Programming Ideas


Bubbly Water Slide

We make a ‘water slide’ for the July Fourth weekend … kids love it! The water comes right from the well so it’s freezing cold, but even so, the kids just love it and line up. To add a little bit of fun, we add bubble-bath mix to the water so when the kids reach the base of the water slide, there is a small catchment pool with loads of foamy suds.

Betty Taylor

Beaver Spring Lake Campground


Friday BBQ

Each Friday is a party day at Camp Kent, Kent Park and Recreation’s summer day camp program in Northwestern Connecticut. The program’s eight themed weeks culminate with a noon barbecue. Campers’ families donate watermelon, veggies, chips, juice boxes, homemade cookies, brownies, and cupcakes. Campers pay $3 each to offset the cost of the hamburgers and hot dogs, buns, condiments and charcoal for the grill. The camp and lifeguard staff members are an integral part of the fun, manning the grills and helping serve the picnic lunch. The Friday BBQ has become a camp tradition.

Lesly Ferris, Director

Kent Park and Recreation

Kent, Conn.


Hollywood Theme

On the first night of camp, to help create cabin cohesiveness and teamwork, we had a Hollywood Fashion show. Each cabin drew a volunteer counselor’s name and the counselor was assigned as that cabin’s contestant. Each cabin was given a bag of items/clothing, etc. that the contestant MUST wear or use in the show and they were given a piece of paper with the instructions:

  1. Review the items in the bag and ‘dress’ your contestant

  1. Assign your contestant a Hollywood-like name

  1. Using the space below, write a bio for your contestant.

*Note: remember, your contestant is a Hollywood superstar, so keep that in mind when writing their bio … mention the movies they have been in, info about their personal life as well as their aspirations and how they plan to become a ‘mega’ superstar in Hollywood one day!

After each cabin finished with the prep work, the contestants came on stage and as each one was presented, a camper from each cabin came on stage to present them and read their bio.

This was a wonderful activity that got all the kids involved and the counselors were awesome ‘sports’ in allowing the kids to dress them up!

Jennifer B. Amundsen

Program Director

Camp Smile-A-Mile

Birmingham, Ala.


Jell-O Pit

One of our biggest hits each year has been the Jell-O Pit. We have been doing it for the past 5 years, usually during the fifth or sixth week of camp on what we call Carnival Day. The first few years we used real Jell-O. However, the process took a couple of weeks to prepare all the Jell-O and required assistance from a local liquor store that allowed us to use their freezer. The last couple of years we purchased the Jell-O from a Jell-O wrestling company which allows us to prepare the pit in a couple of hours. The kids go crazy and it is always the talk of the town.

Brian Johnson, CPRP

Pelham Parks & Recreation Director

Pelham, NH


Be A Bug Olympics

At a nature camp, all activities must have an educational outcome. Finding ways to make the learning outcomes fun allows campers to experience and integrate information without being forced to memorize or take information at face value.

During our Insect Week all-camp game this past summer, campers of all ages teamed up with teen staff members to discover insects and learn how to be a bug. Teams were armed with GPS units, cameras, and nature guides. Senior staff members were stationed strategically around the game area, so that there was supervision over the whole camp.

Each station had an outcome—like discovering the physics of a grasshopper’s springy jump, interpreting bees’ communication through dance, or evaluating how different adaptations can help even the smallest creatures.

Campers tried to roll yoga balls with their hind legs like Dung Beetles. They played leap frog to see how many leaps they had to take to cover the same distance that a grasshopper or leafhopper would. They even tried to create paper airplanes or gliders that could maneuver even the tiniest insects. All the while, campers were taking pictures of each other and their surroundings, encouraging participation and investigation. Bonus points were awarded to teams who discovered an insect to report on the mobile citizen science app, Project Noah.

After the activity, campers couldn’t wait to share with each other what they had learned. By being silly and loosely structured, the game allowed campers to build upon their knowledge at their own pace. Campers were able to immerse themselves in the topic and contribute to wider research through citizen science at the same time!

Ashley Jarvis

Education Manager

Howard County Conservancy

Woodstock, Md.


Tom Sawyer Days

Start with a half-gallon of whitewash, an old wooden fence, a cave, a fishing pole, a homemade raft and a dozen or more kids. Mix them all together over four sessions and you have Tom Sawyer Days! Back by popular demand for the third year, this summer activity is fun yet also a good learning experience. I came across the book The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and decided to try out this idea:

Week 1—Read the chapter about Tom having to whitewash Aunt Polly's fence. Then the kids have to find a treasure to con Tom out of whitewashing. I play Aunt Polly and the fence is not done until it is completely painted.

