Grandma’s Camp

McKay holding Abe, Bella, Weston, Harry, Rein, Maddie Sydnie

I usually gear it toward ages 7-13. The younger kids come and go as their attention span allows, and the older kids help me and the younger kids. I have three goals for Grandma’s Camp

  1. Get everyone together to strengthen family bonds
  2. Re-enforce the good values they are learning at home.
  3. Have a lot of fun and make happy memories.

I have written about a few of the themes, but I will be adding more all the time. Here is a list of Grandma Camp Themes I have used:

Architect Camp

Australia Camp

Victorian Times

Boot Camp

Book of Mormon Camp

Civil War and Hattie (American Girl)

Cowboy and Outlaw Camp

Egypt Camp

Harry Potter Camp

Medieval Times Camp

Nature Camp

Pioneer Trek Camp

Secret Garden Camp

Sound of Music Camp

Spy Camp

Wonderland Camp (Alice’s Adventures)


Which Grandma do I want to be?

I like to spend time with the kids in an organized way, with activities or some other plan, but
grandchildren are, of course, welcome at our house any time, and for those unplanned days, I’ve collected  things that make it a comfortable and happy place for them to be.

I learned this from my children’s grandmothers. They were two totally different kinds of grandmas. We lived three hours away from them so when we did go to the City, we stopped at both places to visit.

  • Grandmother G. lived in a small cluttered house. She was a professional quilter and had many projects going at once in the living room, dining room, and the back room. She was a dear lady and so talented that her name became well known by all quilters. She had many articles in the newspaper about her talents, and she won the Governor’s Folk Art Award for her contributions of continuing the art of quilting. Everyone loved her, especially her grandkids, but they hated going to her house. They weren’t allowed in her bedroom or Grandpa’s room downstairs. There were very small areas in the living room, dining room, and kitchen where you could walk to get from one room to the other, but there was never to be any rowdiness or active play in her house. The children were not  allowed to touch anything because there were pins and needles  and scissors, and tacks everywhere. So a visit to this grandma’s house was boring. Although they could have played quietly, she had no toys except a string of thread spools that she had made long ago. And the worst thing was that there was nothing in her house to snack on except saltine crackers. They were always left out in a plastic container on the table. So the kids would come in and ask quietly if they could have some crackers. Sometimes she cooked a meal for us,   At those times we ate in the kitchen with some of us sitting and some standing because there was not much room. The table and chairs served as storage space. Grandma and Grandpa G were from the South and so she made great soul food. We loved it, but the kids…well-some of it we ate at home and they liked, but other things…well it took me a few years to acquire a taste for a lot of the food and I did. Yum, I love it all! But they refused to put the effort into acquired taste buds so  they usually came away from her house still hungry unless she had plenty of crackers to spare.
  • She did have some great family gatherings–a barbecue in the summer and a Christmas Party in December. At these times she outdid herself on baking and cooking. There were so many goodies and food in a big variety. The back yard summer parties were great. They were not confined to the house and there was always homemade ice cream! Christmas party, however, there was no room to move. The dining room table was cleaned off and a wonderful spread of food was placed on  it. Then you picked your spot to sit or stand and you stayed there.  The kids often went outside to play in winter or summer, but she didn’t let them play noisy games. She worried about her neighbors and would go out and tell the kids to be quieter.
  • The kids have fond memories of all of this now, but when they were young they would embarrass me when they would keep asking when we were going to our other grandma’s house.  They knew she loved them,  but with all the “don’t touch,” “don’t go in there,” “put that back, it’ll hurt you,” a visit to her house was no fun.
  • Grandma H. was just the opposite She had books and toys and dishes of candy around so that if we surprised her with a visit, she still had a treat for the kids. I heard one of my little boys tell his friend, “You should see my Grandma’s house. She has tons of candy!” She always had other snacks and their favorite cereal on hand as well. She made sure they knew they were welcome to anything (Except her Mrs. Cavanaugh’s Chocolates, which she were for the adults who knew how to appreciate good chocolate–so we had our treats too.)  Her house was neat and always cleaned up with lots of area to walk, play and even run.  Her children dropped in often to see her and check on her with their children, so on our visits there were usually cousins to play with. They would play hide and seek, and other noisy games inside and outside.  They could help themselves to anything and play anywhere in the house.
  • Grandma H.  would say, “I’m going to lie down for a bit, but no matter how noisy the children get, don’t close my door.”
  • Grandma H had many barbecues through the summer for her family and a big Christmas party too  She also had parties for the little kids, candy making parties for the teenagers , bowling parties for everyone and picnics up the canyons to keep her family close. Everybody wanted to be at  Grandma.’s house any time or all the time. They kids hated leaving and couldn’t wait to go back.
  • I knew early on what kind of grandparent I wanted to be.  Grandma H was my role model. It is fun to keep a house that is friendly to kids. Some of my favorite words are “Grandma I love coming to your house.”

