A New Year

Each year, we scour the industry looking for inventive, new programming ideas to share with readers. The best part is that these ideas are contributed by other camp directors, so they’ve already been tried and stamped with camper approval. While some are fun and some are serious—all are meant to get you thinking about what you can do differently in your programming lineup.

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


We divided the camp into two teams. We then picked 25 songs from both pop culture and camp songs and printed them out on 8½ x 11 pieces of paper so each team received a copy. There were also little pieces of paper with the song titles that could be drawn from a bowl, a hat, or whatever else was on hand.

Each team had up to 5 minutes to create their S-I-N-G-O board, putting the songs in any order they chose (as long as the board was 5 x 5). After each team had completed their board—the real fun began! We had three judges and they pulled out a song title from their basket. When they announced the song title, each team had 1 minute to come up with their way to sing (and usually act out or dance to) that song. After 1 minute, each team had 30 seconds to perform their version of the song. After each team performed, the judges took a few seconds to decide the winner of the song battle. The winning team got to mark an “X” through that song title on their S-I-N-G-O board and the other team had to take it off the wall. Play continued in this manner until one team received a S-I-N-G-O.

We were not sure how this game would go, but it was a blast and the kids begged to play it again. The only recommendation is that if your camp tries this, it took a really long time to play a 5 x 5 board; maybe do a 3 x 3 board, unless you are trying to kill an afternoon.

Stephanie Powell

Power Challengers’ Ministries

Jacksonville, Fla.

Floating Oranges

This activity is used to show children the importance of wearing life jackets.


  • Several oranges/tangerines
  • Aquarium or clear container
  • Small vessel (optional)

Have campers get into groups to take part in the demonstration. Throw an unpeeled orange/tangerine into the clear container filled with water. It will float perfectly on the surface. Explain that the orange represents a person wearing a life jacket that has entered the water. The campers can take part by writing their name on the orange.

Next, peel the orange, explaining that this represents a swimmer or boater taking off their life jacket. Ask the participants what will happen when they do so? The unpeeled orange will immediately sink to the bottom of the container representing a person in trouble in the water. The person is a poor swimmer and drowns. Note the orange peel will float on top the surface representing the life jacket they took off. The campers can peel their own oranges (which gives ownership to the demonstration).

Next, wrap a peeled orange in the orange peeling. This represents a swimmer or boater that is wearing an improperly fitting life jacket. The peeled orange when placed in the water will then come out of the peeling and sink to the bottom while the peel floats on the surface.

A small vessel can be used as well. One can demonstrate the boat capsizing and the occupants entering the water. The boaters (unpeeled oranges) with life jackets on float and the peeled oranges (person without life jackets) sink and drown.

Toni Scott, Physical Education Teacher, Lakeside School, Hot Springs, Ariz., and Brian Westfall, Executive Vice President, National Water Safety Congress, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Arkansas Lakes, originally shared this demonstration at the International Boating and Water Safety Summit in San Diego, Calif. It was submitted to Camp Business by Bonnie Ecker, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Seattle District Office.

Staff Hunt

One of our all-time favorites is the staff hunt. We make the camp director worth 500,000 points (he is rarely found), leadership staff members are 100,000, and all other staff members are 10,000 points. Amounts really don’t matter, but large numbers add excitement. We sound an alarm for the beginning of the game, having given staff members time to hide while explaining the game to campers. Then 5 minutes before the end of the game, we sound the alarm again and all staff members who have not yet been found have to make a run for the flag pole and try to avoid getting caught (almost impossible). This makes the game fun for the campers and they can rack up points. After all, camp is for the camper!  

David Lewis

Cedine Bible camp

Spring City, Tenn.

Painted Twister/Shaving Cream Slide

We divide the campers into three groups and rotate the groups after a specific time. The three stations are:

  1. Painted Twister—the campers play Twister but we put paint on the spots on the board. To accommodate the number of kids, we have several Twister games taped to a large tarp.
  2. Shaving Cream Slide—we put shaving cream on another tarp that we place on a small hill.
  3. Water Gun Fights—campers brought their own water guns, we supplied a few.

After they rotate through all the stations, we have water hoses and sprinklers to help clean them off.                       

Jamie Crowell

Fitness Plus Summer Camp

Cape Girardeau, Mo.

The Birthday Cake Ninja

Wonderland Camp serves individuals with disabilities. One program we added this year is a week-long mystery to solve, “The Birthday Cake Ninja.”

The Birthday Cake Ninja is a villain who goes around “pieing” staff members in the face. We use media/videos to show the “fear” of the mysterious ninja. The cabins work through the week with sightings of the ninja as well as evening programs related to this mysterious ninja who terrorizes the staff members and camp.

It’s just good, messy fun!

Jason Hynson

Executive Director

Wonderland Camp

Rocky Mount, Mo.

T-Shirt Ceremony

Camp Wa-Tam is a traditional-style day camp that runs Monday through Friday, with a Thursday night overnight.   We specialize in canoeing, archery, and the lost art of s’mores around the campfire! The overnight is extra special because that is when the campers and staff venture into the woods to retrieve our “stolen” T-shirts.

Our camp, like many others, has a promotional T-shirt that we give to all registered campers. These T-shirts not only market our program, but provide a memento to the campers to help them remember all of the fun they had and friends they met during the week.

