Summer usually brings summer camp. But this year, "usually" is out the window, and most summer camps are closed. Still, there are ways to approximate, or even replicate, some of the typical camp experiences while at home.
Be, even sleep, outdoors
One of the best parts of camp is being outdoors as much as possible. At some camps, everything from meals to prayer services are held outside. Exploring nature can be done anywhere--identify trees by their leaves, become a birdwatcher, or examine bugs. Try "camping out," even sleeping outdoors. A portable grilling kit can substitute for campfires for cookouts, s'mores, and ghost stories. Don't forget the flashlights, sleeping bags, trail mix--and bug spray.
The arts & crafts cabin is one of the more popular places in camp, but you can recreate it at home. There are a million online videos teaching you how to make favorite camp crafts from household items. For older kids, this is a good time to learn how to safely use woodworking tools to make, say, a birdhouse. Younger kids can make birdfeeders from plastic jugs. Lanyards, dreamcatchers, friendship bracelets, tie dye--whatever you learned how to make at camp, you can teach your kids.
Water, water, everywhere
Many camps include a lake and a pool. Long hot days call out for cool, refreshing water. Fill up the kiddie pool if you can get one. Bring out the hose, squirt guns, and water balloons. Pro tip: bring the towels outside while you are still dry!
Sing, sing, sing!
Songs from the Torah, the siddur, and Israel live side-by-side at camp with folksongs by Peter, Paul & Mary, Joni Mitchell, and Bob Dylan. If you play an acoustic guitar, now's your moment! For the full camp sing-along experience, print out some song sheets and sit on the ground in a circle.
"Hello Muddah, hello Faddah…"
Letters home are a key part of camp. But you are already home! So, send letters to people you miss--in town or far away. Yes, you can talk on the phone or electronically. But a letter is more personal and lasts longer.
For camp, "required reading" amounts to two things: comic books and MAD Magazine. On a rainy day, take out the cartoony-est reading materials you have-- the more pictures, the better--and pass them around.
At many camps, campers get an allowance for a daily snack. This is something decidedly unhealthy: candy bars, chips, gum. So, dole out a given amount of coinage at the start of the week, then make your campers "pay" for their candy. Value the candy at different amounts--and you'll be shocked at how quickly your little math-haters learn to budget for the higher-priced sweets.
All fun and games
From Capture the Flag and Marco Polo to full-on Color War, some games were just made for camp.
One great game is Pillowcase Theater. Each team, or player, gets a pillowcase filled with a few random objects. They then have 10 minutes to create a skit using all the objects as props.
Another is Story Chain. One person writes a line of a story on the top edge of a piece of paper, then folds it over to hide it. The next person writes another line, folds that over, and passes it on. When the paper is full, the whole thing is unfolded and read as one "story."
And of course, camp was where many of us learned a dozen card games
For more: search online for "games" plus other keywords like "camp," "kid's party," and "parlor."
Yes, some aspects of camp-- horseback rides, zip lines, canoes-- will have to wait for actual camps to reopen. But if you think back to all the things that made camp "camp," and apply some of that camp-born resourcefulness, "Camp Ourbackyard" can still create a memorable summer.