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Wrinkle Camp 101 – And It Has Nothing to Do with Your Skin!

By Cynthia Hogg May 29, 2023 Family

When my husband and I were traveling in Germany several years ago, we had the most delightful driver who brought us to the airport. We started with polite conversation, as one does, and soon discovered we had quite a bit in common. One of the most important things was our joy in running a “camp” for our grandchildren. Some things transcend distance and culture.

“Ah, yes,” he said. “My wife and I call it ‘Wrinkle Camp’. We get all our grandchildren together for a week every summer, without their parents along, and we have such fun with them!”

“We do the same!” I told him. “Sometimes it’s called ‘Grammy Camp’ because I coordinate it, but we more often call it ‘Cousins’ Camp’ because all the cousins are together. I hope they’ll build bonds that will last a lifetime.”

“Yes, yes,” he said. “It is a double win. A joy for the grandparents, and a joy for the cousins.” We laughed as we compared notes, agreeing once again that it is one of the high points of the summer.

Cousins’ Camp

I instituted my first Cousins’ Camp/Grammy Camp/Wrinkle Camp during the summer of 2016. At that time, the seven grandchildren ranged in age from 10 months to 8 years. I built our activities around certain themes.

“What Will Today’s Adventures B?”

All the activities began with the letter ‘B’.

  • Balloons
  • Bubbles
  • Bowling
  • Binder Park Zoo

(Plus, for breakfast, we had blueberry pancakes with bananas and bacon.)

Another Was, “Water We Going to Do Today?”

These were all water-themed activities:

  • Swimming
  • Paddle boats
  • Water squirters

I also made sure to include lots of free time for them to just hang out together. Kids are so good at making up their own fun together!

The first year was such a success, we’ve continued it every year. The grandchildren have informed me that it just isn’t summer without Cousins’ Camp. This makes my heart happy because the oldest two are teenagers now. Every year it takes careful planning to balance activities in terms of different ages, personalities, and interests, but somehow it always works.

Tips That Will Come in Handy

Following are a few tips for any grandparent inspired to hold a similar Camp:

Do Your Homework

Find out everything you can about your grandchildren. This is especially true if you don’t live close or haven’t spent much time with them. What are their interests? Food likes/dislikes and possible allergies? Fears and phobias? Bedtime routine?

Get Buy-In from the Parents

Make sure the parents approve of the activities you have planned. If they aren’t going to be around, get more than just their buy-in! Get medical and insurance information and paperwork, and a signed permission slip for them to be in your care.

Ask for Help

In the beginning, the kids said it didn’t count as Cousins’ Camp if the parents were around. The parents were happy with this arrangement. They often left town for their own little vacation! But now that there are 10 grandkids – while I’m getting older all the time – I discovered this just isn’t sustainable without some extra help.

One of my biggest headaches was cooking. The kids always seemed to be hungry, plus three are gluten-free and several others are quite picky. Now I ask the parents to contribute the food they know their kids can/will eat. This has helped tremendously.

Hybrid Camp

It’s not cheating to do a “hybrid” camp where the kids sleep at home and join you for activities during the day. I have often done a mixed camp where the older kids stay with me, and the younger ones join us for daytime activities.

Various Activities Are a Must

Structured activities are great, but kids also enjoy – and need! – lots of unstructured free time. This is especially true if they are with cousins they don’t see often. Just let them play!

My most successful activities have been big buckets of water with long squirters, water balloons, bubble mix, and chalk – all available from the dollar store. Kids can spend hours playing with these few items. These items also work well with a group of mixed ages and genders.

You Can Run a Camp on a Pretty Small Budget

Along with the aforementioned dollar store items, there are endless creative activities that are completely free. We have gone on nature scavenger hunts and walked along beaches looking for interesting stones. The kids come back happy and exhausted, and I haven’t spent a dime!

Of course, I do occasionally splurge on special activities for the group, but with 10 grandchildren, this can really add up! Sometimes parents chip in to help with this. Discuss this upfront, so it’s clear who is going to pay for what.

Call It Whatever You Want – Just Do It!

So, you can call it a Grammy Camp if you’re having grandchildren from just one family or a Cousins’ Camp if from more than one family, or even a “Wrinkle Camp,” if you want to inject some humor! Whatever you call it, and whether you have only a day or two or a whole week, just do it! Will you be exhausted at the end? Yes, you will, but you will have so many precious memories, and so will your grandkids. They all grow up so fast!

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Does the idea of having a Grammy or Cousins’ Camp like this appeal to you? Have you already done something similar? If so, what were your most successful activities? What suggestions would you give others?

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Pam Cox

For the last two years, I have been doing Big Mama Camp. We live on a farm on the river with nice wooded areas and meadows so it is nice just to play outside and do wilderness. We do have set activities and the most popular are those that involve water like a water slide, water balloons etc. It’s the best time of the summer. And we too have a gluten-free eater. In the evenings after dinner, it is either around the camp fire with s’mores or a game of charades. We do give them time together because it is pretty exhausting for us old grndparents. In a fun way though.

The Author

Cynthia Hogg is a freelance writer in western Michigan who contributes regularly to Sixty and Me and Senior Perspectives magazine. She loves to travel and spend time with her grandchildren, especially combining the two. She is the editor of the newly updated blog

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