The trick is that on Monday when the T-shirts are supposed to be handed out to the campers, they are always “stolen” by that session’s misguided villain! Because the camp runs in 10, one-week sessions, we like to use themes to spice up the each week’s adventures.  So if it were Cave Dwellers week, silly cavemen might come and take the T-shirts. Sometimes the shirts are already stolen and we read a note (cave drawings, perhaps?), while other times the “cave people” might actually sneak up during our songs and skits and take them from under our nose! We then spend the week looking for clues and brainstorming ideas on how to retrieve them. The ordeal is quite interactive with the campers, who give us tons of ideas and insight on how to reclaim what is rightfully ours! The T-shirt Ceremony also fills in our programming holes for the week quite nicely, and is virtually free, outside of a few props and costumes. We use off-duty staff members and returning camper parents as volunteer characters or cave people.

The finale always involves us defeating the culprits in some sort of contest or battle of wits, and usually includes a lesson of inclusion. Many times the villains just wanted to be friends with us, share the woods with us, or in the case of the cave men, were cold because their animal skins were not keeping them warm enough! So in that instance, we teach them the art of fire, for which they gladly return our T-shirts. In the final hour before camper send-off on Friday morning, the counselors and volunteers sign the T-shirts for the campers. 

Ryan Shepherd aka “Mr. Big”

Santa Rosa, Calif.

Human Hungry, Hungry Hippos


  • Scooters with the four wheels (one for each team)
  • Rope
  • Plastic ball pit balls (lots of them)
  • Trash bags
  • Box or basket (one for each team) (optional)

Before the game, the balls are dumped into the middle of the playing field. We then tie a length of rope to one handle of each scooter, long enough that each scooter could make it into the middle of the balls.

We divide our camp into four teams so they come at the balls from four different directions. One person lies on their belly on the scooter, holding the box, and then they are pushed out into the balls by their teammates. Once they are out in the balls, they use the box to capture as many balls as they can in a few seconds before their teammates use the attached rope to pull them back. (We personally forgot the boxes and the kids just swept their arms around some balls and it worked out just fine.) When they return to their team, they hop off of the scooter and put the balls they gathered into the trash bag, while another teammate gets on the scooter.  As soon as the next camper is on the scooter holding the box, they are sent out into the balls.

We play this game for 5 minutes and then count up the balls that are in each team’s trash bags. The team with the most balls wins!

Stephanie Powell

Power Challengers’ Ministries

Jacksonville, Fla.


This activity relates more to faith-based organizations but has tremendous potential for all camps to adapt and use.

The most important aspect is setting the mood and atmosphere. This is meant to allow people to take stock of their lives and the priorities they presently hold in high regard. The activity is more on the serious level and often takes the focus off oneself and onto others through self-reflection and priority setting. I have used this activity sparingly in small retreat settings with a maximum of 30 kids.

After all the campers had dinner and we had done our nightly devotion, we set the mood. We lit a lot of candles in the room and played music in the background, (we repeatedly played “Friends are Friends Forever”). We asked the youth to all stand in a circle and hold hands. Then we set the scene. “We’re all aboard the Titantic and it’s going down! But there is only one lifeboat big enough to hold one person … who’s it going to be?” Now explain to the youth that they are going to decide by choosing one person to live. Each member of the youth group must go to each person in the circle and say “You live” or “You die” and they can only choose one person to live.

This is a tender moment for the campers as they realize how precious life is and what kind of testimony they will be living behind. After each person has a turn, see who has the most “You live” votes and bring them to the front of the group.

Then say, “Ok, the water is coming up on the deck, we’ve got to get ‘the chosen’ into the lifeboat, but before they go, you have one last chance to tell them something to carry back to your family and friends. Remember to keep it quick because the water is almost here.”

Our youth took this time to reflect on their lives and shared things like, “Tell my uncle if he wants to see me again he needs to get saved,” and others said, “Tell my parents I love them and I’m sorry for all the times I did wrong.”

It was a hard thing for the kids, but it brought them closer together and mostly closer to the Lord! After taking the person from the room, we played the song one more time and let those left behind take that time for themselves.

The water level rose to their knees and they were asked if they need to say anything to anyone else in the room. As the water rose to their chins and another round or two of the song, we asked if there anything they needed to say to God or ask forgiveness for. 

We told them to tilt their heads back as the water was starting to enter their mouths and breathing was difficult. We asked if there were any last thoughts or statements that need to be said.

(An “option” at this time is to offer a way out.)  

Then after the song we told them, “Look! What’s that? Off in the distance—it’s the Carpathia—you have been rescued! Now take back your messages yourself and commit each day be a stronger Christian and witness for Christ!

If the option is not exercised, bring the exercise to a close and ask the group what if you really had died today? Any regrets? Will you re-prioritize anything after going through this?

This exercise has a lot of spiritual overtone if done right and in the right setting. We saw God move in an unbelievable way and I preached on how Christ was my Carpathia! Our youth grew in Christ because He was present!

Wayne Stewart

Kawkawa Camp & Retreat

Hope, BC (Canada)

Balls Of Fury (similar to Angry Birds)

By using PVC pipe, we built what looks like a miniature football goal post, with a large water balloon slingshot strung between the two center posts. Campers can then shoot small balls, fruit or water balloons at various objects such as cardboard boxes or counselors (water balloons only). Certain objects score a certain amount of points.

Duain “Dewey” Cook

Director of Programming

Central Christian Camp and Conference Center

Guthrie, Okla.