Disney Week

We love all things Disney in our house, so I knew Disney Week at Camp Anderson was sure to be a hit!

I’m so grateful that we went to Disney World last September. We had an amazing time, introduced Jack to the happiest place on Earth and made wonderful memories that we will cherish until we can safely go there again.

Although we aren’t comfortable going to Disney any time soon, there is nothing stopping us from bringing the magic of Disney to our own home. Since we are big Disney fans, this week came together almost effortlessly.

If you’d like to try creating your own Disney Week for your kids, start by looking around your house for any Disney activities or toys that you may have.

Here are some suggestions to get you started:

Disney Castle with Small Figures – We’ve had this Disney castle for years, and we have a million little Disney figures. I put the castle and the figures out on a table in the play room, and the kids had a great time playing with them. The older kids also built their own castles for the figures using Magnatiles, so it was fun for all ages.

Watching my oldest and youngest play together melts my heart every time.

Disney Coloring Books & Stickers – We have so many Disney coloring books and stickers in our art storage bin, and I put them to good use during Disney Week. I taped white butcher paper down to our patio table, and the kids all enjoyed creating beautiful works of art with the stickers and markers. They also enjoyed coloring in the coloring books as part of the “Art Club” they have created together.

Yes, some of the stickers are Disney Halloween stickers. Anything goes during Camp Quarantine.:)

Disney Play-Doh – Another really easy, no-prep activity is playing with Play-Doh, using any Disney Play-Doh toys and/or cookie cutters that you may have.

Disney Puzzles – If you have Disney puzzles at home, you can easily incorporate those into Disney Week, too. We have a bunch of them at our house, and the girls love putting them together. My daughters and I love Ravensburger puzzles like this one.

Disney Mad Libs – We had so much fun doing these together and, added bonus, it’s great practice for learning various parts of speech!

Disney Ceramics – We ordered these adorable Disney ceramic pieces from a nearby ceramic shop. Local friends, call Jill’s Ceramics if you want to get something similar for your kids. She includes paint and glaze with your purchase of a ceramic piece, and she offers curbside pickup. The kids had so much fun painting them, and they are proudly displaying the finished products in their bedrooms!

Recreating Disney Magic at Camp

In an effort to bring some Disney Magic to camp, we recreated some of our favorite Disney World experiences and snacks. Here are a few ideas:

Take a Virtual Trip to Disney World – Both of my girls’ amazing teachers arranged virtual field trips to Disney World during the last week of distance learning in June. The girls enjoyed the “field trips” so much, that I knew we had to “visit” Disney World virtually during camp. Simply go to YouTube and search for “Disney World rides”, and you will be able to watch many different rides and attractions. We watched them on our television so that everyone could watch together, and the kids all loved it! They each took turns choosing the next “ride to go on”. These Mickey and Minnie ears are the perfect accessory for your virtual trip.

Bippity Boppity Boutique at Home – One of my daughters’ favorite experiences at Disney World was getting pampered at Bippity Boppity Boutique. We recreated that experience at camp by doing the girls’ hair, makeup and nails after they dressed up in their favorite Disney costumes. I got these little tiara combs and colored hair extensions, similar to the ones they use at Bippity Boppity Boutique, and the girls have been wearing them all week!

Chocolate Chip Mickey Waffles – The kids enjoyed chocolate chip Mickey waffles, just like the ones at Chef Mickey’s, as a special lunch one day.

Mickey Ice Cream – These Mickey ice cream bars were the perfect end to camp one day. I found them at Wegman’s (through Instacart), but they’re available at other grocery stores as well.

Dole Whips – This classic frozen Disney treat is one of my favorites when we visit the Magic Kingdom. It’s so easy to recreate at home and equally as delicious. In a blender, combine 2 cups of frozen pineapple, 1 cup of vanilla ice cream and 1/2 cup of pineapple juice. Serve immediately.

Cinnamon Rolls – My daughters both love the cinnamon rolls from Gaston’s Tavern, so we made cinnamon rolls one day at camp. While they weren’t quite as big or as delicious as the ones from Gaston’s Tavern, we didn’t hear any complaints from the campers!

That’s a wrap for Disney Week at Camp Anderson! I hope you’ve found some inspiration to create Disney magic at home with your children.

I’ll be back next week with ideas for STEM Week!

Rainforest Week

We had so much fun exploring rainforests at Camp Anderson last week! I’ve been fascinated by rainforests since I was a child, so I was super excited for this week. The kids had a blast, and they learned a lot, too!

