By Silvana Clark

As counselors know, it’s easy to become so involved in getting campers to archery and making sure they go to the bathroom before bed, they forget to have fun with the campers. The following are ways counselors can totally amaze campers with magic tricks, games and wacky snacks.


Start with some spontaneous magic tricks. Don’t worry--you won’t need to cut anyone in half. These tricks are easy, yet have a big impact in impressing campers.

The Non-Popping Balloon
Blow up an ordinary balloon ahead of time, and tie the end shut. Place a 2-inch strip of clear tape anywhere on the balloon. Now add another piece of tape on top of the first piece to form an “X.” With great flourish, show everyone that you have an ordinary balloon. Bounce it in the air to prove it isn’t a trick balloon. Bring out a straight pin. Make up some magician-sounding patter, and announce you will put the needle into the balloon and it will NOT pop. Poke the needle right through the middle of the “X.” The balloon will very slowly lose air, but will not pop. Let everyone see that you did stick the pin into the balloon without popping it. To show the balloon is real, remove the pin and quickly pop the balloon on any other location. Campers are guaranteed to burst into applause!

The Amazing Appearing Name
Here’s a trick you can use over and over for different occasions. Perhaps you want to honor someone’s birthday. Before the performance, use clear ChapStick to print the birthday person’s name on the underside of your arm. Then stand in front of the group and announce you have nothing up your sleeve. Wave your arms back and forth so everyone sees your arms look “normal.”

Again, in your best magician's voice, announce, “Ladies and gentlemen, we’re here to celebrate a very special person having a birthday today. That person’s name will now be revealed to all of us." At this point, sprinkle some colored sand from your craft closet, or even some flour, over the arm with the ChapStick. The flour sticks to the ChapStick. Shake your arm to remove excess powder, and the person’s name will magically be written there. Watch out, David Copperfield! Or use the trick to announce, “Ladies and gentlemen, some lucky person in this cabin will not have to do kitchen duty today. Let’s all say “hocus pocus” together, and that person’s name will magically appear on my arm.” A camper will be thrilled to see his or her name appear!

Hidden Talents
After amazing the campers with magic skills, it’s time to add humor with a unique talent show. The next time the cabin is together, focus on each person’s special talent. There is one slight difference: the talent must be something not seen in a traditional talent show. Oh, no! These may include skills such as balancing a broom handle in the palm of a hand, or demonstrating how to burp on command. (Now, that’s a skill!) Can you regale the cabin by doing a perky high-school cheerleading routine? Some campers will demonstrate their “talent” of gargling water or cracking their knuckles. And there’s nothing wrong with a camper demonstrating an ability to balance a roll of toilet paper on his or her head while tap dancing.

Let The Sparks Fly
Have a Sparks party! Buy a roll of Wintergreen Life Savers. Take campers inside a bathroom or closet. Hand each child one of the white Life Savers to place between his or her front teeth while you do the same. Close the door so it’s completely dark. Bite down on the Life Saver, and watch the “sparks” pop out of your mouth!

A Cowboy Trick
Lasso an ice cube! Simply set out a glass of water filled with ice cubes. Give each camper a 12-inch length of embroidery floss or thread. Tie a small loop at the end of the thread, and challenge campers to lasso an ice cube and pick it up. After a few minutes of frustration, reveal the secret. Place the thread loop on top of an ice cube. Sprinkle salt on top. Wait 15 to 20 seconds, and the salt freezes the thread to the ice cube. Slowly lift the string to find an ice cube attached to the end.

Playing With Popcorn
Many camp activity books suggest popping popcorn and watching a video to promote cabin togetherness. How mundane! Instead of eating popcorn, show kids these popcorn-related activities:

·Try a new breakfast treat. The Pilgrims ate popcorn with milk and sugar. See if you can get campers to substitute their breakfast cereal for popcorn, Pilgrim-style.

·Fill an empty plastic film canister with unpopped popcorn. Have cabin members guess the number of kernels inside. The winner is the first to help pop and eat the popcorn.

·Give everyone a bowl of plain, unbuttered, unsalted popcorn. Set out various items, such as garlic powder, taco flavoring or chocolate sprinkles. Each camper has 10 minutes to create a new seasoning or flavor for the popcorn. Encourage campers to design a special name and logo for their concoction. Have them sample each culinary delight.

·Set out a cupcake or muffin baking sheet for a game of Popcorn Toss. Using masking tape, label each section with a point value, such as 5, 10, -2, etc. Take turns trying to toss popped popcorn into the muffin pan. The first person to get 50 points wins. (Campers may not even realize they are learning math.)

·Use a Popsicle stick and popcorn for batting practice--give campers a Popsicle stick to use as a bat. Pitch popped popcorn and see if they can hit it out of the ballpark with their mini-bat.

·Pop a batch of popcorn, and let it sit overnight. (It is easier to string this way.) Using a needle and thread, string the popcorn, alternating with pieces of apples or dried bread. Make a long necklace to wrap around a tree so birds can enjoy their own popcorn treat.

By the time you’ve completed only a few of these activities, campers have no choice but to admit that you are an “oh-so-cool” counselor!

Silvana Clark has over 20 years experience helping thousands of children create arts and crafts projects. She presents keynotes and workshops on a variety of recreation-related subjects. She can be reached at (615) 662-7432 or via e-mail at silvanac@msn.com