Week 2—Read the chapter about caving. An old trail culvert and an area underneath a bridge serve as our ‘cave.’ I use huge sheets of dark plastic to darken the area even more. The kids gather river/creek mud to leave signs on the culvert or under the bridge as Tom and Becky Thatcher did in the cave when they got lost.

Week 3—Read the chapter on pirating and fishing the Mississippi River. Then we gather a stick for a fishing pole, add a little string and a hook, look under some logs for bait and go fishing in the creek. We usually only catch crayfish, but that is Ok with the campers.

Week 4—Read the chapter about the raft and then proceed to the woods to gather anything wooden that looks like it might become part of a raft. We give the campers twine to construct their raft. Sometimes they float, and sometimes they don't!

We meet one day a week for four weeks for two-hour sessions. The whole adventure is free, but the kids get the exposure to classic literature and the experience of being Tom Sawyer. Kids are told they will get wet and dirty, so bring extra clothes.

This is already on the schedule for 2014 as the kids “demanded” it again. Some campers have attended all three years and never tire of the adventures.

Linda Rose

Program Director/Seneca County Park District Naturalist

Sandusky County Park District


Parent/Camper Dinner Date

Land o’ Sunshine Camp Cedarbrook hosts parent-child weekends early each fall. These weekends include traditional camp activities such as archery, air riflery, nature, hiking, sports, crafts, and more for campers (dads-daughters and moms-sons) on separate weekends.

During these weekends, campers enjoy a special theme ‘date’: dinner and evening program.

This year, campers enjoyed a cruise aboard the “Cedarbrook of the Seas” complete with gala evening meal, formal photographs and after-dinner cruise ship games and audience participation story. Unexpected guests (pirates) visited as well to make the evening fun for all. The date ended with songs and a challenging message around the campfire.

Past weekend themes have included a luau, fall festival, 1950s theme, and carnival/county fair. We're already planning a country-western hoedown for 2014!

Ed Thompson

Land o' Sunshine Camp Cedarbrook

Summerfield, Fla.


Arts & Crafts

Duct-Tape Crowns

Campers can make ‘crowns’ or ‘hats’ with colored duct tape, 2 or 3 inches wide:

Lay a piece of duct tape down on the table with the sticky side up about a couple inches longer than forehead measurement. Then lay colored straws vertically so they stick up. Lay the same size duct tape over first piece, leaving a “tail” at the end of one of the pieces of tape to secure at back to make a ‘crown.’ Pipe cleaners can be twisted into shapes and lengths and stuck into the straw ends so that they stick up above the crown.

The kids wore these all day and it was an inexpensive, easy craft.

Betty Taylor

Beaver Spring Lake Campground



Camp-Wide Clue Game

We play Broad Meadow Brook Clue. It is a camp-wide game similar to the board game ‘Clue.’ We use counselors in training and other camp staff to be the suspects.

The camp director calls a ‘code green’ on the radios. Counselors tell the kids this is very serious, as they only heard about it in training. The whole camp reports to a certain area. Once there, the director informs the camp that the camp mascot, Ruckus the raccoon, has been kidnapped. The director knows this because someone left a note in the office saying “I have Ruckus.” The campers are told that the suspects are among us (Gasps!). The suspects are called out one at a time and they have 30 seconds to explain why they didn’t do it. As the suspects leave, they are given cards with clues on them. Once all the suspects are gone, campers are informed that they need to figure out who did it by completing tasks and getting clues.

Groups travel to different stations and complete a task at each stop such as sing a song, participate in a water relay race, play two rounds of a game, make the suspect laugh, etc.

Once they complete the task, the suspect reveals a clue. They group then crosses it off their list and through the power of deduction, they can figure out who did it!

Once they figure it out—the entire group reconvenes where they learn who did it. At the same time, Ruckus is returned safe and sound and all is forgiven.

With five stations and groups of four or five campers, this activity usually takes about an hour to complete.

Lisa Carlin

Education Coordinator/Day Camp Director

Broad Meadow Brook Nature Day Camp

Worcester, Mass.


Caesar’s Wall (a.k.a. Cannonballs and Cantaloupes)

Purpose : Julius Caesar is searching all of camp for the best architect team to construct a wall around all of Rome to protect the city from the Barbarian Hoard.

Time Required : 1.5 to 2 hours

Set-Up :

  • Divide the camp into groups (Cabins groups work great).

  • Gather various construction supplies that the groups can use to build a wall segment (i.e., recycling bins, cardboard, tape, rope, other junk that can and will be destroyed) avoid actual construction supplies (wood and nails).

  • Set up a marketplace with various games in the main field. These games will be how the groups earn money to purchase supplies to build their wall.