Online Educational Resources – I’ve made a conscious effort to minimize screen time during camp. There are, however, some amazing and worthwhile online resources that can help children to build background knowledge about various topics. This week, I brought my laptop outside during camp on two different occasions to help the kids learn more about rainforests and the animals that live in them.

One day, we went on pbskids.org to watch Wild Kratts “Rainforest Stew”. The full episode is currently available for free, but it expires 5 days from today. The kids all loved watching this fun and informative show!

Another day, we went on BrainPop Jr. to watch a short informational video about rainforests. BrainPOP Jr. and BrainPOP are perfect for introducing a new topic. They offer short, engaging videos that are packed with information. When I taught elementary school, I used this site frequently. You have to have a subscription to view the videos, but my children’s school offered their username and password for us to use during distance learning last spring and for this summer.

Rainforest Animal Crafts – Many different species of animals live in rainforests, so there are a ton of craft possibilities that tie into this theme. Here are three fun crafts ideas:

  1. Plush Craft Leopards – These were so much fun! The kids used a little stylus (included with the project kit) to punch small pieces of colored fabric into a 3-D leopard. I was worried that this was going to be too difficult for my 3.5 year old niece but, with a little adult assistance, she quickly got the hang of it and was able to do it independently. All of the kids really enjoyed doing this project, and the completed leopards were adorable!

2. Wooden Wiggly Snakes – My older daughter attended an after-school art class, focused on animals, last year. During one of her classes, she decorated a wiggly wooden snake. She named it, built a box for it and, to this day, it still “lives” in the box on her dresser. I figured since she loves her wiggly snake so much, it would be a fun to have all of the kiddos make them during Rainforest Week. I gave each of the kids two wooden snakes and a bunch of markers. They colored and decorated their snakes while I read aloud one of my all-time favorite children’s books about rainforests, The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry. Coloring the snakes was the perfect activity to do while listening to the book. They enjoyed decorating the snakes and we paused often to discuss the various animals in the book and to discuss the message of the book at the end.

Here’s a wiggly wooden snake before my niece started coloring it. If you hold the snake by its tail, it will “slither”.

3. Rainforest Animal Suncatchers – I bought these and, unfortunately, we ran out of time to do them last week. I’ll save them and use them as a rainy day craft one day this summer. Suncatchers are always an easy and fun project for all ages. If you don’t have suncatcher paint, mix clear Elmer’s glue with paint to make transparent paint that works well for suncatchers!

Rainforest Snack – My mom found this adorable idea for monkey cupcakes. To make them, bake any kind of cupcakes and let them cool completely. Have the kids help to frost the cupcakes with chocolate icing. Using three vanilla wafers per cupcake, give your monkey two ears and a face. Add edible eyes, and pipe on black icing for the monkey’s nostrils and mouth. Yum!

Rainforest Animal Match – This rainforest animal matching activity is a great visual discrimination exercise for preschool-aged children. It is also the perfect way to introduce unfamiliar animals to children of all ages. I bought this set of rainforest animals from Amazon, and I created a labeled picture card for each of the twelve animals included in the set. After printing out the picture cards, I cut them apart and laminated them for durability. I placed all of the animal figures and animal cards on the table, and the kids took turns matching the figures to the pictures. As they matched each one, we discussed facts that we knew about the animals. *Please note that the set I purchased is intended for ages 3 and up. I pulled some larger rainforest animals from our toy room for my 15 month old son to play with while the older children played with the smaller animals.

Rainforest Animal Research Project – This project was geared toward the older kids (ages 6-9), but it could definitely be modified for younger children. The kids paired off and worked together to select a rainforest animal to research. They used Kiddle (a kid-safe search engine) to research five facts about their animal. They then made posters with hand-drawn and/or printed out images of their animal, along with the facts that they found. The 8 and 9 year old were able to complete the research independently, while the two 6 year olds required some assistance. They all learned a lot and were so proud of their posters!

I hope you and your little cubbies have as much fun exploring rainforests as we did!

I’ll be back next week with ideas for Disney Week!

Seasons Week

This week at Camp Anderson we celebrated the four seasons. My almost six year old, Sadie, came up with the idea for this theme. At first, I must admit, I wasn’t too excited for it. But, after a little creative planning, the theme came together easily and the kids had a blast with all of the activities! We explored a different season each day, Monday-Thursday, and we celebrated summer for an extra day on Friday because we all love summer!

Fall Activities

  • Seasonal Stickers – I found these really cute seasonal sticker scenes from Oriental Trading. The kids started off each day this week creating a scene with stickers. This pack includes stickers and scene pages for all four seasons. Peeling and sticking stickers is great fine motor practice for the younger kiddos, and the older kids enjoyed being creative and making beautiful scenes.
  • Wooden Pumpkins – The kids had a great time painting and decorating wooden pumpkins. I bought them from Oriental Trading a while ago, and I can’t find the same exact ones that I purchased. These jack-o-lantern ones are cute, if you’re looking for something similar.
  • Fall Snack – Looking for an easy fall-themed snack? Slice up some apples and serve them with store-bought caramel dip. Yum!
  • Trick or Treating in July – Why not?! We read The Berenstain Bears Trick or Treat by Stan & Jan Berenstain and had the kids put on their favorite costumes. Then we surprised them with a little trick or treating in July! There were four adults in the house (my husband, my mom, my sister and me), so we each took a small bowl of candy and went to different rooms in the house. The kids each got a brown paper bag with their name on it and went “trick or treating” to all of the different rooms in the house. It was so simple, but they had so much fun!

Winter Activities

  • Instant Snow Sensory Play – If you haven’t tried instant snow, you’re missing out. This stuff is so much fun to play with! You just add water, and the white powder puffs up into fake snow that is “snow much fun” for all ages. If you want your fake snow to feel cold, pop it into the fridge for a little while before playing with it. This isn’t edible, so I wouldn’t recommend this activity for little ones who still put everything into their mouths.
  • Make Your Own Mugs with Frozen Hot Chocolate – These DIY mugs were perfect for our winter themed day. The kids all decorated the paper lining for their mugs, using markers and winter stickers. After decorating the mugs, we made frozen hot chocolate to put in them. To make the frozen hot chocolate, we blended hot chocolate mix, water and ice in a blender. We then scooped the frozen hot chocolate into the kids’ mugs and topped them with whipped cream. So easy and the perfect way to celebrate winter on a hot July day!

Spring Activities

  • Ceramic Flower Pots & Planting Activity – The first thing that comes to mind when I think of spring is flowers, so I knew we had to incorporate planting into our spring themed day. The kids had a great time painting these ceramic flower pots and then planting sunflower seeds in them. We used acrylic paint so that we could leave them outside without worrying about the paint washing off of them. My girls are so excited that their seeds are already starting to sprout!
  • Watercolor Bugs – Painting with watercolors is such a simple and fun activity. These watercolor bug cutouts were a great addition to our spring themed day. The kids all enjoyed this activity so much that they each made several bugs, and my nieces brought a few home to do later!
  • Spring Snack – We made these adorable chocolate covered strawberry ladybugs as a fun spring snack. To make them, just dip strawberries into melted chocolate and add edible candy eyes.

Summer Activities

  • Painting Sea Shells – We canceled our trip to Florida so, unfortunately, we won’t be collecting any real shells from the beach this summer. But, that doesn’t mean we can’t bring the beach to our home! Painting sea shells is a fun and easy activity that is fun for all ages. You can use sea shells that you’ve collected from the beach or you can buy them.
  • Jello Beach Cups – To go along with the summer/beach theme, Nana made these for the kids. They were, of course, a huge hit! To make them, simply make blue Jello and let set in the fridge. Then sprinkle on graham cracker crumbs and top with gummy sharks or Swedish Fish.
  • Summer Picture Frames – These wooden picture frames will be the perfect keepsake to help us remember our “quarantine summer”! The kids used markers to color the picture frames, and we took individual pictures of each child that we will print out and put in the frames. The kit includes magnets that you can put on the back of the frames so you can hang them on the fridge.
  • Snowballs – This was the perfect Friday treat to end Seasons Week! To make the snowballs, we put ice in the blender until it was a shaved ice consistency. This works best if you shave the ice in small batches. We added a couple scoops of shaved ice to a cone cup, topped it with flavored syrup, and added a little vanilla ice cream. Then we topped the ice cream with more shaved ice and flavored syrup. It was a rainy day on Friday, and the kids were cooped up and being a little crazy. As the ate their snowballs, you could hear a pin drop they were so quiet. Well, okay, you could also hear some slurping of the snowballs…haha! We enjoyed the few minutes of quiet until the sugar kicked in and they were even crazier than before.:)

I hope you have fun trying some of these ideas with your kids! Let me know if you have any questions. I’ll be back next week with Rainforest Week ideas and activities! Stay safe & healthy. xo – Holly

Rainbow Week

Another week of Camp Quarantine is in the books! This week’s theme was rainbows. This is one of my favorite themes, both in my preschool classroom and for camp at home. There are so many fun rainbow activities and projects for kids, and it’s an easy theme to differentiate for various ages and ability levels.

Rainbow Books

We kick off camp each day with a read aloud. Here are a few of our favorite books from this week:

  • How the Crayons Saved the Rainbow by Monica Sweeney
  • A Rainbow of My Own by Don Freeman
  • Elmer and the Rainbow by David McKee

Rainbow Projects & Activities

  • Rainbow Peace Sign Fleece Pillow Project – This pillow making project was a huge hit with the kids! The 8 and 9 year old girls completed the project independently, while the younger kids (ages 3, 5 and 6) needed adult assistance.
  • Sand Art Mandalas – These were a lot of fun to make, and they’re beautiful when they are completed. The set comes with all necessary materials, including various colors of sand.
  • Magic Scratch Art – Magic scratch art activities are low-prep and fun for all ages. Oriental Trading has a ton of options to choose from.
  • Rainbow Rubber Band Bracelets – My daughters and nieces absolutely love making rubber band bracelets, and this activity fits in perfectly with the rainbow theme. I bought them each this kit from Amazon, which includes a hand-held loom, a hook, 600 rubber bands and 24 clips. They’ve been “looming” all week, and we all have beautiful new bracelets!
My younger daughter started with a simple pattern on her fingers. She eventually got the hang of using the loom, too.
My older daughter, using the loom to make a fishtail bracelet.
  • Tie Dye – Tie Dying is a classic summer camp activity, and rainbow week is the perfect time to do it! My sister, a Pixie Lane consultant, got adorable white “Camp Quarantine 2020” shirts from Pixie Lane. We tie-dyed the shirts using this kit, and the kids (and adults!) are in love with how they turned out. If you’d like to purchase your own Camp Quarantine shirts, let me know and I can put you in touch with my sister!
  • Rainbow Rice Sensory Play – My love for sensory play runs deep. I’ve used sensory bins for years, both in my classroom and at home. There are countless benefits of sensory play. This rainbow rice sensory bin helps children to:
  1. develop fine motor skills as they scoop and transfer rice,
  2. identify colors,
  3. engage in imaginative play, and
  4. strengthen language skills as they play and interact with their peers and/or an adult.

As an added bonus, it keeps children of all ages occupied and happy for quite some time! All of the campers this year, ranging from my 1 year old son to my 9 year old niece, loved playing with this sensory bin.

  • Here’s how to make it: Buy a large bag of inexpensive, white rice. I used a 10 lb. bag for this sensory bin. Scoop about 5 cups of the rice into a gallon-size Ziploc bag. Then add food coloring and a capful or 2 of rubbing alcohol to the bag. Zip the bag (make sure to zip it completely!). Give the bag a good shake to distribute the color all over the rice. If the color isn’t vibrant enough, open the bag, add more food coloring, zip it back up, and give it another shake until you’re happy with the color. When the rice is completely colored, dump it out onto a baking sheet lined with waxed paper to let it dry. Repeat the steps for all of the colors that you’d like to include.
  • I use this Step 2 standing sand table for my sensory table. I have had it for years, and it has been home to many different sensory play experiences. I love it because it has a lid that locks down, so I can cover it and leave it outside without worrying about animals getting into it. Who knew that squirrels really enjoy uncooked rice?! I found that out the hard way when I left an uncovered sensory bin on our screened in porch, and a squirrel chewed a hole through the screen to get to the rice! This table is also really easy to spray out with the hose and sanitize in between uses.
Before the kids saw the sensory table…
Less than 30 seconds after they started playing with it!:)
Jack loved playing with the rainbow rice. Just make sure to watch the little ones. He definitely tried putting it in his mouth more than once!
  • Rainbow Names, Sight Words & Math Facts – This is an easy, no-prep activity to help your child practice letter formation, name writing, sight word recognition & spelling, and/or math fact mastery. Using sidewalk chalk, write letters, sight words, and/or math facts on your driveway or patio. Give your child a basket of sidewalk chalk and encourage him/her to trace over the letters or numbers that you wrote. As they trace they should say the word or fact and the letters or numbers. For example: “look – l, o, o, k”
Sadie, age 5, working on sight words.
Charlotte, age 8, working on multiplication facts.
  • Baking Soda & Rainbow Vinegar Activity – This is another easy and fun activity that you can pull together with common household ingredients. All you need is white distilled vinegar, food coloring, baking soda and an eye dropper/pipette. Pour the vinegar into several plastic cups and dye each cup of vinegar with a different color of food coloring. Put some baking soda onto a paper plate or a small dish. Let your child explore by using the eye dropper to squeeze the colored vinegar onto the baking soda. This is an awesome activity with so many layers of learning embedded into it, and the kids always love it! It is great fine motor work, as the kids squeeze and release the dropper. It’s a science lesson, as you observe and discuss the chemical reaction between the vinegar and baking soda. It’s also an art lesson as you observe the colors mixing together.

