You can create your own arts-rich camp experience for your kids like Camp Midgard...

Even parents can come down with a bad case of the "I can'ts!" But with holiday breaks coming up (and holiday budgets to manage), now is not the time to think that you can't create your own arts-rich camp experience for your kids. You don't need a career in the visual arts or a degree in early childhood education like Debra Darnall or Mimi Brodsky Chenfeld, the two "camp directors" we invited to help us create DIY Arts Camps. You just need imagination and an "I can" attitude! I always wanted to go to camp. Not having kids of my own, but embracing my role as Aunt Debby, I would invite my four nieces and nephew to come down from Cleveland for visits to my own personal camp, which I created by turning off the TV, staying up late and working on art projects during the day. We called it Camp Midgard, after the road I then lived on in Clintonville. Being a working decorative painter, I had supplies in my basement studio that I let the kids use to create their projects, which included tie-dying t-shirts and making tissue-paper collages. Years later, the kids, who were by then teenagers, came to visit again. After our hello hugs, the first thing we did was have a meeting to write a camp constitution, which described our camp's mission, guidelines and rules. We even made a camp flag. Our first project was a walk around Schiller Park with camera in hand. I told them they each needed to find something that inspired them, take a photo of it and then they would create a piece of art. At the end of camp we had a closing ceremony where each kid stood up and told us about their particular piece of art. I sat there in awe of what they created. Here's how you can create a Camp Midgard (and some awe) of your own! Camp Director Guidelines *Name your camp and make a banner or flag for it *Set up your camp rules (like no TV, cell phones, etc.) *Look for inspiration in family photos, by taking a walk or asking children questions about they think and feel. *Hands off! Show children how to use the materials provided but DO NOT DO IT for them. Let them experiment and be messy. There is no wrong way to make art. *Make sure you tailor the project ideas to the ages of the kids. Younger ones really like to just play with the materials, so let them! With older kids, you can be more structured. Suggestions for Materials *Drop cloths: on a large table AND under it (to allow for and encourage messiness!) *Raw materials: Gather items from around the house and spread them on the table for the children to choose from. Items can include used wrapping paper, loose buttons, old fabric, cardboard, tissue paper, paper plates, newspaper, cancelled stamps, glitter, yarn and wire. Make color copies of anything you don't want to damage like family photos. *Art supplies: paint, brushes, bowls of water, glue gun for older kids, primer, joint compound, different types of tape and glue *"Blank canvases": Items like boxes, frames, clay pots, stretched canvas, etc., can be used to put finished artwork into or onto! Possible Projects *Mystery Box: Take an old shoe box and decorate it with cut-out or written-in words, small objects, photos and mementos of family members or pets. *Garbage Art: Recycle items that might otherwise go out in the trash - paper products, can labels, envelopes, packaging, string, ribbon, even cut-up clothes - and use only these items to create your art. *Book of Me: Either make a blank book from construction paper or purchase one. Have the children put pictures, words, flat objects, etc., in the book to describe themselves. Or have each person do a page in each other's books. Then, at end of camp, everyone will "read" their books out loud. *Holiday Edition: Make a book with pictures of Christmas trees from the past. Go on a winter walk in the snow and take photos of snowmen and make a piece of art from them. Take old holiday cards you received (and never threw out) and make a collage or cover a large frame with them and use to display your new cards. Decorate a small clay pot to put a poinsettia or small tree in.