  • Set up a table to act as a store where groups can purchase supplies to build their wall segment

  • Assign a staff member to be Caesar.

  • Prepare various modes of destruction (explained below).

How To Play:

  • Caesar explains his situation to the camp and tells about the competition he has arranged. Whichever team constructs the wall that can withstand the greatest amount of destruction will become the head architects for the city of Rome and be contracted to build a wall around the city. Caesar then explains the game.

  • Teams then go to the market to play short games in order to earn money.

  • At any time, they may purchase supplies from the store to build their wall segment. Some children may want to spend the whole time raising money in the market and others may want to build the wall.

  • Once time is up or groups look they are ready, gather them in a large group.

  • Once the group is assembled, Caesar unveils the various modes of destruction and explains how they work.

  • Caesar will then pull a group number randomly out of a hat (or something similar) and that group will then select a mode of destruction of which they will use on another team’s wall.

  • Once all teams have selected a mode of destruction, they will select a team of which to use their mode of destruction on (I suggest going in reverse order from which they chose the modes of destruction)

  • Set a designated amount of time in which the mode of destruction will have (suggest 90 sec.)

  • Whichever team’s wall receives the least amount of damage is victorious (unless your camp does not have winners and losers in which case 1.) Caesar can declare them all failure and will search elsewhere OR 2.) it is too late and the Barbarian hoard rushes in and steals Caesar—good lead-in to a theme day)

Variation :

  • If time period is shorter, the market can be eliminated and teams just given the supplies and a set period of time to construct a wall.

Possible Modes of Destruction:

• Football player

• Fireman with fire hose

• Camp director with camp vehicle

• Farmer with tractor

• Lumberjack with axe

• Pack of wild dogs

• Grocery store clerk with cantaloupes

• Pirate with cannonballs

• Bowler with a bowling ball

• Anything else imaginable!

Ian Elliott

Assistant Director of Programs

Trillium Childhood Cancer Support Centre

Hamilton, Ontario, Canada


Grandma’s Candy


  • You’ll need large amounts of balloons in individual colors (a bag of blue, a bag of red, a bag of yellow, etc.)

  • A home base for each team

  • Two (or more depending on the size of the camp) candy takers with sharpened pencils (or something else to pop balloons)

  • Before the game starts put all the same colored balloons together and decide on a point value for each color. They can be worth any amount including negative amounts. Example: red balloons, 100 points; blue balloons 5 points; yellow balloon, -45 points; etc.

How To Play

All the counselors except for two hide on the camp grounds with their color balloons.

The children need to know that there are different colored balloons called candy hiding with counselors all around the camp grounds. Each color of candy is worth a different point amount, from really high to negative numbers. The children are on a mission to locate the candy and return it safely to their home base. However, they are not told which color candy is worth which amount.

The remaining two counselors are introduced to the children as the candy takers. They are responsible for tagging the children so they cannot get their candy to their home base. They are to mill around the camp; they are not allowed to stay stationary or to guard the home bases. When they see a team with candy (a blown-up balloon), they are to chase them. If they tag two members of that team, the candy gets popped and the team then picks up the pieces and throws them away.

When a team finds a counselor they must ask for a balloon politely, “Please may we have some candy?” The counselor cannot refuse; they hand the children a balloon. Before the team is allowed to move, they must blow up the balloon and tie it off. Then they are to make their way to their home base. Once the candy is in a group’s home base, it is safe. No other team can steal the candy and the candy takers are not allowed in the home bases.

The teams can go back to any counselor as many times as they want. If they find the blue candy, they can go back 50 times if they want, just remind them they don’t know how much the candy is worth.

Put a time limit on the game, and when the time is up, go to each team’s home base, reveal the amounts of what each piece of candy is worth and count up the points. The team with the most points, wins.

Stephanie Powell, Director

Power Challengers' Ministries

Jacksonville, Fla.


Stock Ticker

Purpose : Campers play the camp stock market to raise as much money for their cabin/group as possible for some pre-determined outcome.

Time Required : 1 hour


  • Divide the camp into groups (Cabins groups work great).

  • Around the room/field, set up 8 to 10 tables that will be the various companies; also come up with the crazy companies that will be at the tables.

  • Get enough Popsicle sticks so that each camper gets one (have extras) and mark 100 on the end with a permanent marker.

  • Create a large board (chalkboard or white board work best) and write down the left hand side the names of all the stocks. Then make a grid with the numbered rounds at the top of the board.

  • Cut square pieces of paper (as stock slips) and have it so that each stock’s slips are noticeably different from each other (color or with the stock’s initials on them).

