Summer Camp Themes

Gabrielle Applebury
Contributor: Kelly Roper
kids showing good sportsmanship at soccer camp

Summer camp is a place for children to celebrate summertime with fun experiences with friends. Creating weekly activities influenced by summer camp themes can help adults organize games, crafts, events and field trips that will encourage campers to participate, and entice them to learn about new things. Get summer camp theme ideas to make camp fun and exciting!

Zoo Friends

Children are fascinated with animals, especially species that aren't your everyday dog and cat! Bringing the zoo to kids' camp themes may sound like an impossible feat, but with a little imagination, your campers will become expert zoologists by the end of this week.

Creating Animal Masks

Give each camper a paper plate with two holes cut out of the center. The children can make an animal mask with paint, glue, feathers, yarn, and other craft materials. Glue a craft stick to the back so they can hold it up to their faces while they play together.

Making a Mini-Zoo

Kids at the zoo

Set up a summer camp zoo. Create pens out of big refrigerator boxes, animal feed out of granola and habitats out of recyclable objects. The children can divide into two groups: animals and zoo guides. Invite other groups to your "zoo," and give them the grand tour, complete with popcorn and balloons.

Visiting the Zoo

Take a field trip to the zoo. Make sure you create parent permission slips and invite a few parents along to be chaperones. Bring a camera to take photos, and create a picture frame out of craft sticks later in the week.

Sports!

Offering exposure to different sports can help kids figure out which ones they like best. Participating in sports is a fun way for kids to learn about teamwork, communication, and the importance of exercise.

Learning the Fundamentals

Group of kids with a soccer ball

Plan your theme so that each day is dedicated to a sport. Soccer, softball, basketball, volleyball and track events are games that are fun for children of all ages.

Lessons From Experts

Invite a local coach or athlete to come to your camp to give a fitness demonstration, or teach a short lesson.

Competing in the Camp's Olympics

Hold a camp-wide Olympic tournament that opens and ends with an exciting ceremony. Present each child with a medal and certificate at the completion of the games.

To Infinity and Beyond

Planets and stars and red dwarves, oh my! What child isn't intrigued by the wonders of the universe? Organize a week of science-based activities that will teach your campers about the solar system.

Alien Storytelling Activity

Kid astronaut with cardboard rocket ship

Split the children into pairs and give each duo two sheets of long paper. The campers will trace the outline of their partners with crayons. When the drawings are complete, the children will use art materials to create an alien. Encourage each child to give their creation a name and a story.

Building a Rocket

Create a large rocket out of recyclable material. Ask for donations from families, such as boxes, cardboard tubes, newspaper, and fabric. Not only will the project be out of this world, but it is safe for the environment.

Space Story Time

Visit the library for children's books about space. Popular titles include The Magic School Bus: Gets Lost in Space by Joanna Cole, Stargazers by Gail Gibbons and The Moon by Gail Gibbons. Reading to children can be the gateway to many learning experiences. Plan activities such as putting on a play inspired by one of the books or writing to the author.

Food Frenzy

Introduce your campers to an array of different culinary experiences by organizing a week of delicious activities involving food. Provide kids with fun facts and information that will teach them to make healthy choices when it comes to mealtime and snacks.

Exploring the Grocery Store

Kid holding vegetables

Plan a trip to the local grocery store. Call the store manager ahead of time to see if he will give the children a tour of the various departments, such as the deli, the produce section or the bakery. You can also visit local farms and restaurants.

Giving Back With Goodies

Bake goodies for the children and put together a camp-wide bake sale. Include the children in all aspects of planning, such as picking the menu, baking, making signs and tending to the money. Pick a charity that would benefit from the proceeds, or have each customer pay in canned goods for a food bank.

Food Tasting

Divide the whole camp into groups that represent countries. Each team will create a cuisine from their assigned nation. For example, if a group of campers is from Italy, they can make spaghetti, sauce, and meatballs. Present all the meals at a food tasting event at the end of the week.

A Week at the Beach

Kids making sand castles

Plan a vacation away from your camp by planning activities that reflect a trip to the beach. Your campers will love pretending they are riding the waves, swimming with fish and being beachgoers alongside their friends and counselors.

Building Sandcastles

Host a sandcastle competition. Provide buckets, shovels, cups and anything else that can be used to build a sand sculpture. Take photos of the creations and have the parents vote on which ones they enjoy the most.

Embracing Sea Life

Learn about ocean life by reading books about fish, dolphins, whales, and crustaceans. Unroll a large piece of butcher paper, and encourage the campers to create an ocean mural. Add to it every day using art materials such as paint, glitter, paper, glue, crayons, and markers.

