In the midst of COVID-19 we want you to know that it’s important to continue to stay safe, please be mindful of local and state regulations in your areas. If you’re looking for ideas on ways to stay connected while continuing to social distance, check out our blog Five Ways to Bond with your Grandchildren When You Can’t be with Them.
The idea of grandparents’ camp did not originate with my husband and me. We heard about other grandparents having a camp for their grandchildren and decided that was something we wanted to do too. Since Lee (my husband) and I had retired and were in good health, nothing was holding us back. With our adult children, now parents, in agreement, we moved forward.
Once the idea of grandparents’ camp gelled with everyone, Lee (Poppa) and I (Mimi) started planning. These were questions we asked ourselves:
- What would we call our camp?
- Where would we host camp?
- Who would come?
- What would we do?
- What would be our goals?
We called our camp Kamp Keck and hosted it at our house for five to six days and nights. Yes, 24/7. Fortunately we had enough indoor and outdoor space. As to who would attend, the logical answer was grandchildren.
However, age and life circumstances must play into the equation. Some grandchildren may be too young to sleep over or to keep up with older siblings and cousins. Some older grandchildren may feel like they have aged-out of camp, but they may be willing to help with camp. Recently-adopted children may not be ready to be away from their parents. Every situation is different.
As to what to do at camp, we knew It was better to have too much planned than not enough. We decided to have a theme to somewhat loosely tie activities together, including our Bible stories.
Then we had goals to consider. What did we want to accomplish? Lee and I desired to be fun grandparents who exuded the joy of the Lord, always pointing our grands toward Jesus. Camp offered a unique time and place to do this.
There are numerous ways to build sweet relationships with grandchildren. So why grandparents’ camp? These are our reasons:
- To deepen our relationship with each grandchild.
- To provide experiences that parents might not have time and resources to provide.
- To give cousins time and opportunity to deepen their relationships.
- To share our faith and whet their appetites for a deep, sweet, loving relationship with Jesus.
- To provide experiences that would turn into meaningful memories.
In today’s world, families are busy, oftentimes making it more challenging for grandparents to have quality time with grandchildren. In addition, families may not live in close proximity.
One set of our grandchildren live in Ohio while one set live in our town. As you would expect, we don’t get to see our Ohio grands as often as we see our Tennessee grands.
Lee and I highly value our relationship with each of our grandchildren. It is important to us to develop a meaningful, loving relationship with each one and to spend as much time as possible with them.
Cousins need opportunities to get to really know each other. Psychologists say that cousin relationships are important because of their shared heritage.1 They tend to know enough of their shared story to laugh together when they are happy and to cry together when they are sad. Cousins can share memories in ways they may not be able to with other folks.
Faith Building Relationships
Psalm 145:3-6 pretty well sums up the most important reason for doing grandparents’ camp:
The Lord is great and is highly praised; his greatness is unsearchable. One generation will declare your works to the next and will proclaim your mighty acts. I will speak of your splendor and glorious majesty and your wondrous works. They will proclaim the power of your awe-inspiring acts, and I will declare your greatness. (CSB)
Experiences Translated into Memories
Everyday we are making memories, but the question is: Which ones really matter? Oftentimes making memories that really matter takes effort. Memories of grandparents that grandchildren take into the future can be life-giving. Someday Lee and I would like for our grands to have memories such as:
Remember when we …
- Slept on blowup mattresses on our grandparents’ family room floor and giggled late into the night?
- Climbed the magnolia tree and ate popsicles while sitting on our favorite limbs?
- Slid down the “Slip ’n Slide” until we were covered in mud?
- Spent the night in a tent with Poppa and an inflated moose?
- Painted with things like mud, worms, and leaves?
- Created art and then turned the dining room into an art gallery?
- Went wading in a creek?
- Took field trips to the zoo, the botanical gardens, and the park?
- Went blueberry picking, then ate blueberry pancakes Mimi made for us?
- Contended with the question: “What day did God create blueberries?”
- Built butterfly and bluebird houses?
- Watched the movie Ernest Goes to Camp and laughed just as much the fifth time we saw it as the first time?
- Painted Mimi’s face to look like a clown?
- Gathered every morning on the rug for a Bible story and prayer?
- Called Poppa the “Poppa-razzi” because he was always shooting pictures of us?
Time to Go Home
We believe the way we end camp is as important as the way we begin. On the last day of camp, we do something that has become special to our grands (and to us). We employ from Scripture the idea of “stones of remembrance” (Joshua 4). Oftentimes God had His people pile up stones as testimony of His work among them. So we give each grandchild a stone on which we have written a godly trait. The traits reflect a quality we had observed in that child or believed God would establish in him or her. Each trait was based on a Bible reference which was also written on the stone. Interestingly enough, each child has kept the stones. Hopefully they will always be a reminder to our grands that God loves them and is always working in their lives.
In addition, we give each child a plastic trophy for being a “good camper.” So far, each grand has valued them enough to keep them.
Between camp and Christmas, we put together a digital photo book highlighting our camp experiences. Then each child receives a copy of the book as a Christmas gift. They treasure their books.
So You Are Saying …
You have read this post and are thinking: “I could never do that.” Suggestion: Don’t focus on what you can’t do, but on what you can do. Consider these suggestions:
- Only do what you can physically and financially handle.
- Consider having only a couple grands at a time.
- Make your camp a daytime-only camp.
- Remember, relationships are the key.
- When distance or other circumstances prevent face-to-face time, consider what you can do virtually or in writing. I know a friend who did a virtual tea party with her granddaughters. Consider playing virtual games like Bingo. Share stories about yourself as a child. Read books to your grands, including Bible stories. The possibilities are limitless.
And Remember: Today’s experiences become tomorrow’s memories.
Saundria Keck is a wife, mother, grandmother, ministry leader, author, and speaker. She lives in Franklin, Tennessee, with her husband Lee and is retired from Lifeway Christian Resources. Though much of her life was spent serving in Children’s Ministry, she now feels deeply called to serve younger moms through her church’s Moms’ Ministry.
She enjoys writing, traveling with her husband, spending time with her family (especially her grandchildren), raising flowers, and wading through interesting, thought-provoking books with her book club. She has co-authored two books, Remember, and Don’t Forget: Bible Stories for Mom and Me as well as The Jesus Story: Because He Still Loves Us. You can follow her on Facebook®, Instagram®, and passthebreadmom.com.
- Richard Asa, “Why cousins matter: Tapping these familial bonds foster insight, fellowship,” Chicago Tribune, Dec. 13, 2015, accessed July 13, 2020, https://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/sc-why-cousins-matter-family-1215-20151210-story.html.