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Cherishing Memories: Summer Camp Keepsake Ideas

Updated on March 27, 2014

Summer camps are a great way to keep kids busy and entertained while they are out of school for a couple months. These camps come in all varieties: day camp, overnight, sports, art, music, electronics, and so on. I've worked on several different day camp staffs in the past and have found that these programs really do make an impact on each child that participates. One summer, I had a couple of kids who really had a hard time leaving at the end, so I thought that making some summer camp keepsakes would help them feel better. Not only did they smile and lighten up once the idea was presented, but they had a blast making the items and taking them home.

When making a summer camp keepsake, utilize the resources you have. Crafts don't have to be an expensive thing, especially since budgets are tight these days. Take some time to look around and see what you have at your disposal. Even if your summer camp staff don't do the keepsakes with the child, parents or friends can get together to do them at home.

I have listed a few items below that we used when I was working for a summer day camp. I still have these keepsakes with me and am often reminded of the great times I had being a part of such a wonderful program.


T-Shirts as Summer Camp Keepsakes

It is becoming more and more common for summer camps to provide t-shirts for each participant for field trips and other events. Although the t-shirt itself is a great keepsake, I decided that it would be fun to make it more personal. During the last day of our program, I had all of the kids get out the fabric markers and permanent markers we had on site so that they could sign each other's shirts.

For the next hour or so, the children walked around and signed the shirts of their friends and the staff members. Some of the children kept it simple by just putting their name while others wrote paragraphs and drew pictures. At the end of the entire process, each individual was left with a summer camp keepsake that was priceless.

I haven't seen any of these children since they signed my shirt due to moving and not being able to be on staff at this particular camp again, but I still have the shirt and often think back to the wonderful memories we made that summer. I remember the huge water fight we had outside when it was over 100 degrees outside and we had no air conditioning. I remember the outdoor trips to the park and the endless games of kickball. It was a great summer and will forever be in my memories.

It's amazing how much just a t-shirt can speak to someone or bring back memories. If you don't want your child to get their original t-shirt written on, ask the summer camp if you could order an extra. You may also want to suggest the t-shirt writing idea to the camp staff if they haven't brought the opportunity up.

Gildan boys DryBlend T-Shirt(G800B)-WHITE-M-5PK
Gildan boys DryBlend T-Shirt(G800B)-WHITE-M-5PK
These plain white t-shirts are great for writing on and making a summer camp keepsake.

Did you ever go to a summer camp?

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Yarn Bracelets

Yarn bracelets might be my favorite summer camp keepsake because the kids taught me how to make them. I was in awe at all the different ways you could tie the knots and combine the colors so that they made patterns and designs. By the end of the summer, I was making my own yarn bracelets like a champ!

Although these bracelets are bound to fall off eventually (if worn), they are still a great reminder of the wonderful memories that were made. For me, my bracelets stayed on for another two months after I left camp. Every time I looked at them, I thought of the girls who taught me how to make them. During arts and crafts time, these girls would sit with me and teach me new ways of tying the yarn. This gave me the opportunity to talk to them more and get to know them on a more individual level. These were the moments I felt that I made the most impact as a summer camp staff member.

During our last week of day camp, everyone started making these yarn bracelets so that they could have some to take home or wear when everything was said and done. You can see that I had a couple of bracelets on my wrist, both from girls who I had bonded with during the summer. I also had a few that ended up on my ankles!


Summer Camp Name Tags

Depending on the camp that a child goes to, they may or may not get a laminated name tag. If your camp doesn't offer laminated name tags, consider making your child one so that they can have something to take during the last few days of camp. They can then customize it with stickers that represent the summer and things they learned or memories they made.

Another fun idea is to have their friends put a sticker on their name tag that they feel represents the child. I was a staff when my name tag was done, so I had the kids and other staff members place stickers on mine for what they thought represented me. It was so interesting to see the different memories that were brought up and the experiences that we shared. You will notice that I have a tiger sticker in the right bottom corner because one of the kids said I was Tori the tiger. I also have an owl because one of the volunteers knew I liked owls. Yet another volunteer got super creative and put a brown cow because they knew I liked chocolate milk.

By the end of the whole process, I was left with a name tag that was garnished in stickers that told a story. When I look at this name tag today, I can still remember the conversations I had with the staff members and kids, the activities we did, and the unique moments we shared. I hope to make a shadow box one day of the things I've saved over the years so that I can hang it on my wall and keep my keepsakes safe.


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