Summer camp is a place for children to celebrate summertime with fun experiences with friends. Creating weekly activities influenced by a theme can help adults organize games, crafts, events and field trips that will encourage campers to participate, and entice them to learn about new things.
Children are fascinated with animals, especially species that aren't your everyday dog and cat! Bringing the zoo to your summer camp may sound like an impossible feat, but with a little imagination, your campers will become expert zoologists by the end of this week.
- 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.
- 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.
Let's All Move!
Childhood obesity is a growing topic in the news today. First Lady Michelle Obama has launched an initiative called Let's Move!, which is a program dedicated to teaching children to make healthier choices that will benefit their emotional and physical health. Organizing a fitness-based theme is the perfect way to introduce campers to exercising and staying fit.
- Invite a local coach or athlete to come to your camp to give a fitness demonstration, or teach a short lesson.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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 of the meals at a food tasting event at the end of the week.
A Week at the Beach
Plan a vacation away from vacation at 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 "beach bums" alongside their friends and counselors.
- 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.
- 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
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- Hold an "emotions" workshop, and teach the children how to express various emotions through acting.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Break the kids into chaperoned groups to explore a local metro park.
- 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
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 sueprhero themed-activities for this camp to help kids unleash their creativity.
- Invite the children to dress like their favorite superhero on the first day of camp. Counselors can dress up too.
- 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 catch phrase their character says. The more details, the better.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- Ask a local magician to come teach the kids simple magic tricks, and help them learn what showmanship is all about.
- Have each child develop a magician "persona," which he or she can use to create an act.
- Organize a magic show the children can put on for parents and siblings to show what they learned during camp.
Who needs to run away and join the circus? You can turn this summer camp into clown school.
- Ask local clowns/children's entertainers to teach clowning tricks and techniques to the children. The could put on a show for them first, and then show them how it's all done.
- 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.
- Have kids develop their clown characters, which include their original makeup designs, as well as their new "clown names," funny behaviors and expressions.
- Help the children organize a clown show for their parents.
Organizing Camp Is Fun
Organizing thematic activities will not only make summer camp a blast, but also adventurous and educational. 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.