Camp Mama: Building and Cooking

Cross-posted from Cherry Blossoms The Blog.



I know I said that cooking was a weekly goal of Camp Mama this year, but we thought we’d jump start the process with a week wherein the kids were responsible for lunch each day. Monday morning we gathered and let them make a menu, then after swimming lessons each day the kids made lunch (under supervision, of course.)

I love it when a man cooks. But seriously it’s been fun to watch the kids’ cooking skills evolve.

Monday: Hot dogs. Simple and junky enough, we boosted it with some cut veggies on the side. (Cut by kids of course.) We discovered we were out of ketchup and instead of making another trip to the store we consulted the internet. We followed the recipe at Wellness Mama, didn’t refrigerate as long as stated for lack of time, and absolutely loved the results! Seriously, we had no idea that homemade ketchup could be so easy and so good!

Hot dogs grilled by the big boys, homemade ketchup and fresh veggies from the younger set. Sure, hot dogs aren’t beautiful or exotic, but when you let the kids pick the menu you have to be willing to eat what they cook.

Tuesday: Fish tacos. (Because: taco Tuesday of course!) From seasoning and frying the fish to chopping the fillings and heating the tortillas, the kids did it all and it was so good.

Hello beautiful.

Wednesday: Sushi. Back by popular demand from last year, this was a hit again. We’ve decided we need to branch out and make sushi a lot this summer — I’m looking for ideas for different fillings, as well as sauces to kick our sushi up to the next level, if any of you have suggestions.

They really did make their own sushi rolls.
I’m redeeming myself for plating last year’s sushi on a kid’s plate.

Thursday: Greek salad and gyros. Instead of roasting a lamb on a spit and shaving off pieces, we took an easier way out for our first time, marinating stir fry steak in lemon juice, olive oil, fresh parsley, and a little fresh mint (go easy on the mint.) The kids marinated, cooked, chopped, and heated the pita for a Mediterranean feast.

Gyro bar!

Friday: Pizza. Instead of making small, individual-sized pizzas like we did the last time this family came over, we made normal sized pizzas. As it turns out that day was a crazy one so I helped a little with the pizzas instead of turning it all over to the kids (especially the oven part, we do bare crusts straight on the pizza stone and getting the pie on and off the pizza paddle is a tricky thing, especially at 450 degrees.) Everyone was happy! No pictures, though — my student arrived as I put the last pizza in the oven, and my tuner arrived as soon as my student left.

Friday afternoon, after our friends left and after my piano student left and after the piano tuner left and before the rain stopped we realized we hadn’t done any service yet so my older son mentored his younger brother in the art of chocolate chip cookies which we delivered to some friends. One of my earliest cooking memories is making cookies so I’m so happy to turn that over to my boys and know that I just need to keep the pantry stocked and the dishwasher running and they will take care of the rest.

In addition to cooking all week the kids did various building activities. We tried to keep things pretty open ended, both because everyone is feeling zapped from the school year and also because creativity happens best when the activity is open-ended. So for the first couple of days we basically told the kids “here’s wood and nails and tools, have at it.” Some didn’t do much, and others made things like benches and shelves that were already in use before the week was up.

Totally useful and very solid! Way to go!


My oldest decided to forage his materials from a downed tree in the neighbourhood instead of working with the scrap lumber in the garage. Without proper safety equipment. (I stayed close, tried not to distract him, and reminded myself that we have health insurance. For his part he didn’t do this for long and he is a very safe, level-headed kid.)

On Wednesday we tasked everyone with making catapults with the scraps — some were big and some were small, some had moveable fulcrums and some permanently affixed the fulcrum to the board. Once completed we tested our our simple machines by launching marshmallows (for SCIENCE of course!) which quickly evolved into “can I get it in my mouth?” Answer: yes, if you built a good catapult.

Lego bacon and eggs on a white place.
Lego strawberry.

On Thursday we set up building stations of Megablocks, Lego, Tinkertoys, and Magnatiles through which the kids rotated performing different tasks. It was not competitive because everyone was working with different materials, and they enjoyed seeing each others creations. Some of the tasks were make food, create something that moves, make a dwelling, and build the tallest structure you can (this is why it’s not competitive, the Megablocks have an obvious advantage over the Lego when it comes to height challenges.)

Baby testing out the Tinker Toy push toy. It works!

On Friday the kids built YOXO and played with Automoblox before moving on to board games and the perennial nerf battle. I wanted to do some junk object challenges but we ran out of time and will table that for another day.

It was a fantastic first week of Camp Mama! Scheduling was tricky with swimming lessons in the middle of the day, and of course my baby still needs a nap (as do I,) but we managed to meet the needs of everyone, and the older kids who at some times last month had indicated that maybe they were too grown up for Camp Mama this year were the biggest cheerleaders of some of our activities. More than once my friend and I would look at each other and sarcastically say “it’s too bad no on likes Camp Mama.”

Next week: my 12  year old is in charge.

Camp Mama follows a weekly theme to encourage diverse activities with the kids during the summer. See all our Camp Mama posts here.

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