By Lynn Roy
When I am running a themed activity for the youngest campers (ages 8 and 9) at camp, the kids have so much fun that the oldest campers (ages 14 and 15) feel left out and want “in.” Here are two evening programs that are a huge hit—no matter the age group!
Down On The Bayou
The breakdown: Six stations, with an 8-minute rotation in place, and an assigned group of kids/staff members rotating from station to station.
After music, an introduction, and the arrival of the leaders on a “gator” dressed in costume, the campers rotate through the following stations:
· Cat Fishing
In the bayous of the South, catfish swim in muddy waters. Folks love to catch ‘em and fry ‘em up. See how many you can catch. Good luck and make Louisiana fishermen proud!
(Use a baby pool with plastic fish tub toys floating. Each tub toy has a hook and home-made fishing rod to catch the fish.)
· Seed Spitting
Down South, folks love to eat ‘em up and spit ‘em out. Whether watermelon seeds or sunflower seeds, spitting for distance is an art. Try your skills at spitting seeds!
(Campers spit out sunflower seeds onto a piece of large art paper, determining who has the farthest spit!)
· Frog-Hop Races
Animals live all over Louisiana—ducks, geese, alligators, deer, and bears. Try your skills at hopping like a frog. Pair up with a team member for a fun hoppin’ race!
(Have sack races.)
· Possum Hunt
Hunt ‘em! Like a hound dog, see if you can find the possums hidden in a sectioned-off area! Possums don’t go too far, so neither should you.
(In a designated area, hide 40 laminated paper possums; after kids find the possums, count them and ask the kids to re-hide the possums for the next group.)
· Mardi Gras Beads
Mardi Gras in Louisiana celebrates its French heritage. Mardi Gras, which is translated as “Fat Tuesday,” is represented by the colors of gold, green, and purple (royalty). Throw the beads to celebrate your Louisiana pride!
(Campers throw beads into the canoes floating in the pool. Lifeguards swim to retrieve beads and throw them back to campers.)
· Corn Chuckin’
Louisiana farmland grows sugar and rice for your Rice Krispies! Farmland covers the state as far as the eye can see; throw some corn at the pigs and cows of the land. After all, Louisiana also grows some incredible corn!
(Use wooden cut-outs of pigs and cows with open mouths to throw corn through.)
Finish the night with a reading of a southern bayou story—read with a southern accent—and serve cupcakes decorated in Mardi Gras colors.
Similar to the Down On The Bayou Stations, Southwest Night rotates groups of campers/staff members through 8-minute stations.
After music, an introduction, and the arrival of the leaders on a “horse” dressed in costume, the campers rotate through the following stations:
· Mule Walking
Visit the Grand Canyon and ride a mule. Mules are sure-footed animals whose strength carries not only people but supplies! Try your best to be a great mule today.
(Each camper, on a team, will run a relay from the top of a hill to a fixed point and back again, all while running with the “mule” head (hobby horse). Each camper will need to be dressed in the appropriate western clothing provided.)
· Cactus Throw
Next to the cowboy boot, there is no more widely recognized symbol of the Southwest than the giant saguaro cactus. Watch out for this prickly plant. Try your arm at lassoing it!
(Each camper, in line with the team, takes turns lassoing a giant wooden cactus.)
· Rattlesnake Roundup
Under the rocks, logs, and plants can be found a creature that has, for generations, struck fear into people—attaining a legendary status. The rattlesnake is well-camouflaged, so there’s a chance it might sneak up on you accidentally. With luck, though, you will hear a distinctive warning that will tell you to keep clear.
(Each camper explores a designated area to find the laminated rattlesnakes. Upon finding them and returning them to staff members, campers re-hide them for the next group.)
· Pin The Mustache On The Donkey
In the desert, a donkey is able to hear the call of another donkey 60 miles away, as it has far larger ears than a horse. The large ears also help keep a donkey cool. Help this donkey look cool by placing a mustache over his top lip.
(Just like pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, but with a mustache.)
· Eat A Cactus Trivia
Time for a quick bite to refuel the stomach and the brain.
(Serve cactus cookies and all the southwest trivia they can handle!)
· Panning For Gold
The most popular method of obtaining gold during the Gold Rush was by panning. Panning uses a sieve-like instrument to separate small gold deposits from other minerals, some of which you may find here!
(Bury “gold” in the sand of the lakefront and replenish it after each group comes through. “Sieves” made of pie tins are given to each camper. Campers can keep gold in labeled plastic baggies afterwards.)
Finish up with a story on the Southwest, or serve cactus cookies now instead of at the trivia station.
What I love about these activities is that the theme is changed every year, essentially using the same outline. The kids and staff love these nights because they are engaging, surprising, and fun for all!
Lynn Roy met her husband, Bunkie, at Camp Walt Whitman, and the two continued their careers as camp directors at Camp Mah-Kee-Nac. She now returns to Camp Walt Whitman in the summers, where her three daughters are campers. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.