Music, Music, Music

Kid country western musician

What child doesn't enjoy singing songs and playing instruments? Exposure to music at an early age supports cognitive, social and emotional development. This week will not only benefit the growth of each camper but leave them tappin' their toes and clappin' their hands long after camp is done.

Connecting to the Music

Give the campers paper and paint, and ask them to create a picture as they listen to a song. Do this every day, but switch the genre of the tune they are hearing. You will find that each picture will correspond to the mood of the music.

Enjoying a Performance

Bring in local musicians to give a concert at the end of the week, or work with kids throughout the week. Encourage the children to ask them questions and participate in the performance. At the end of the theme, organize a show so the campers can show off their talents.

Creating Unique Instruments

Make instruments out of household materials, such as water bottles, rice, beans, coffee cans, shoe boxes -- the sky is the limit! Include them in your talent show at the end of the week.

Drama-O-Rama

Young actress looking shocked

Kids who are interested in acting will love the activities they can take part in at this camp. Developing performance skills, such as public speaking and planning what they're going to say, can serve children well in real life as well as on the stage.

Developing an Original Character

Ask a performing arts teacher to talk to the kids about character development. Then have each child create an original character and write a short monologue to perform for the group. Monologues can be scheduled at different points throughout the week to break them up.

Practicing Emotional Expression

Hold an "emotions" workshop and teach the children how to express various emotions through acting.

Learning How to Audition

Ask an actor from a local theater group to come and teach the kids how to audition for a part, and then break into groups and hold "practice" auditions so the kids can try out what they learned.

Writing a Skit

Break the kids into groups and have each group create and put on an original skit. You can even write down some ideas they can draw from a bucket to help them get started. Some can be funny, some can be dramatic, and so on.

Participating in a Talent Show

Put on a talent show on the last day of camp. Be sure to put this info in your flyer, so the kids that want to perform, have time to put their act together.

Outdoor Explorers

Kids on a nature walk with their guide

Most kids love an adventure, and what's better than exploring the great outdoors? Teach the children a few outdoor skills that they can use the rest of their lives, all while they're having fun in the great outdoors.

Scavenger Hunt Fun

Organize a scavenger hunt. You can have the children collect certain items from the environment, like pine cones, rocks, specific kinds of fallen leaves, etc. Other items that shouldn't be disturbed, like bird nests, wildlife, and live plants can simply be checked off the list as kids find them.

Compass Reading Skills

Teach kids to use a compass, and then have them follow a simple map that leads them to a location where a treat awaits them.

Exploring the Park

Break the kids into chaperoned groups to explore a local metro park.

Animal Tracking

Ask a staff member from your local Department of Natural Resources to come to the park, and teach the children how to spot and identify animal tracks.

Superheroes and Villains

Superhero on duty

Superheroes endure generation after generation. With that said, there would be no need for superheroes without some top-notch villains to keep them on their toes. Use the superhero themed-activities for this camp to help kids unleash their creativity.

Getting Into the Spirit

Invite the children to dress as their favorite superhero on the first day of camp. Counselors can dress up too.

Creating Their Own Character

Have the kids create an original superhero character or villain. They should create their character's back story, and decide how their character looks, what his powers are, and maybe even think up a catchphrase their character says. The more details, the better.

Making a Giant Comic Strip

Give the kids lengths of white butcher paper and markers, and have them create a superhero comic strip. They can work alone, or they can work in groups.

Powerful Olympics

Hold a Superheroes vs. Villains Olympics where the kids can use their "powers" as they compete in various events like the radioactive water balloon toss, the three-legged mutant race, and the save-the-world obstacle course.

Camp Magic

Young magician

Magic tricks are an endless source of fascination for many children, so learning how to perform some tricks can be terrific entertainment. Some tricks can actually help children improve their manual dexterity, while others simply help kids step outside of their comfort zone and learn that performing can be fun.

Learning New Tricks

Ask a local magician to come teach the kids simple magic tricks, and help them learn what showmanship is all about.

Understanding Showmanship

Have each child develop a magician "persona," which he or she can use to create an act.

Setting Up a Performance

Organize a magic show the children can put on for parents and siblings to show what they learned during camp.

Clowning Around

Child dresses in his clown suit

Who needs to run away and join the circus? You can turn this summer camp into clown school.

Learning From the Experts

Ask local clowns/children's entertainers to teach clowning tricks and techniques to the children. They could put on a show for them first, and then show them how it's all done.

Looking the Part

Have kids create unique clown face paint designs. They can practice on a partner, or you can bring in some professional face painters to help paint kids' faces.

Creating Their Own Clown

Have kids develop their clown characters, which include their original makeup designs, as well as their new "clown names," funny behaviors and expressions.

