I believe this is going to be the best summer yet!
– J.M. Richards – Camp Counselor’s Manifesto
There is something about summer camp that is ripe with opportunities… that long-awaited vacation from school arrives with endless days, warmer weather, and a chance to meet new friends at summer camp. For kids and teens, there’s so much to do.
1. Nature Scavenger Hunt
Make a list of items to find in nature from a pinecone longer than 4 inches to a purple pebble and a yellow feather. Materials needed include a large bag to collect the items and a pencil to mark off what was found. Establish a set time and an area to “scavenge” before returning back so the items can be tabulated.
2. Tie Dye Clothing
Mix fabric dye according to package instructions in large stainless-steel containers. Add a cup of salt to enhance the color. Then tie rubber bands around the clothing before dipping into assorted color dyes. Remove with tongs or a big stick, rinse under cool water, and hang out to dry.
3. Water Balloon Piñatas
Fill assorted sized balloons with water. Tie the water balloons onto a string and hang from a tree branch. Use a bandana as a blindfold. Take turns hitting the piñatas with a stick.
4. Large Twister
Do you have a blacktop or sidewalk area where you can make large-sized colored circles with chalk? Or use color cardboard circles (pizza backs work great) to assemble on the grass. Make four rows of different colors in each row: red, yellow, blue and green. Then make a spinner divided into 4 labelled sections: right foot, left foot, right hand and left hand with each section divided into the four colors so a person spinning can shout out moves (for example, right hand, yellow).
5. Carnival Time
Create various games of skill and chance. Games can be as simple as tossing a tennis ball into a bucket, hitting balloons with darts, and dropping clothespins into a milk bottle. Make some play tickets, take turns running the booths and winning prizes!
Set up a karaoke machine and let the music begin. Perform solo or with friends. Everyone participating receives a fun prize.
If you don’t have a nylon parachute, use a bedsheet. Paint it in fun colors (using a spray bottle and various colored paints or a paintbrush and tossing the paint). Wait for the fabric to dye. Then have fun with varied activities: ball roll, waves, and parachute volleyball.
8. Friendship Bracelets
All you need is embroidery floss (six-standard for thicker bracelets) or thin yarn, scissors, and tape/pins/or safety pins. The tape or pins will keep the bracelet in place as you braid/knot the bracelet.
9. Homemade Ice Cream
For each scoop you will need 2 sealable Ziploc bags, ½ cup of milk, and 1 tbsp. of sugar. For added flavor, use ½ tsp of vanilla or chocolate syrup after your mixture begins to harden. Seal the ingredients in the bag and then double bag in a similar-sized Ziploc bag. Put 4 cups of crushed or cubed ice with 6 tbsp. of salt in a large freezer bag and place your smaller bag in this bag. Shake for 5-8 minutes (use gloves or a towel to hold if it is too cold) until you have delicious ice cream to eat!
10. Tin Can Wind Chimes
Gather about 3-7 empty tin cans with the top lid off. Make a hole in the bottom lid using a hammer and nail. Paint and decorate the cans. When dry, use a strong string or rope and attach the cans to a branch/stick to hang in the wind.
11. Rock Dominoes
Make a set of 28 dominoes of 0,0 dots to 6,6 dots. Paint the dots on the rocks. Then play any number of domino games.
12. Painted Rocks
Have an art display to feature the rock creations. Paint the rocks following certain themes or free choice, or even a favorite saying or quote.
There are easy to make feeders with pinecones or cardboard paper towel rolls. Just roll in peanut butter, nuts or seeds. Punch a hole and add string to hang from a tree.
14. Obstacle Course
Which team is the fastest? Design an obstacle course with various things around camp and in the woods. Select the teams and go! Award various prizes.
15. Human Tic-Tac-Toe
Design a large board with chalk on a cemented area. Or use spray paint on a grassy area. Make cards with X or 0’s for children to hold. Two players play the game using the “real size people holding the X or O’s”.
Design similar events like the real Olympics or create your own. Different groups of children can represent various countries. Compete for medals complete with an opening and closing ceremony.
17. Night Time Bowling
Put glow sticks in bottles of water and set the bottles up to bowl. Arrange them on a flat area. Use a long piece of cardboard as an alley or a blacktopped area or grassy area. Roll a rubber ball and go for a strike!
18. Nature Bingo
Create bingo cards with nature terms and either call these out or have the campers find these objects in nature. Give a set time to see how many Bingos are made/found.
19. Ring Toss
Everyone loves a game of ring toss, but this game is on a large scale. Get some hula hoops and place some large objects on a course. See who can toss the most hula hoops over the objects in a given amount of time.
20. Giant Bubbles
This recipe is guaranteed to make gigantic long-lasting bubbles. You need: 6 cups water, 1 cup corn syrup, and 2 cups regular strength dish soap. Stir mixture into a shallow tub. Dip blower into solution, lift out, and blow!
21. Sand Candles
Create any shape imaginable! You just need to have wax (from melted candles or soy wax flakes/candle wax dye), sand, and a waxed 3.5 in. wire wick with clip. Dampen sand 4-5 in. deep in a bucket, cardboard box or sandbox/beach area. Dig out a shape (example, star shape 8 in. across and 3 in. deep) and make a small, shallow circle in the center so the finished candle can sit flat. Melt candles or wax flakes along with dye over heat, pour into sand while holding the wick in the center of the shape. Allow 4 hours for wax to dry and then carefully dig out.
22. Stepping Stones
Make a custom hand or footprint. Use sand, cornstarch, and hot water. Mix and put in a pie tin, add print, and bake one hour at 300 degrees. Let cool and decorate with paint.
23. Play Dough
There are tons of recipes using everything from Jell-O to Kool-aide. Make several batches and experiment with color. Create different items or have a themed display of space creatures, famous people, etc.
24. Talent Show
Make a makeshift stage, microphone, etc. Have tryouts, practices and then the big night. Audition performers and announcers, find stagehands, etc. Design a program and offer refreshments.
Based on interest, age and abilities, arrange a construction day. Make birdhouses or help make/repair things around the camp: benches and screened porches, docks and fences.
26. Game Show Mania
What is your favorite game show? Take a survey and design a show. Create the props needed and assemble the players and audience.
Give each group a random number of items or have a table of such items. Create an invention in a certain length of time. Then each group explains the invention, complete with a name, slogan, and sales pitch.
Brainstorm different parts of a newspaper: news articles, feature stories, editorials, entertainment, sports, classified, comics, crossword puzzle, etc. Campers compile a camp newspaper. Print a hard copy, or distribute via a website/email.
29. Field Day
Arrange various stations of team activities. Teams rotate through activities: relays, tug of war, tangled knots, etc. Feature pioneer games or games of other countries for a different twist on a popular event.
30. Puppet Show
Design different puppets out of paper bags, socks, fabric, leftover sewing materials and put on a puppet show. Have themed shows, parodies, or free-choice scripts. Be creative in designing your puppet show scenery and stage.
31. Movie Night
Bring sleeping bags and flashlights to the makeshift theater. Show a popular movie or double-feature outside against the wall of a building. Don’t forget the popcorn!
Play any type of improv or drama game or put on a group play/series of skits. Write or find scripts, make costumes, props, etc. Then invite a neighboring camp or family/friends to be entertained.
I hope that some of these ideas may be helpful in filling those long lazy summer days. Or perhaps they will serve as a springboard of new ideas. What’s more? You might even discover that this summer will be the best summer yet!