When my kids were little, I stayed at home with them. Well, ‘stay at home’ is maybe not the correct terminology because we (I) rarely stayed at home. I volunteered at their school and we were constantly doing things with friends like having playdates – moms and kids 🙂

One thing I didn’t do very often growing up myself, was go to summer camp. With the exception of church camp, this was just something my sister and I never did because my mom stayed home with us as well. We did, however, stay with our grandparents a lot. Each summer my sister would go to one set of grandparents and I would go to the other. We would stay for 2 weeks and then swap. I would go to the other set of grandparents and she would go where I had just been. I do remember at my grandparent’s house in Memphis one year, my grandma let me make a sign for the door to the guest room where I stayed. Kind of like my own little cabin away at summer camp. I found that picture recently, me with my sign on the door to that room I spent so many summer in… and it brought back a flood of memories. Even in my 40’s I still remember the feeling, the fun, the anticipation of spending those weeks with my grandparents. It’s something I am very grateful my parents encouraged us to do. Those memories are lasting my lifetime.

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I’m probably 8 years old here with my sign on the door of the room where I spent most of my childhood summers.

Being a family with 1 income, camp really didn’t fall within the budget and honestly, I enjoyed spending time with them when they were off school in the summers. We had a decent size back yard, a nice sized swimming pool, and plenty of toys/games/activities to keep them busy. So what was the point? Well, I learned that for them the point was that they wanted the experience, I guess. So I began to brainstorm. And looking back, there are so many more things I could have done with this idea, but they still talk about it in their 20’s so I guess it worked out just fine. The key for me was cheap or free but with a lot of memory making and education.

To make it as interactive and exciting as possible (and cost effective), I sat down and made a list of things around our city we could do for free or very little cost. i named the camp, Camp Firefly. The reason behind this name was that each of the 3 of my kids had the same kindergarten teacher and their classroom were known as the “Fireflies”. As the last Reed Kid had just completed Kindergarten and the Firefly legacy, it was an easy choice.

Then I went to go ole WalMart and Dollar Tree. At WalMart I bought a pack of men’s small white undershirts and fabric markers. At Dollar Tree I bought a pack of poster boards. That’s it. And with those items, our Stay At Home camp began. Camp Firefly!

On the first day of camp, the kids decided on their cabin names. Their cabins were, of course, their bedrooms. Jake had his own room so there was no negotiations there, he could choose whatever he wanted. And he settled on… Jellybean Cabin. The girls, however, shared a room. Surprisingly enough, there was little to no struggle getting them to agree on their cabin name. Butterfly Cabin. So with their choices made, time to decorate!

With the poster boards, they made signs to hang on their ‘cabin’ doors. I’m pretty sure their dad though I was nuts, but that was nothing new lol! Next step was camp shirts! Now, this was pre-Cricut. Well, the original Cricut was maybe out by then, but one would not be in my future for a very long time. Enter fabric markers! They had a blast decorating their shirts. They let their creative juices flow! We ate lunch on the deck, and swam in the afternoon. I would say it was a successful 1st day of camp.

Now since this was about 15 years ago, the memories have stayed but the specifics have not. After that 1st day, the rest is a blur of activities.

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One day we went to a local drive through park near us. Lone Elk Park. It’s an exapnsive park that houses Deer, Elk, Bison, Geese, and at the time, Owls. It had long been one of our favorite pass times as a family on the weekend mornings and it’s free, so it was a natural choice for a day’s activity. Near the end of the park is a shelter with picnic tables. We ate our picnic lunch there. Dad was off work so he went with us and one of their cousin’s went as well.

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The World Bird Sanctuary is also in the same entrance as Lone Elk Park. This was another free activity. Being our 1st time there (it hadn’t been open long), it was a new experience ad the kids learned a lot about the different birds. Watching the birds interact with their handlers and learning about their natural habitats was certainly interesting.

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One of our ALL-TIME favorite activities is our local zoo. We are in the suburbs of St. Louis so we are very fortunate to have access to the world renowned St. Louis Zoo! We are very fortunate to have this FREE, world-class zoo in our city. At the time the kids were little, the Emerson Children’s Zoo, located inside the zoo, was free admission before 9:00am. So that’s the 1st place we would head. Once we completed our time there, the rest of the day was spent on the rest of the zoo. Having a yearly zoo membership we could save on parking and other activities within the zoo that may have a small fee, like my favorite, the Sea Lion show. But there is an entire days worth of fascination and education with just the main zoo itself… all for free.

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There were other activities we did during our week long stay at home camp, like playing at the local park, riding bikes, swim day, and much more. Local to our area (St. Louis) there are a lot of affordable attractions to help summer or a stay at home summer camp be more fun! Six Flags, The Butterfly House, The Magic House, and the City Museum, just to name a few. Check the internet for coupons and membership savings. There is so much you can do on a budget and with a little creativity that provide those memorable moments lasting a lifetime. Be creative!

 

Have a lovely day,

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