My grandma loved to have my cousins and me over for weekends or for whole weeks during the summer. We never called it Grandma Camp, but she used to refer to her family gathering space as Mother Goose’s Kitchen. There were times when we got to be unconditionally creative, sing and dance with abandon, and get to know each other better in the context of fun.
If you already have the grandchildren over for visits, then you already have a version of camp underway. The elements that upgrade a regular visit to Grandma Camp—also known as Cousin Camp—are special planned activities that make the experience magical and memorable. You might even choose a theme for each time you have the grandkids over and plan activities around that theme. Your adventure could be a day experience or a sleepover that connects a couple days of fun. Here are some Grandma Camp ideas all in one place to help you make the most of what intergenerational fun San Francisco has to offer.
Camp Grandma Tips and Ideas for Staying In
Don’t be afraid to do camp with the grandkids your way. If it works better for you to be laid back and initiate activities when the time is right, go for it. If you’d rather have a schedule so you know when and how to prepare for each adventure, run with that style. However you plan to structure your experience, it’s good to have a list of possible Grandma Camp activities that you know the kids will love.
Create a Movie Theater at Home
One of my kids’ favorite things to do is to have a movie night where we actually set everything up as if it were a real movie theater. We make tickets by cutting squares out of paper and drawing little buckets of popcorn on the squares. We get ready with individual bowls of popcorn and grapes or apple slices, and we choose a movie that everyone can get excited about.
This is one time I let the kids pull all of their stuffed animals out. They line them up at the entrance to our theater and put a ticket in front of each. The hype is really about all the prep and time leading up to the show. Then everyone is ready to relax and laugh together while we watch our feature presentation.
Make Mini Pizzas Together
Kids always get excited about pizza, especially when they get to be the chefs and get a bit messy! And pizzas can really be made with anything. If your grandkids are older, you can get some refrigerated pizza dough, cut it up into some smaller portions, and have the kids carefully stretch out their personal crusts. Then, they can add sauce, cheese, and other toppings—maybe some healthy greens the San Francisco way. While the pizzas bake, the kids can look in on their progress.
Or get creative with what you have at home already: tortillas and bagels are great for adding a sauce or spread and then toppings. You could even do open-faced sandwiches on bread and let the kids get creative with their fixins. You could also core an apple and slice it through the center, so you end up with thin rounds. Let the kids spread on peanut butter and top it with dried fruit, chocolate chips, nuts, or any other small treats. Whatever type of pizza project you do, it helps to set up workstations by spreading parchment paper on the table or counter, so it’ll be easy to clean and the kids’ masterpiece meals won’t stick.
Crafts to Open Up a World of Imagination
Planning out some crafts is always a good idea because you can collect supplies and get prepared in advance. If your grandkids’ ages vary, you may want to have a couple different craft options. When I used to play with my cousins, young and old, we would pretend that we were part of a little village market. We’d explore outdoors for interesting things and spend some time crafting. Then we would set up our artwork and neat rocks, sticks, and leaves on display. Each person would choose their storefront on this couch or in that doorway. We’d take turns walking around and looking at what others had for trade. To this day, I still use a special rock as a doorstop that my cousin drew a wolf on with charcoal because he knew I’d love it.
Usually, when you provide kids with supplies, they’ll find creative ways to turn out wonders. Used cardboard rolls from paper towel, toilet paper, or wrapping paper make great telescopes, walking sticks, and lightsabers. Empty tissue boxes become picture frames to decorate when you pull out the flimsy plastic flaps and deconstruct the box a bit. Keep an eye out for other recyclable items to save for these crafts. You can even talk to kids about the importance of reusing and recycling, and review San Francisco’s up-to-date guidelines on recycling household items. Your grandkids will love getting creative with you.
Grandma Camp San Francisco—Chart Your Adventure
Exploring San Francisco is another great way to spend the family time together, especially if you have some other adult assistance to help keep eyes on the kids while you’re out and about. I couldn’t possibly list all the great kid-friendly places and activities throughout the city, so I’ve narrowed down some of my favorites. Be sure to call ahead when you can to confirm hours, accessibility, and anything else you need to know to plan your visit. And be on the lookout for discounts for seniors and kids at these attractions.
- The Bay Area Discovery Museum is on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge, just outside of San Francisco. It is best for children younger than ten, and even very young children can find accessible activities. Be sure to explore the vast outdoor area for surprising and interactive fun.
- The Presidio has some really beautiful, leisurely hikes that are great to do with kids. Start from the Visitor Center and try the Ecology Trail for some diverse plant and animal sightings or Lovers’ Lane for a gentle stroll.
- The Cable Car Museum is a unique stop, and it’s always free! Kids will love learning about the history and the science behind cable car transit and seeing the powerhouse that still runs the existing cable car lines in the city.
- The Julius Kahn Playground is a clean Parisian-style park that has recently been updated. You’ll love the easy parking, clean restrooms, and beautiful views on a clear day, and kids will love all the exciting and unusual opportunities for play.
- Singalongs at the Castro Theatre are worth looking out for. They schedule different children’s movies throughout the year, and your grandkids will be enchanted by the theater’s fancy interior.
- The Aquarium of the Bay on Pier 39 is full of mesmerizing exhibits for kids and adults if you’re willing to get mixed up with the tourists. Learn about the sea creatures off San Francisco’s coast, and then check out some of the views and other attractions around Pier 39.
- The Koret Children’s Quarter Playground (also known as the Golden Gate Park Children’s Playground) is another awesome—if busy—place to visit. Thrilling concrete slides built into the hillside, a carousel, an impressive sand play area, and unique play structures keep kids occupied and active.
How Grandma Camp Activities Can Bring You Together
No matter how old we are, we all need fun to keep our minds and bodies active. Tapping into your child at heart can be rejuvenating for you, and it’s a perfect way to meet your grandkids where they’re at, have a blast, and create lasting memories. When it comes time for your Grandma Camp or Super Sleepover—or whatever you want to call it—make sure you set everything else aside and give your full attention where it counts. You and the kids will create your own favorite pastimes and activities to look forward to the next time you get together.
For more ideas of fun San Francisco activities for older adults, check out our blog. Institute on Aging aims to support older Bay Area residents in living their best and brightest lives. Reach out to us now to learn more about our Social Day Program and other resources and services that support seniors in living independently.