My son is four, and he has been going to visit my sister, Erin, and her husband Justin, since he was two. So far these visits have been working out, and people often comment about what a fun aunt my sister is and how creative she is at finding fun ways to entertain a toddler. We even joke about how she needs to start a kid’s camp, and her Facebook comments have hit an all-time high for photos featuring my son in his element during his stay with her [I’m not gonna lie, some comments are from jealous adults asking for permission to join her camp]. She’s great about going out of her way to make the weeks she spends with my son very special, tailored just for him, and inclusive of all his favorite things. I asked her to share her experience and tips for running a toddler boot camp.
I heard you run a camp for toddlers (wink, wink). What made you decide to keep your nephew for spring break and during summertime?
My nephew, Graham, lives far away and I don’t get to see him that often. Since the day he was born I wished he lived closer so I could have a relationship with him. I’m fortunate enough to have a week off every four weeks and I thought it would be a perfect time to spend some quality time with him.
You have a plan when he comes to visit. Tell me about your goal for the week.
Graham goes to school everyday when he is at home, and I know that kind of schedule can be taxing on a kid of any age.
My plan involves relaxing with him in the morning. We take our time eating breakfast and getting ready, and then we get out of the house to do something fun and exciting the rest of the day.
Is there anything that worried you the first time you kept your nephew?
I worried that he would miss his parents and want to go home. Since he lives seven hours away, getting him back home wasn’t really in the cards for us, but surprisingly he has always been comfortable being away for a week since a very young age.
How do you decide which places to explore?
I see stuff that my friends do with their kids (posts on Facebook) and save them on a list for the next time my nephew comes to town. I look at my local city kid’s activity page (Pensacola With Kids Facebook page) for ideas as well. It usually has events that are going on each week so I can plan accordingly.
What are your top three favorite places to take/top things to do with a toddler?
- The beach! I love the beach and so does he….it’s a win, win!
- The bounce house (in Pensacola). It’s not necessarily MY favorite place to be, but I love seeing how happy he is when he’s there and it seems to really get all his energy out, which means an extra-long nap in the afternoon.
- The zoo. As an adult you just don’t go to the zoo and I hadn’t been since I was a kid. Even I enjoyed seeing all the animals and riding the train.
What do you pack for your outings?
Healthy snacks and bribery snacks. Also a change of clothes.
What is your success criteria for the week?
I like to make sure we meet up with other kids, try a few new places/things, and of course I have a personal goal to wear him out.
For the meet up with other kids, we try to schedule a play date with my friends who have kids at least once while he’s with me for the week. Trying new activities can be a struggle, since Graham usually wants to head back to the places where we’ve had so much fun already. He usually ends up loving the new places too, once I talk him into going.
Do you have any rules for your camp?
No whining, no hitting, say please and thank you.
What are the top three most requested snacks at your camp?
Cheetos, Orange Chips (Doritos), gummys, jelly beans, and mac and cheese.
Is there anything you’re looking forward to doing with your nephew next time (or when he gets older)?
I can’t wait until he is old enough to take him to a water park, bowling, putt-putt golfing, and roller skating. I know his Uncle Justin is looking forward to teaching him how to surf.
Thanks Erin! Erin’s camp is expecting a brand new camper in August, the month she will be welcoming her new baby girl. My hope is that if you’re a parent, you consider letting a fun, responsible and capable family member take your kids adventuring! If you’re a fun and energetic family member to a kid, take the opportunity to treat them to their own special day or week!