Destinations–Provo River

Rafting/Tubing Down The Provo River 

High Country River Rafting is the company I called for reservations. Rafting down the Provo river takes about two hours. There is very little white water, so it is mostly lazy floating. We reserved two rafts and 11 tubes. All the kids over 14 and some adults wanted their own tube. The rest of us got into rafts. They provided life jackets, and shuttled us up to the starting point in the river. Provo River Trip It was exciting and a new adventure for most of us. We did the self-guided float. The cost was $10.00 a person whether they were in the raft or had their own tube. Everyone had a great time! Provo River Trip1 The only negative was the the kids in tubes got abrasion rashes on their arms. They need to wear long sleeved T-shirts next time. We took lunch with us and had a picnic in the canyon. We had reserved rooms for each family at the Fairfield Inn in Provo to spend the night together. Went to dinner and a movie and back to swim in the pool. Provo River Trip2 Very fun time! Can’t wait to go again.

Medieval Camp #1

Grandma Dottie’s Medieval Camp was this year’s theme. The little boys chose it. They are enthralled with that period of knights and castles and kingdoms and battles.

UMRF-crest-painted Utah Shakespeare Festival

Greenshow-09_fs Utah Shakespearean Festival Photo by Karl Hugh

I decided the perfect venue for such a camp would be i n Cedar City during the Shakespearean Festival and on the weekend of the Midsummer Renaissance Faire held in Main Street Park in Cedar City with it’s medieval looking tents for booths and characters dressed up in costumes of that period.

les mis Here you can order Mulled Cider, Fruit Tarts, and other refreshments you might find at an English Country Fair. Or you may wait until they come around calling out their wares for sale.

And we could all attend the Green Show, which is entertainment held every evening before the plays begin, with performers that look like they stepped right out of  Renaissance England with their accents and attitudes creating the atmosphere. It is such an enchanting scene! The first time I took my youngest to this festival when she was 12, she stepped into the Theater area with the actors in costume, the wares being hawked by cockney-speaking peasants, the music, the tarts and humbugs, and she said, “Is there a major in Shakespearean times? I love this!” She was fell in love with Shakespeare, literature, and history all in a moment. So I wanted my grandchildren to experience it too.

Of course, if we were going to take the trip back in time with this kind of culture surrounding us all, the children needed to be in costume too. So I looked for some simple patterns on Pinterest  that would be fairly simple for me–and by me, you know I mean my daughters- to make. (My days of sewing are over, as are my days of pulling off Grandma’s Camp by myself. it is now a family effort.)


The little boys had a tunic with a Celtic cross on it and a belt that could hold their sword. The girls each had a velvet dress with the cascading sleeves. As my kids,–the parents–started helping, enthusiasm was in the air. The little grand kids could hardly wait as their costumes were tried on for the right fit. We decided even the babies would have costumes. This was going to be fun and festive!

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This is a dress for one of the babies. The sleeves are short in front with long trailing sleeves in back.

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Our little seven month old Lady of the Kingdom


leather crown

We found these leather crowns at the Renaissance Faire. Each of the kids had $5.00 to spend. Three of them spent their money on these crowns. They are actually made as hat bands.

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And look at this! You can wear them with the crown points up or down. So cool! I hope they have them there next year. I want to buy more for a Book of Mormon Camp. They would be perfect for Nephi and Captain Moroni!

The Date is Set–this is often the hardest part.

I looked on the Festival City USA website for the date of The Utah Midsummer Renaissance Faire, and that became the date for Grandma’s Camp. Two days was all we could work out for the whole family to be together, so we had just two days to conquer the world!

We were short two families this year which meant we were missing three knights and three Lady Knights, but as I mention in my home page, it is important to be able to adapt. The other four families arrived on that early August day, and the activities started.

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First up was donning costumes, and as part of the costumes, swords were handed out to each child, including the girls. Because we were going to have the Round Table and there were not enough boys–and besides, no matter that there was no such thing as gender equality back then, we have a firm belief in it now and  the girls did not want to be “damsels in distress.”


In the background of this picture is another version of the headpiece options for the Lady Knights framed by our two newest adorable babies! Aren’t babies “divinity?” (from Little Women)

The Knights’ Code

I found this knight’s code online under King Arthur’s Knights. It was a great website–very serious about the history of King Arthur–and I would like to have used more of it, but we had so much to conquer in our shortish time, that I never can do as much as I plan, but the code was a great idea for our Camp.

The Knights  were men of courage, bravery, honor, dignity, courtesy, and nobleness.

They protected ladies and damsels, honored and fought for kings, and undertook dangerous quests.


The children, of course,  knew how to act with Courage and Bravery and Honor. But  Courtesy part of the code was on sort of an ebb and flow basis, however, look at this cute little act of courtesy by the four year old Princess helping another little Lady out of the tunnel on the final quest. And you’ve got to love her Medieval dress with pink cowboy boots! Ahh! Kids are the cutest!!


The first activity, after donning costumes, was to make our shields. Grandpa had cut our various shapes from cardboard so they could choose the shield that they wanted. We had paint, markers, beads,  and jewels to create their own coat of arms on the shield.

