6 Survival Tips for When You Don't Send Your Kid to Camp

by Kaly Sullivan
Originally Published: 

School is winding down and everyone is talking about summer.

“What are your plans?” is the constant buzz on the sidelines of sporting events and in the audiences of end-of-year performances.

What are our plans, since there are twelve weeks of school vacation (not that I’ve counted 48 times!), but we can only afford to take one week of actual vacation as a family because of jobs, budgets, and real life?

Everyone is taking notes, searching for the best, most affordable pastimes for their kids, making sure they didn’t miss sign-up deadlines or, more importantly, that the program isn’t already full with a waiting list to rival the line at a So You Think You Can Dance audition.

This is the fourth summer in a row that I have been the Head Counselor at Camp Stay-At-Home. That’s right. I don’t send my kids to camp. I keep them home with me all summer. Partly because I like to have freedom, but mainly because I’m cheap and lazy.

Here are the six things that I find indispensable when it comes to surviving summer:

1. Popsicles. Buy more frozen high fructose corn syrup than you can ever imagine your kids ingesting. There should be nothing else in your freezer. Hand out popsicles at all hours of the day. It’s 8 a.m. and they’re bickering? Go get a popsicle. It’s 8:07 a.m. and one child touched the other child, causing a meltdown worthy of an Oscar? Go get a popsicle. It’s 8:15 a.m. and they’re bored? Go get a popsicle. There is very, very little a popsicle cannot fix.

2. Rash Guards. Because I’m only so-so at sunscreen application, rash guards are required. And also because all kids at the pool look like drowned rats. When your kids have rash guards on, it’s much easier to pick them out from all the other drowned-rat kids. I’ve considered embedding a chip under their skin and tracking them on my iPhone from the shade of my umbrella, but for now, rash guards are how I identify their whereabouts quickly.

3. Band-Aids. Exposed knees and bare feet exponentially increase the number of scrapes and bloody toes, which increases the amount of crying and general whining. I slap Band-Aids on itchy bug bites, sparkler burns, splinters, gunshot wounds … and then hand them a popsicle.

4. A Plan. Whatever you do, do NOT ask your kids, “What do you want to do today?” You are the Head Counselor, you make the plans. Unless you want to hear, “Watch, Cartoon Network and play Minecraft until my eyeballs pop out,” do not under any circumstances offer them options. Be authoritative and do not make eye contact.

5. No plan. It’s also important to have times when there is no plan and you just let whatever is going to happen unfold. It never fails that when we’ve committed to being somewhere, my kids decide to play peacefully and quietly together. Then I have to break it up and shove them out the door. Sometimes I say we have a plan, when we really don’t, just so they find something to do.

6. Surprises. My kids love surprises. It doesn’t have to be epic like a trip to Disney World (dream on suckers!!!); they’re just as happy with s’mores for breakfast or a bucket of water balloons. Simply calling it a surprise and making them guess what it might be tricks them into thinking that it’s special. This occupies them for an extra four to eight minutes.

And during the summer when you’re running Camp Stay-At-Home, every minute counts.

Related post: One Of The Best Letters From Camp, Ever

This article was originally published on