Last week, I had the special privilege- and challenge- of coordinating and leading Once Upon A Time Camp at our church. For two hours each afternoon, I welcomed fourteen adorable girls, grades PreK-2, to celebrate being God’s princesses. Little did I know that ten hours of camp time equated to 30+ hours of prep time. Basically, princess camp was my part-time job for the first two weeks of summer, but it was all worth it!
For those of you who might be considering such a camp for your own church or community, I thought I would share what I came up with, in hopes that it will help you save a little time on the preparation end of things. So as not to overwhelm you, I will break up the post into five parts, each covering one of our camp days and the resources we used. (FYI: There will be several affiliate items in these posts, all of which I used and highly recommend.)
The basis for our camp was a series of books our children’s ministry director came across months ago. Called The Princess Parables, they feature five princess sisters: Grace, Faith, Hope, Charity, and Joy. Right away, I loved that we would not be dealing with the standard Disney princess fare and that I could introduce the girls to princesses who embodied the character and beauty that comes from knowing God.
My general outline for each day included: a craft, story time (each book has discussion questions you can download off the site), an activity, a snack (of course!), and a coloring page from the corresponding Princess Parables Coloring Set.
Before I give you a daily review of camp, here are some pictures of the room I decorated for camp. I found most of my materials at either Michael’s or on Amazon, along with a few scores from Goodwill. My budget was $325; each camper paid $25 to attend.
Let Princess Camp begin!
It was so fun that first day to hear the “ooh”s and “aah”s from the moms and girls as they arrived. The decorations were a real hit and helped to create the right ambiance for princess camp. Each girl sat at a table and decorated a name tag for their place. I let them write their own names, in the spirit of Ramona Quimby from Beezus and Ramona, which we recently read aloud at home. In retrospect, I wish I had written their names on the cards (I just used pink and purple cardstock, folded in half lengthwise) ahead of time because some were unrecognizable, impeding my ability to remember the girls’ names quickly.
Then, we sat in our story area on the other side of the room, where I read Princess Grace’s story to them. I stopped along the way to ask engaging questions, which they were all eager to answer. At the end of each story, there is a personal note from the princess herself, followed by the scriptural parable the story is drawn from. By the time I got to the scripture, though, interest was beginning to wane and it was hard to keep their attention. We wrote down some of the words we learned to describe each princess on a dry erase board each day, and moved on.
Next, we decorated tiaras!! The girls had so much fun with this craft, and we had tons of jewels for them to glue on. I bought these tiaras, which are adjustable and come in pink, blue, and purple. (One thing to note: the hot glue gun became our best friend this week; we used it almost every day. Regular glue just didn’t do the trick keeping the gems adhered to the foam crowns.)
After the tiaras, we headed outside, where we played “Princess Says” (aka: Simon Says) and “Princess, Princess, Queen” (aka: Duck, Duck, Goose) and dug for treasure in a sand-filled basket (I added stickers, real coins, gems, and Fun Express Colorful Rhinestone Rings (6 Dozen)). The girls LOVED digging for treasures and asked if we could do it again.
Inside once more, we ate snack, which I was really excited about. I made Princess Popcorn; it was so pretty and tasty! (I popped kernels on the stove, rather than using microwave popcorn- it’s one of the 10 worst foods you can eat.) I also bought special juice (Ocean Spray 100% Cran-Grape and Cran-Raspberry). However, I learned right away that simple is better than special. Some of the girls did not like the sweet, pink popcorn, and even more of them did not care for cranberry juice- duh! There is a reason the Sunday School teachers always serve apple juice and graham crackers: it works! I still recommend the popcorn, though, as those who did like it, loved it (including me!)
We finished with the coloring sheets from the Grace’s story.
All in all, it was a great first day, but I have to admit, snack threw me for a loop. Thank goodness for my amazing helpers: summer camp intern Caitlin and sweet, 12yo volunteer Kira. I wouldn’t have survived without them this week!
For more ideas, you can also check out my Pinterest Princess Camp board.
Tomorrow, we will cover Day 2: Princess Faith’s Mysterious Garden (possibly my favorite day).