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I think it might be a good idea to have tin foil and scrap-booking paper they can glue on or Mod Podge, but we worked with what I had remembered to bring along. And they LOVED making their shields and were so proud of them.  The shields have a very sturdy duct tape handle on the back of them that held tight through all of their battles.

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 All for One and One for All!

(I know I’m mixing up time periods with all these references of medieval knights, renaissance, Three Musketeers, but the goal is fun, so mixed up it is!)

And so it was decreed that the girls would be knighted (here comes artistic license again as I’m forced to change history as we apply it in 2013) as part of the Round Table.As for the damsel in distress thing–Their Grandma Dottie has set the example for the girls–that is I am one who expects to be rescued whenever there is distress–I gave up wanting to be independent long ago, but we have a new generation of independents and so female knights it is!Actually it was only the nine year old lady that demanded equality. The four year old was totally satisfied with being a princess. She claims full and sometimes solitary right to the title as well as the royal power to command. However she wanted to be part of the knighting ceremony. So we adapt.

Midsummer’s Renaissance Faire 

As soon as the shields were made we went to the Renaissance Faire held in Cedar City’s  Main Street Park. There were booths, bounce houses, face painting, entertainers, balloons, and games.

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The Renaissance Faire in Cedar City Park.

It might be good to note here that part of the code of a knight requires them to not take payment for their services and daring deeds, so sometimes their pants are holey, and sometimes their shoes are worn to simple straps, but both are comfortable for battle and other daring deeds like talking one of the vendors to come down on his price of shirts so he could buy one for him and one for his brother. Yeah, he’s a daredevil, but one with brotherly love!

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Top picture–This bean bag game was played by everyone. You aim at the wives of Henry VIII. If you hit one, her head falls back.  It was a cute concept and fun to play.

Bottom picture–I gave them each $5.00, and they went shopping to the booths throughout the park. This booth is called “Another Realm” where they bought their leather “crowns.” There are bounce houses, face painting, rides, food, and entertainment there all day long.


The most fun this for our 18 month princess was trying to take care of Moki as she models her Renaissance dress. You can see that Moki doesn’t like to obey babies, even royal ones.

Next Blog:


Quest #1  Strength and Endurance

Quest #2 Archery

Quest #3 Sword fighting–ready for duels or battles


The Laughing Place in the Mysterious Beyond

Grandma’s House–A Laughing Place in The Mysterious Beyond

The stars are bright in The Mysterious Beyond .

We live in a small town–actually more rural than that–we are a couple of miles outside of that little town.  Our place is affectionately known in our family as “The Mysterious Beyond”. I grew up in the city. That is where my extended family continue to live, so to some people, living in such remote place is mysterious and beyond comprehension.  But that’s not how it got it’s name. There’s a story.

We live in a high desert of Utah on 10 acres of a few trees and lots of hills. Our children married and moved away, and all of them live in a city now.  Some of our grandchildren have lived in areas where they can’t go out the front door, alone. And none of them wander by themselves. So when they came to Grandma’s house, they went for walks with their parents around our 10 acres, and I took them on imaginary adventures outside, but when they got a little bigger they were allowed to wander our back yard as much as they wanted.  As one of our little guys was old enough to join the big kids, he stood on the porch looking  at the back yard and said to his dad,

“It’s the Mysterious Beyond. I don’t dare go without you.”

The name stuck.

When my first grandchildren were very small, I set up a toy and train room in my house. We called that room “The Laughing Place.” My oldest grandson wrote out the sign for it when he was five. Sometimes I still have to remind them that this is not a fighting place, it’s a Laughing Place!


Grandma Dottie’s Camp has been going steadily in the Laughing Place at The Mysterious Beyond for 15 years when my oldest three grandchildren were 7 and 5. We had two three-year olds who wandered in and out of our camp activities, staying just as long as their attention span allowed them.

Happy Memories Are Made By Appointment
I have 16 grandchildren at the moment and excitedly expecting our 17th soon! The ages of my grandchildren range from 22 to new born. I found that when all of my grandchildren got together, it is more fun to have organized time with them. So that is one reason I started Grandma’s Camp. We’ve had great times through the years!  All six of our kids’ families plan for their children to be here for the event that is anticipated all year long. Spring Fever encourages our plans, and communication sets the stage with excitement. See Letters to My Grandchildren.
Grandma’s Camp is planned as a perfect event. I plan to the last detail. But… days seem to have a mind of their own and rarely follow a plan perfectly, I’m sure you’ve noticed that, so we adjust and adapt and have fun with whatever happens. Here are some not so happy moments, but still fun memories:

Grandchildren with their uncle who is about to leave for a two year mission. We wanted to photographically record their sizes and ages when he left. Not many seem happy about the “Kodak Moment.”
Our Secret Garden Photo Shot: The little girl closest to front is gradually scooting away, trying to not be noticed, but she’s out of there! The little one in the center of our circle is not so quietly getting to her feet. She’s crying and mad!

All kids come with  their unique personalities and moods, so sometimes they are happy and sometimes they are cranky. We adjust and adapt…