Camp Creativity – From Vision to Invitation

The space that I had available for camp was the open outdoor area between the building I work in and the next building over. It has parking lots on either side, so I knew we would need a bit of a buffer so that it was very clear that activities were nowhere near the parking lot. Also, it was required for adults to come and stay with their kids, not drop them off, so that meant I didn’t have to worry about having sufficient staff to make sure to keep everybody safe…caregivers were personally responsible for keeping their own kid safe.

ID: the field that I ran camp in. It is flanked by buildings on both sides and has a cobblestone sidewalk path running down the middle of it. Medium height trees are planted throughout the grass and provide a decent amount of shade. /ID

Within that available space, I set up a variety of stations (you could call them “play invitations”) each day. The most common setups either involved a table, a big piece of paper on the ground, or a kiddie pool as the sort of central focus of what play materials were available here and one way that they could be used. However, children were welcome to — and often did — bring materials from one area to another area, or combine types of play in novel ways.


A green child-height curved table, my “Glue & Tape Table”. It has a big cardboard box lid on it and various recyclable materials around on the ground. Several bottles of different kinds of glue and several kinds of tape (duct tape, scotch tape, electric tape, colorful painter’s tape, etc) are around on the ground and table. There are also several pairs of child scissors.


A big cardboard box popped up and with a weight inside so that it would stay steady while the kids crawled into it and colored on the inside. Also visible are markers and dot painters (like bingo paint daubers) that the kids have used to thoroughly color inside and outside of the paint box. Other smaller boxes are placed around on the ground too and those have all been similarly colored thoroughly.


A wooden table with a big bag full of many sticks from trees and an assortment of small tubes of paint, paintbrushes, scissors, and pom-poms, that were all used to make “magic wands” by decorating sticks with yarn, beads, and paint.

These stations were very loosely grouped into categories, which in my notes I called: “organised tabletop craft”, “imaginative/free play tabletop craft”, “water play”, “sensory play”, “gross motor/whole body”, “scavenger hunt/writing game”, and “little bitties”. These are probably not perfect names to describe what each station was, but it helped me get my mind around what I was hoping to accomplish each day. I made sure that I had at least 1 of each thing per day, but most days I had 2-3 of some of them.

My notes to myself for Monday’s camp day. 
-For the category “Organised Tabletop Craft”, the events of the day are “Bracelets of all sorts: Friendship bracelets with loom, Friendship bracelets without loom, Beaded bracelets, Make pom-poms, Yarn Bowls, Magic wands (yarn, beads, a stick)”
-For the category “Imaginative/Free Play Tabletop Craft”, the events of the day are “Glue table + Tape table — you can glue and tape any treasures from elsewhere too; Vertical tape wall with boxes to roll pom-poms and balls”
-For the category Water Play, the events of the day are “Water beads – can have “pirate treasure” hidden in it; Taste safe water beads for littles with chia seeds”
-For the category Sensory Play, the events of the day are “Dig up “treasures” from sand; sift with a strainer; wash in water; add them to your bracelets/necklaces if you’d like or add them to the glue table”
-For the category Gross Motor, the events of the day are “Pendulum painting; ABCs match to keyboard mat; Crawl in boxes and color with markers”
-For the category Scavenger Hunt/Writing Game, the events of the day are “Mazes in the mailboxes that are the answers to kid jokes”
-For the category Little Bitties, the events of the day are “Water play – chia seeds; Musical instruments”

(The scavenger hunt/writing game probably needs the most explanation. I made 8 “mailboxes” out of shoeboxes. Each day, they were set around the perimeter of the camp area. Each mailbox had a different paper clue or puzzle of some kind in it, that was inside of a page protector so it could be written on and wiped off with a dry erase marker. There were also clipboards and pens. The kids could take a clipboard and pen around to the different mailboxes and open them, solve the clue inside, write the answer on their clipboard, and so on until they had solved all 8! I’ll end up writing an entire separate post about how this particular activity went, but that way you at least know what I’m talking about.)

ID: a picture of my “Scavenger hunt/ writing game” for the day. It shows four of the eight mazes that were placed inside shoeboxes and around the camp. Each of the mazes is in a page protector. They are hand-drawn by me and have letters throughout the correct solution to the maze. When you trace the letters in order as you solve the maze, it gives you a word. The word is the answer to a joke or pun. Also visible is a clipboard with the list of jokes. For example, joke #1 says “What kind of pizza does a dog like? _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _” and then maze #1, as you trace through it, you get the letters, PUPPERONI and can write them in on the blanks. /ID

Here are the rest of the play invitations set up around Monday’s camp:

A photo of the base of the pendulum painting station, which has been heavily cropped for privacy because all my pictures of it had kids in them! It shows the way that the paper was laid out on the ground at the base of a tree where the pendulum cup of paint was suspended, and how there are various bottles of liquid paint next to it so that the kids could pick a color, and it be poured into the cup to do the pendulum painting.
A piece of cardboard taped vertically against a tree, with a few toilet paper tubes cut in half and taped alongside the top of it to make the very beginnings of a marble run. A big bag of toilet paper tubes is at the base of the tree, as well as some larger, longer tubes such as from wrapping paper.


A grey folding table covered in different types of yarn (wool), with beads on it, paper plates that could be used to create looms or weaving bowls.
A large folding gym mat upon which I have used masking tape to make the shape of a QWERTY keyboard. On it are various plastic letters which we hid in the bushes and around the camp, and the kids ran around to find them and then match them to the keyboard layout.


A kiddie pool full of sand and with a bin of water next to it. Various shovels, strainers, and colanders are also next to it. There is also a big honeycomb-shaped plastic organiser on top of it that they used to make shapes in the sand and to sort some of their treasures. The sand was filled with “treasures” — I bought and was given a bunch of old costume jewelry and cut it apart to harvest the glittery, interesting beads! I also used pliers to break the clasps off of some old costume brooches that I was given. I hid all of these things in the sand and the kids dug for them.

A few of the items in the notes from Monday are not pictured. I got better at taking pictures of what I knew I’d want to write about as the week went on, but on Monday I didn’t get pictures of some things without any kids in them. This includes the water beads station, the chia seeds, and the babies’ musical instruments. Each of these was very simple though. Water beads were just set up in a bin. Chia seed slime was the same — set up in a bin, with mouthing-safe blocks embedded in it for the babies to find the same way that the big kids were finding their (non-mouthing-safe) treasures in the sand and water beads. The musical instruments were just an array of maracas, tambourines, clackers, etc that I set out in the “baby area”.