Millions of kids across the country are participating in some sort of summer camp experience this summer. Camp is such a meaningful time for kids because of the memories they make, the friends they meet, and the fun they have. Since I travel to many camps each summer, I get to see a lot of great camp ideas and a sampling of what works and what doesn’t work. I have also developed some of my own games and activities and have learned which ones work through trial and error.
And while many camps have plenty of planned activities throughout the day (pool time, zipline, lake time, climing wall, organized field games, etc.), it is important for leaders and volunteers to have an arsenal of back-up games in the event of rain-outs or other unforseen schedule changes (which happen more often than we think). For example, I was at a large camp in Texas a few weeks ago with about a thousand kids in attendance. Tropical Storm Bill came right through the camp on Wednesday and the kids were couped up in the cabins for much of the day. I traveled from cabin to cabin (not all of them) and led the kids in some fun activities that helped pass the time and make the day fun for them. There are also times where the kids may be waiting in line or in a room for the next activity and you as a leader want to do something fun with them until the next scheduled event. Here are some ideas for those “rain-outs” or in-between times….
I have called this “The Easiest Large Group Game Ever” and still stick to that title. All you need is a coin. And then the fun begins. You flip the coin and tell the kids to pick heads or tails before you flip it. If they’re right, they stay and play the next round. If they’re wrong, they’re out. Keep flipping until you’re down to one winner. You know who picked what by telling them all to stand up and put two hands on their head for heads and two hands on their behind for tails. If they are ever wrong, they have to sit down. Last person standing wins. A fun variation is to give each player two lives. The first time they are wrong, they have to stand on one foot. The second time they are wrong, they “lose” the other foot and therefore are forced to sit down. I don’t know why or how, but kids LOVE this game.
2. Flag Tag
This can be played indoors or outdoors. You need bandanas or flag-football flags (one per player). You wear the flags (tuck the bandanas partially into the belt area) and play tag. Create a boundary of some sort (a large circle or square) in which the players must play during the game (or else they are out). Instead of touch-tagging, the players have to pull out flags. When your flag is pulled, you must sit down in place. When you’re down, you can still pull flags from players who are still running around; you just have to stay seated and in place when you do so. I found a youtube clip that has some footage of this game, starting at 1:41 in the video and going until 1:55. There are a lot of variations on this game – such as….
- every man for himself
- red team vs blue team (or whatever colors you have)
- adults vs kids
- boys vs girl
3. Freeze Dance
All you need is a fun song on your music player and speakers loud enough for all the kids to hear the music. Play the music, the kids have to dance. When you stop the music, the kids have to freeze. Repeat those two steps (dance, then freeze, then dance, then freeze….). I like to have a little fun with it and give the kids instructions to follow for the freeze times or the dance times. Here are some ideas….
- play dead (for the freeze)
- touch a friend (for the freeze)
- touch an adult (for the freeze)
- make a large conga line (for the dance)
- do the shopping cart/lawnmower/sprinkler/[whatever your favorite dance] (for the dance)
- stand on one foot (for the freeze)
- pretend that you are your favorite animal (for the dance or the freeze)
4. Nine Square
Many people have heard of Four Square, but Nine Square (aka Nine Square in the Air) is relatively new on the camp scene. You need a pipe apparatus that creates a three by three grid above the head height of the players. Each square is protected by a player and play starts in the middle with the “king” or “queen” and basic volleyball rules apply (one hit per person per square at a time). Instead of telling you all the rules, allow me to direct you to the 9SquareInTheAir website to read all about it. In my opinion, it is a close second to Gaga Ball in ranking the kid-favorite (and leader-favorite) games of camp these days.
5. Speaking of GaGa Ball
If you haven’t heard of this game, then either you have not been to a summer camp in over a decade or the one you go to is seriously missing out on the world’s best camp game. The set-up is the most elaborate of this list (you need to build an octagonal-walled ring) but the payoff is the greatest you will find these days in terms of how much the kids love this game. It is a form of dogeball played in a walled pit and the ball must be hit (not thrown) towards other players using an open palm and only below-the-waist hits count (which makes it much safer than traditional dogeball). Trust me….invest in a GaGa pit and watch the kids play the day away. I found some helpful links that explain the rules of the game as well as provide building materials for the pits….
I hope this list helps you with some camp game ideas this summer. Have fun and let me know if you have some great summer camp game ideas for others to read about!