Showing Off Their Skills

Help the children organize a clown show for their parents.

Adventureland

Setting up an Adventureland camp for kids is great for those who are interested in exploring. Incorporating survival skills, reasoning, and group work can make for a fun camp week of adventure.

S'mores Scavenger Hunt

Come up with a fun scavenger hunt that leads each group of campers to s'mores supplies. Have the campers travel through different parts of camp that have lots of trees, and you can add fake vines and snakes throughout to add to the mysterious scavenger hunt. End at a bonfire and help the campers make their s'mores.

Lost and Found

Split the campers up into two groups. Have one set of campers hide in specific areas, while the others use clues to locate and rescue them. Have them switch roles the next day.

Water Park

If it's hot outside a water park inspired camp is a great way to stay cool. Be sure to have adequate adult supervision for the participating campers.

Slip and Slide

Slip and slides can be made with heavy duty plastic sheeting if a pre-made slip and slide is not available or too expensive. For some added fun you can add some bubble bath to make it extra foamy and fun.

Squirt Gun Battle

Split the campers up into a few even groups. Give them water balloons and squirt guns. Have the teams strategize to capture a prize on neutral ground. Whoever gets hit is temporarily out for five minutes. Whichever team captures the prize wins!

Cannon Ball Competition

If the camp has a pool set up a cannonball competition with a few campers as judges. Give the kids cards to score each cannonball on a scale of one to 10. Give a prize to the camper with the best cannonball.

Haunted Camp

For older kids, a haunted themed camp can be a fun treat. Have the campers help set it up, so it isn't too scary.

Menacing Maze

Set up a maze filled with spooky decorations and have the campers try to find their way out. Some campers can dress up and haunt the maze while others try to find the exit. Be sure to have camp counselors scattered in case anyone needs help getting out.

Spooky Haunted Dance

Have the campers dress up in scary costumes and enjoy a fun dance. Enjoy some spooky refreshments like juice with floating fake eyeballs, jello brains, and gory cookies.

Mummy Contest

Split the kids up into teams and have them pick one member of their team to play the mummy. Have them use toilet paper to create a mummy costume. Have a few judges select the best mummy and give that team a spooky prize.

Mindfulness Moments

Mindfulness is an important skill for younger and older kids to learn. It can help them better connect to their bodies and emotions, making it easier for them to communicate.

Morning Mindfulness Meditation

To set up a mindfulness meditation, pick a peaceful location that tends to be quiet in the morning. Set up one yoga mat or blanket per child. Walk them through a mindfulness meditation script, or play a guided mediation tailoring the amount of time for different age groups.

Mindfulness Hiking

Teach the kids how to hike while being mindful. Have them spend some time focusing on what they see, hear, smell, and feel while hiking. Have them spend five to 10 minutes doing this exercise quietly and discuss how they felt doing so after the hike.

Eating With Mindfulness

Pass out a few blindfolds and have the kids wear them while they eat a few different items. Be sure to check for allergies before handing out the treats. You can offer them little pieces of chocolate and fruit to taste while blindfolded. Before eating have them explore the food's smell, texture and sound. Discuss the difference between eating how they normally do versus eating mindfully to see how the exercise impacted them.

Best Preschool Summer Camp Themes

For younger kids, it's best to pick easy and educational themes that can be set up quickly. Tailor the amount of time spent on each activity as patience can run out quickly with this age group. No matter what activity the kids are doing focus on teaching them about cooperation, taking turns, listening to each other, as well as how fun learning is. Some fun summer camp themes for preschoolers themes include:

  • Zoo Friends
  • Sports
  • To Infinity and Beyond
  • Superheroes and Villains
  • Mindfulness Moments

Longer Summer Camps

Some of the above themes will work for longer camps, although they may need some slight changes. For those that run for weeks, consider trying the following summer camp weekly theme ideas:

  • Science Camp: Try different experiments each day.
  • Survival Skills: Learn a few new skills each day and finish off the camp by spending an overnight camping under the stars.
  • Mysterious Ocean: Delve into learning about unique creatures, waves, and ocean preservation.
  • Movie Madness: Watch, re-enact, and discuss a new movie each week.

Organizing Camp Themes Is Fun

Organizing thematic activities will not only make summer camp a blast but also adventurous and educational. When it comes to summer camp names, themes may even influence what to call the camp session! From summer camp theme week ideas to full camp themes, there are plenty of fun choices. You can also choose or modify summer themes for school age and preschool. The sky is the limit! As long as the campers are making friends and learning through play, their summer camp experience will be one that they will never forget.

Summer Camp Themes