simplicity. So I was delighted when hundreds of families from all over the world signed on for a summer of fun right in their own backyards! Recently, I had a chance to catch up with one of these families and discuss their experience with the At-Home Summer Nature Camp.
Stephinie Miner, a creative mama of four and author of the blog Gypsy Forset, used the nature camp as a resource for her 6 and 10 year olds last summer. “It was a jumping off point for adventures and ‘I’m bored’ complaints from the kids,” Stephinie explained. “I let them peruse the guide and pick, or be inspired by, the activities on the pages. They made lists of materials, and let me know how they wanted to conduct the projects. I often stood back and just watched them go!”
Organized into eight weekly themes, the nature camp is designed to work just in this way. Each week has a short lesson, a fun activity, a recipe, a craft, an outdoor project, a field trip, and a list of related books and media recommendations.
“We made Honey-Herb Lemonade from Sun Fun (it is so good with mint), and went blueberry picking, as suggested in An Edible Garden,” said Stephinie. “And the Ponds & Frogs theme had us drinking Pond Scum Smoothies, and observing tadpoles. Instead of bringing them home, we watched them over a few weeks in our very own backyard! We also made the Five Little Speckled Frogs craft, which inspired a ton of other animals made from toilet paper tubes… this was a hoot!”
Encouraged by Create a Curio Cabinet (one of two included ‘all-summer-long’ projects), Stephinie’s family collected nature bits and displayed them throughout the house during the season. She said, “The Beach Mandalas project [from At the Beach] turned into several categorized collections of beach treasures. The kids had a WONDERFUL time collecting, categorizing and learning about shells and other treasures they found at the beach. They amassed quite a collection over the summer!”
The Miner family also kept nature journals – the other ‘all-summer-long’ project included in the nature camp guide – and did a lot of hiking, incorporating the nature treasure hunt from A Spot in the Shade, as well as the wildflower hunt from Wildflowers & Bees. “Our nature walks together were my favorite,” Stephinie said. “We had a lot of fun finding and photographing wildflowers on a trail in our backyard.”
The follow-at-your-own-pace camp is jam-packed with ideas to keep kids engaged all summer, so it was no surprise when Stephinie told me her family plans to use it again this season. “The summer nature camp is a great resource to add affordable fun to your summer. You can choose to use the guide in a way that fits well with your family,” she offered. “For our family, it cured boredom, got us all outside, encouraged independence and snuck in some really fun learning. Along the way, we created wonderful memories together, got to know local farms and trails, and felt inspired by the beauty of the natural world all around us. It was just a great summer!”
Learn more about the At-Home Summer Nature Camp eCurriculum. See the list of “camp counselors,” take a peek inside, and order your own copy for a summer of backyard nature fun!
Elizabeth Sniegocki is a writer, naturalist, suburban homesteader and mother in Sarasota, Florida. She writes on seasonal and sustainable living, wholesome cooking, community building, conscious parenting and more for various print and online publications. Elizabeth also offers self-paced eCourses and family eGuides to help others create a natural and mindful environment around them, and within. Take a peek into her nest and learn more about her work at A Natural Nester.