We had so much fun compiling a list of creative camp ideas for storytelling, we thought we’d assemble another one of our top-10 lists: Theme Days! Because nothing makes memories like fun and meaningful camp theme days that kids throw themselves into with gusto.
A fun summer camp theme should not only deliver unforgettable camp entertainment, but it should also leave campers with something to think about and remember beyond the camp costumes and games. A great camp theme day inspires campers to learn lasting lessons and feel connected to something bigger than themselves. The best summer camp themes empower campers to be themselves, try their best, and make meaningful connections with others.
Check out some of these favorites from our team:
1. Pay it Forward Ideas
We all know that it feels good to give to others, and who doesn’t want to leave camp feeling good? Promote kindness and acts of service with a Pay-it-Forward camp theme day. Here are some creative ideas:
Campers and staff will not only leave camp with fun and meaningful memories, but they will also have leave camp knowing they’ve put something positive into the world by helping others.
Find a local need and have your campers work together to meet that need. Maybe the local park needs more seating, or there’s a need for an urban garden. Perhaps the senior center could use some entertainment, or the local hospital could use some words of encouragement. