Last Monday I answered a common question about how we feed 11 grandchildren for our week of Cousins Camp in this post. Another common question is "How do you entertain them?" "How do you plan your activities?" Basically, "What do you do all day?"
For the past 10 or so years, I found it helpful to have a theme for the week. That would make t-shirt designs easier AND would lead to a variety of activities rather than gravitating to the same ones year after year. Swimming and board games are ALWAYS on the itinerary, and kickball and foursquare fell into place this year (generally at the end of the day when the temperatures were cooler). But, during the day, they like going on our famous mystery trips. Past themes have been: 1) sports -- bowling, putt-putt, Top Golf, Jesse Owens Museum, etc.
2) music -- playing instruments, singing, visiting the Alabama Music Hall of Fame and making CDs, etc.
3) zoo animals -- Birmingham Zoo, Harmony Park Safari, painting animals, etc.
4) around the world -- We ate at Japanese, Chinese, German, Italian, and Mexican restaurants and learned about customs in each country and challenges that missionaries face in those countries.
5) small things can make a big difference --- This was the year of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, i.e. "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." We visited the Alabama Space and Rocket Center and painted happy sayings on rocks and distributed them in a local park, etc. We remembered Bible stories of people who did great/brave things when they were very young (David and Goliath, the boy with the 5 loaves and 2 fish, Samuel hearing God's voice and telling Eli, Miriam the sister of Moses guarding his basket in the river, Jesus in the temple when He was 12 years old, etc. etc.)
6) new things -- This camp occurred just a few days after Steve and I moved into a new house in a town that was new to the grandchildren, so we visited a lot of new (to them) places and restaurants, such as the Cook Museum of Natural Science.
7) underwater creatures -- the Aquarium Restaurant in Nashville, painting underwater animals, etc.
8) history and patriotism -- This was also the pandemic summer, so we did a lot of outdoor activities. Our big trip was to Corinth, Ms. to the Crossroads Museum, and Shiloh National Military Park. We visited cemeteries where their great-great-grandparents were buried and shared stories about them. We lined the driveway with flags and made red, white, and blue desserts. For meals, we often took takeout food to picnic tables in parks.
I'm sure I'm forgetting a couple.
But this year's theme was ART. Knowing that some of the older boys would groan, I expanded it to be -- "Art! Eat! Swim! Repeat!"
Here are the main activities that we did for our art emphasis:
WE PAINTED POTTERY PIECES AT KERAMOS CERAMICS IN HARTSELLE.
I was extremely impressed with the class conducted by Rebecca Horner and her sister Sarah Fanning. They were prepared, organized, and completely unruffled. Prices for pieces ranged from $20-25 each. We painted on Monday morning, and they were glazed and ready to be picked up by Thursday afternoon.
When we drove to Decatur for lunch, we took time to check out some of the murals in the downtown area and let the youngest campers find all 10 turtles on the 2nd Avenue Turtle Trail.
WE PRACTICED PHOTOGRAPHY AT HUNTSVILLE BOTANICAL GARDEN.
Five of the grands had iPads, cellphones, and cameras that they shared with the other 6. They found beautiful flowers, butterflies, and great settings for photographing each other.
As a bonus, Huntsville Botanical Garden offers a Grandparent Pass which Steve and I can continue to use throughout this year and which brought our entrance fee down considerably on the day we visited.
We allowed them to select several of their best photos and had them printed. Another bonus -- Walgreens was having a summer special of 100 photos for only 10-cents each. Yayyy!
WE DECORATED PICTURE FRAMES USING SHELLS COLLECTED ON SANIBEL ISLAND.
There was definitely a reason for my dedicated shell-collecting times when Steve and I visited Sanibel. The grands did a great job of arranging them attractively around their frames.
Tip: Next time I'll buy 4" x 6" frames, since 3 1/2" by 5" inch prints are almost impossible to get these days.
WE VISITED ORR PARK IN MONTEVALLO TO SEE THE TREES CARVED BY TIM TINGLE.
This was less than a 2-hour drive from Hartselle, and I was 99.9% certain it was something they'd never seen before. Approximately 30 tree carvings can be found during a pleasant walk that runs beside Shoal Creek. It would have been a good place for a picnic. Next time I'll know.
WE LOOKED FOR PAINTED MULES IN DOWNTOWN JASPER.
Because of Jasper's connection to both agriculture and mining, they chose the mule as their symbol. Over 60 of these mules are scattered throughout the city. We found 12 of them within a few blocks. It was like hunting for giant Easter eggs. The mules' names were fun. The kids especially enjoyed finding one named Penny and another named Maggie and having their cousins with those names pose with their mule. :)
WE WATCHED ARTISTS AT WORK AT LOWE MILL IN HUNTSVILLE
This large former textile mill dating back to 1901 is now home to more than 150 art studios. You are most likely to see many artists working on their various projects Wednesday through Saturday afternoons. The very interesting elevator was also a neat part of the experience. We spent some special time at the Cigar Box Guitar Store and at KenziB's (#301). Kenzi arranges dried flowers (bridal bouquets, for example) into acrylic cubes with stunning results. She also did many of the decorative pieces at her parents' new restaurant, Tom Brown's in Madison.
There were, of course, many art museums we could have visited, but it was important to consider the interests and the ages of our campers. The activities we chose seemed to work out well for us. When you have your own Cousins Camp/Grandkid Camp, etc., you'll find the best ones to suit your own crew.
To learn more about each location, click on the links underlined in my descriptions.
Good luck with your planning. I promise the hard work is worth your efforts.