Making camp awesome, one craft at a time
November 26, 2013 11:38 PM   Subscribe

I've been offered the chance to run a week-long day camp this coming summer at a local art space. I have an idea for a theme, but I want to run it by the hive mind and make sure it's as awesome as it can possibly be. Who want to help me plan Costume Camp?

The plan I have for the camp is that each day, there will be themed crafts that add up to a head-to-toe homemade costume. Right now the schedule I have in mind is as follows:

Day 1: Wizardry (hooded cloak, magic wand, time turner necklace)
Day 2: Superheros (cape, mask, painted sneakers)
Day 3: Fairies, Elves & Gnomes (flower/branch/ivy crown, tutu/tunic, wings)
Day 4: Middle Ages (armor, crown/helmet, shield)
Day 5: Science Fiction (robot suit, jet pack, blaster)

I want to be sure I'm teaching skills that kids will use in future crafting-- handsewing, jewelrymaking, hot-glue-gunning-- and send them home with a mindset that encourages them to experiment with making stuff out of whatever's to hand. I also want both boys and girls to feel free to make costumes that they'll actually use for imaginative play, regardless of gender norms. I'm expecting about 15 kids, aged 8-12.

I've never run a whole camp single-handedly before, so any advice along those lines would be very welcome. I'd also appreciate any project suggestions you can think of. Are there any pitfalls to doing this that I'm not thinking of? Am I getting too ambitious in my planning? And what the hell do I charge?
posted by nonasuch to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (7 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
This book, this one right here. It's hard to tell from the sample pages available (which are mostly from the 'fashion spread' sections) but it's basically an encyclopedia of step-by-step craft projects for putting together entire superhero/scifi/anime/cosplay type costumes (including wig styling, accessories, footwear, patterns, etc...lots of simple kimino-style stuff too) as well as a huge section of photos from various costume conventions with lots of notes on the costumes pictured (i don't know how to describe word balloons saying things like 'I covered some small plastic containers with strechy fabric and added outlines with electrical tape for the boot details' and etc for like a hundred or more costumes). Well worth it.
You might want to tell the kids to each bring a milk crate-sized box of fabric, old clothes, old accessories, beads, etc, and just plain random 'stuff' from around the house for everyone to share and spend a half hour sorting everything by color along one wall. That should take care of at least part of your supply needs.
posted by sexyrobot at 12:53 AM on November 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Are there any pitfalls to doing this that I'm not thinking of? Am I getting too ambitious in my planning? And what the hell do I charge?

I think this is a great idea but the plan is overly ambitious, yes. An eight year old who has never sewn before is not going to be able to hand sew a hooded cloak in a day. Also, assuming some of this stuff is painted, several of these projects are going to be overnight to allow paint to dry. Your supply costs are also going to be sky high with this plan.

I would scale back to two projects (each kid can choose if they want to be a Wizard OR a superhero, and I would do the Middle Ages with armour but accept that some people are going to want to make princess costumes), and I would pay very very very close attention to planning what the materials cost would be. "Painted sneakers" sounds very spendy to me, for the camp or for the families, for example.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:35 AM on November 27, 2013

I made superhero costumes with that age group, to great success once. Drapery sample capes and simple masks plus a huge collection of sequins, fake flowers, and other assorted exciting shiny or textured things. 8 years old is maybe too young to handle glue guns or hand sewing without constant one on one supervision( I've sewn with super young kids before, but I had to be right there the entire time to rethread needles or help with knots). We had the kids staple their decorations/superhero logos on, which is less nice crafting but meant they could work more independently and improvise.
Other materials to consider: a huge amount of brown craft paper plus colored construction paper and staples, for fast and exciting paper costume project. Also lots of tubes and tinfoil.
I agree that you've got alot planned for a week, and materials costs will be steep! Encourage at home creativity by making things out of repurposed household items rather than craft store supplies.
posted by velebita at 5:59 AM on November 27, 2013

Response by poster: Yup, definitely repurposing/recycling for a lot of the materials-- for instance, cloaks will be sewn from old bed sheets so no hemming is required. Sneakers will be super cheapie white canvas fake Keds. I am a dedicated thrift store shopper and can find a LOT of useful stuff secondhand.
posted by nonasuch at 6:18 AM on November 27, 2013

There is a huge difference in attention span and fine motor skills between 8 year old's and 12 year old's. Keeping them all involved will be challenging.

Perhaps working in some movement activities will help. A scavenger hunt (map reading, directions), target practice with bean bags, creating a saga appropriate dance - all can be themed and help them blow steam.
posted by cat_link at 8:46 AM on November 27, 2013

Most of the X-specific (dance, art, rock climbing, etc.) camps that I've looked at, or put my now-ten-year old in, spent half the day or less doing that specific activity and lots of time doing other things. No 8 year old in the world, and precious few folks of any age, can or want to do crafts for 8 hours a day, 5 days in a row. And no parent wants their kid to come home after a day of sitting and no running, because that is just too much extra energy to deal with between pickup and bed time. So your idea is awesome, but way too ambitious.

I like the idea of picking one or two of those themes and taking the entire week to make the costume. Then you can intersperse with activities related to the theme. So Hero and Villain camp involves making an elaborate costume including cape, hat, evil mustache, shoes and utility belt, but then you also play Superhero Tag and Evil Nemesis Telephone and Hot Potato-Nuclear-Device or whatever. I'd shoot for projects that take no more than 3 hours from start to finish, that can be done in 2 or 3 installments over the course of the day (build the utility belt, run around, snack, paint the belt and decorate with sequins, lunch, fashion crime-fighting tools, tag, snack, go home).

And I would look at crafts that involve as few unfamiliar tools as possible. Fifteen kids + one adult + glue guns is a recipe for blistery burns and tears.

I think paring your idea down makes it more manageable for you and for the kids, without sacrificing your goal, which is teaching them to be creative with unexpected resources. And by making it bite sized, you are less likely to overwhelm them and turn crafting into an ordeal they dread in future!
posted by looli at 9:19 AM on November 27, 2013

Oh, and however long you think it will take kids to make something, probably double that and add half. I'm a seasoned crafter, but even I never give myself enough time (oh, at how many parties have I arrived at midnight with my kick-ass costume) which is super stressful and frustrating. Keep in mind that at least some of these kids will have virtually no craft experience at all. Scissors? Glue stick? How do I use those??
posted by looli at 9:22 AM on November 27, 2013

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