How To Play:

  • A greasy stock broker welcomes the campers to the Camp Stock Market and outlines their goal (i.e., to raise as much money for their cabin in order to purchase something).

  • The host then introduces each company and the company then gives an initial sales pitch.

  • All stocks start off at $10 per share.

  • The host then explains that the campers are to go and buy as many stocks as they wish and to remember the slogan of the game is “Buy Low … Sell High.”

  • Campers then move about in a free-flow fashion buying various stocks. When they buy a stock, the company will indicate how many shares they purchased on the stock slip and then deduct the money spent on their popsicle stick and write their new balance.

  • Each round lasts approximately 6 to 8 minutes.

  • At the end of the round, the host quickly goes through each stock and gives an update. The stock may: go up, go down, stay the same or go out of business. (It is the job of the host to make the reasoning funny and creative).

  • In subsequent rounds, campers can both buy and sell their stocks. Once a company goes out of business, it may not come back and its stocks are all useless. In the last round, campers must sell all of their stocks.

  • At the end, the assigned groups will pool their money together and use it for the pre-determined outcome.


Stock Ticker Companies:

  • Elvis’ Blue Suede Shoes

  • Bum Full of Roses Fart Perfume

  • Jack’s Magic Beans

  • Aladdin’s Lamps

  • Geppetto’s Shoes

  • Han Solo’s Power Converters

  • Obi Wan’s Light Sabers

  • Ewok Robes

  • Invisible Undies

  • Hugh’s Humpless Camels

  • Bill Cosby Sweaters

  • Poopy Time Fun Shapes

  • Litter Critters

  • iToilet

  • Pick Your Nose Coffee Cups

  • To-Do Tattoo (list tattoos for hand)

  • Banana (Apple spin off)

  • Frank Sinatra’s Pizza Cats

  • Cat Hats

  • Neck Tie Napkins

  • Sham Wow

  • Bacon Bandages

  • Any Many More!

Ian Elliott

Assistant Director of Programs

Trillium Childhood Cancer Support Centre

Hamilton, Ontario, Canada


Geppetto’s Shoe Factory

Purpose: Campers make shoes for the old shoe maker, Geppetto. He buys their shoes and then they go and buy more elaborate materials to make better shoes.

Time Required: 1 hour


  • Divide the camp into groups (Cabins groups work great).

  • Get various supplies from around camp needed to make shoes (garbage bags, string, cardboard, foam, tape, feathers, bubble wrap, buttons, ribbon, aluminum foil, etc.).

  • Create a price list for the items you have collected and make a sign indicating the prices; this area will become the “store.”

How To Play:

  • Geppetto tells a story to the camp that his elves have fallen ill/gone on strike and he needs to meet his monthly quota for shoes. So he needs the campers to help him.

  • He gives each group paper and markers.

  • The groups make 2-D shoes with the paper and markers then sell them to Geppetto. With their new wealth, they go to the vendor where they can buy new supplies that will increase the value of their shoes.

  • With their new materials, they make more shoes and once again sell them to Geppetto.

  • This process goes on and on and eventually the groups make shoes that actually fit on people’s feet.

  • Geppetto determines the market value for shoes and controls the pace of the game. He can decide not buy a group’s shoes if it appears that the group did not make an effort.

  • At times he may give more for certain styles (boots, sandals, etc.).


This game can also be played as Harry’s Hat House, where campers create hats instead of shoes.

Ian Elliott

Assistant Director of Programs

Trillium Childhood Cancer Support Centre

Hamilton, Ontario, Canada


How Well Do You Know Your Camp Counselor?

For this game, the campers are on one team and the staff members and volunteers are on the other team. You will need either water balloons or buckets full of water. Each team comes up with a question to ask the other team. For example:

  • Who has a cat?

  • Which one of us goes to college?

  • Who doesn’t like spiders?

Once each team decides on a question, everyone lines up on a straight line facing the other team. A member from the opposite team steps forward to answer the question. The team tells that person the question. The person answering the question then has to choose someone on the team that they think is the answer. More than one person on the team can be the answer. When the person guesses the right answer they then get to dump the water/water balloon over the correct person. However if they guess wrong the person, the “guess person” gets to dump the water/water balloon over them. This continues back and forth until everyone gets wet.

Questions can be easy or difficult. Since we host multiple camps, some campers attend more than one and really get to know staff members. We usually start off with easy questions until everyone understands the game and then we ask harder questions. We also have siblings that may be at the same camp. Some are volunteers and their siblings are participating in the camp, so if they come up, we sometimes ask them a question that they know the answer is either their brother or sister. It is the only time they can’t get mad at each other for getting them wet.

Everyone really enjoys this game and there is always none-st