Top Programming Ideas--A Fresh Start

Every year, we ask readers to share their most popular programming ideas. From giant water slides to crafty camp poems, the opportunities to entertain campers are endless. If you’re tired of playing “Capture the Flag,” and you suspect your campers are too, take this opportunity to formulate a new game plan before the next camp season kicks into high gear.

Do you have an idea you want to share? Send it to us at We’ll publish it in an upcoming issue of Camp Business!

Slip, Slide, Soak
Summer camp days can get hot! We get used vinyl billboards from Repurposed Materials (a company out of Colorado) and also from a local advertising company. We use the billboards as a cover for a giant Slip ‘N Slide and also a water slide. Water is pumped out of our pond and recirculated into a small holding pond. We created extra elevation for the waterslide by building a set of steps. The kids ride down inside of a garbage bag in order to eliminate friction from their clothes. We didn't want to add soap to our pond, so the garbage bags work great. We created a channel of dirt that was then covered with the vinyl billboards. Both the waterslide and the Slip ‘N Slide empty into adjacent holding pools created with more billboards. Using the black-side-up made the water really nice and toasty! Our campers love them!

Denise Olczak
Executive Director
Mystic Mountain Training Center
The Great Adventure Day Camp
Cambridge Springs, Penn.

Never Bored With Office Boards
The best thing we ever did was put up two dry-erase boards outside the summer office.

One board contains two sections. One section includes the “Riddle of the Day.” For many campers this is the first thing they went to after getting off the bus. They need to return to the office after lunch for the answer. Another section has the weather for the day, which helps for many reasons. 

The second board was the “Wildlife Sightings.” We are in the woods and always see things scurrying around. It was nice to hear about all the critters everyone saw! Last summer, we saw five boards worth of animals (30 animals per board0); everything from baby deer, snakes, turtles and even a Fisher! Campers couldn’t wait to write down what they saw, but also were eager to see what else is out there.  

This was simple, easy and did not take away from any other activity, but it enhanced the camp experience for all. 

James Reinhold
Director of Camp Operations
Hale Day Camp Director
Hale Reservation, Inc
Westwood, Mass.

Poetic Prose
Consider the camp poem—a snapshot framed in lines of prose that capture the essence of that summer’s experiences. I began the Camp Kent poem in August 1998, my first summer as park and recreation director in Kent, Conn. I handed the tradition over to the current camp director 3 years ago.

The camp poem typically is penned during the last week of camp, the words recited to day campers on the last day of the program during the annual talent show. The pages of sing-song prose highlight the memories from the eight weeks of summer day camp. Some verses elicit chuckles and others a tear—but the camp poem is always a much-anticipated tradition.

Camp Kent Poem 2009
Rain, rain, go away
Camp Kent kids want to play
Survivor, beach, sports, Holiday
Eight weeks of camp finish today
Crafts and games and cards galore
Swimming, sand castles and much more
First choice is always ‘Capture the flag’
Campers know they better not nag
Trade buttons for candy, a bounce ball
Remember the camp fire, it wasn’t too tall
Other 2009 favorites: Pokemon and spit
And counselors tackling craft kits
Making new friends and seeing old
Weekly library stories being told
Celebrating victorious swim tests
Friday pizza tastes the best
Lifeguards at 11 open the gates
Atop their towers they sit til late
Scanning the waters of the pool
On breaks a swim to stay cool
Drawings decorate the barn wall
Nearby, spiders dangle but won’t fall
Opportunities for Charades and Pictionary
When the weather was really scary
When you recall the 40 days
Of summer spent under the rays
With Kevin, Zach and Biz as your hosts
What will you remember most?

Lesly Ferris
Park and Recreation Director
Town of Kent, Conn.

Students use Minecraft in a lab setting to work collaboratively, solve problems and create structures. A new world each day presents students with unique daily challenges. Participants have multiple goals which include (but are not limited to) basic survival, food, shelter, and water. Students also learn how to manipulate objects in space in a way that helps them create dynamic structures.

Rich Mack
Camp Director
Friends Academy Summer Camps
Locust Valley, NY

Camp Sing-A-Song
Pitch Perfect a capella (voice only) singing camp musical groups are popping up all over the country with participants arranging music using their voices and bodies to replicate incredible arrangements of songs from all genres. Give campers the opportunity to learn how to sing, harmonize, create percussion sounds, perform and collaborate within a group. The session culminates in a short performance of three popular songs. No previous experience necessary, but a passion to sing a must. 

Rich Mack
Camp Director
Friends Academy Summer Camps
Locust Valley, NY

Bomb’s Away!
Oreo Bomb Cake


Oreos (we did not like the Double Stuf, but to each their own)
Cool Whip (thawed)

Line the children up in groups, (we have a smaller camp, so three groups works for us, but use whatever works for your camp. Each group gets some Oreos, milk in a dish deep enough to dunk the Oreos, and some Cool Whip.  The first child grabs an Oreo, dips it into the milk, and places it in a pan, and then goes to the end of the line. The next child picks up an Oreo, dips it in the milk, places it beside the first Oreo and then goes to the end of the line. This continues until there is a layer in the bottom of the pan. The next child gets to dump the Cool Whip over the layer of Oreos and then spreads it out into and even layer. Then the next child gets an Oreo, dips it in the milk, places it on top of the Cool Whip, and then goes to the end of the line. This can go on as long as the ingredients hold out—the number of layers is up to your camp.

After you have completed your Oreo Bomb Cake, refrigerate it for at least 4 hours. Spoon it up and enjoy!

Stephanie Powell
Power Challengers' Ministries

The Rainbow Game
This game needs only Cray Pas (oil pastel crayons) in which to draw on the campers (or anything else that easily marks on people and comes off just as easily). Campers love any game that is a hide-and-seek-type game, so when we discovered this game a couple of summers ago, it was a must-play. You will need 7 people to hide. Each hider will have a Cray Pas with them. These Cray Pas should correspond to the colors of a rainbow—red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet.

The hiders get 3 to 5 minutes to hide. Divide the campers into groups. When the children begin looking, they can only find the hiders in order. For example, if a group of children find red, the hider with the red Cray Pas marks their arms clearly. Now, that team is looking for orange. If the same team is looking for orange and finds the green hider, green does NOT mark their arms because they do not have red, orange, and yellow. For a hider to mark the arms of a team, that team must have all of the colors on their arms that come before it in the rainbow.

The twist that makes The Rainbow Game fun is that the hiders do not have to stay in one location. At any point during the game, the hiders can move around and re-hide. The team that completes the rainbow first, wins!

Although, it is fun to let the children hide (which we sometimes do) it is much better for staff members and volunteers to hide because they understand the concept of re-hiding stealthily.

Stephanie Powell
Power Challengers' Ministries

Pirate Day Treasure Hunt
Every year, the campers at our 4th to 8th-grade summer day camp look forward to many special events and theme days, including our personal favorite, Pirate Day. There is no mistaking the arrival of everyone’s favorite day as the campers, staff members, and supervisors hang decorations, don costumes, and prepare for the signature activity—the Pirate Day Treasure Hunt.

The Treasure Hunt consists of a series of clues that lead each group of campers to several different sites around the camp. At each site, they have to complete a task or activity before they can get their clues for the next location. Wrapped in each clue is a piece to a treasure map. The winning team is the first one back to the cafeteria with their maps fully assembled. This camp classic is something the campers and staff look forward to each year.

Megan Ball
Town of DeWitt Recreation Day Camp
DeWitt, NY