Rainbow Snacks

This theme lends itself to so many fun snacks and treats. My mom took over the role as the snack coordinator this week, and the kids loved all of the yummy treats she planned. Here are a few of their favorites:

  • Rainbow Snack Mix – Mix together Rainbow Goldfish, Trix Cereal, Fruit Loops Cereal, and mini marshmallow “clouds”. Scoop into small bowls and enjoy!
  • Rainbow Cupcakes – Prepare a white cake mix, according to package directions. Divide the cake batter into several bowls and dye each bowl with a different color of food coloring. Have your children help you to layer the different colors into cupcake liners in a cupcake pan. Bake according to package directions. When cool, have your children help to put frosting and rainbow sprinkles on the cupcakes. Yum!

Rainbow Bagels – Call your local bagel shop and see if they’ll make rainbow bagels as a special breakfast or lunch for rainbow week. Local friends, Bagel Boys in West Nyack made these for us, and the kids loved them!

I hope you and your little cubbies enjoy these rainbow activities as much as mine did! I’ll see you back next week for Seasons Week!

Unicorn Week

My two daughters always help me to brainstorm weekly themes for Camp Anderson. One of the themes they were most excited about this year was Unicorn Week. There are a ton of ideas and activities that tie into this theme, so planning it was a breeze. We decided to make it the first theme for this summer, and the kids all had a blast!

The teacher in me likes to incorporate a read aloud into each day of camp. We typically start our day by reading a book that relates to the weekly theme. This year we’ve handed over the responsibility of the read alouds to my oldest niece and my older daughter. They love reading to the younger kids, and it helps to keep their reading skills sharp over the summer. Here are some of our favorites from this week:

  • How to Catch a Unicorn by Adam Wallace
  • Uni the Unicorn by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
  • You Don’t Want a Unicorn by Ame Dyckman

After reading a book, we do a craft and/or activity that pertains to the theme. If you’re like me and still not venturing out to stores during the pandemic, have no fear. I purchased all of the craft materials online this year. Thank goodness for Oriental Trading and Amazon! Here are some of our favorite activities from Unicorn Week:

  • Plush Lacing Craft – The kids loved doing this, and the plush crafts came out really cute! The oldest girls (ages 8 and 9) were able to do this with only a little adult assistance. The middle two (ages 5 and 6) needed a little more help, and the 3 year old needed one-on-one help for the entire project. My one year old just had fun splashing around in the water table while we did this project.:)
  • Unicorn Latch Hook KitThis project took my sister and I back to our childhood! It was a huge hit with the two oldest girls, but definitely challenging for the younger ones.
  • Play Dough with Unicorn Cookie Cutters – Play dough is fun for all ages! Pair play dough with unicorn and rainbow-shaped cookie cutters for some easy Unicorn Week fun! This is great for a rainy day activity. It’s also good to put out for the younger kids while the older children are working on a more challenging project, like the latch hooks.
  • Unicorn Cupcake Decorating – The kids had so much fun decorating their own unicorn cupcakes! We used Pillsbury Unicorn Funfetti frosting from Target and finished them off with rainbow twisty lollipop “unicorn horns”.
  • Printable Unicorn Coloring BooksThese inexpensive, printable coloring books from Teachers Pay Teachers are adorable. Coloring these books was the perfect activity for the end of a camp day. The girls sat in the shade and colored while chatting with each other.
  • Unicorn Writing PromptYou can’t take the teacher out of me, even during the summer! This writing prompt “craftivity” is easy to differentiate for various ages and ability levels, and it’s a fun way to incorporate writing practice to help avoid the summer slide.
  • Unicorn PinataWe finished off the week with a unicorn pinata that my mom got from Target. Pinatas are always a hit with our kids…pun intended!:) It was the perfect way to end a great week!

I hope you and your little unicorn lovers find these ideas helpful! Next up…Rainbow Week!

Camp Anderson

Since 2016, I have been running a small camp several days a week for my children and my friends’ kids in my backyard. I initially started Camp Anderson as a way to keep my kids engaged during the summer and to scratch my creativity/planning itch after resigning from my job as an elementary school teacher. Over the years, the camp has grown to include 8 families, and it has become one of the highlights of our year.

Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, Camp Anderson looks a lot different this year. We have created a little quarantine bubble with my sister’s family, so there are only 6 campers (my sister’s 3 kids and my 3 kids).

I’m determined to make this a fun and memorable summer for my children and my nieces, and I’d love to share activity ideas with you so that you can do the same for your children. I’ll do all the planning (because that’s my jam), and you can pick and choose activities that you think your children would enjoy.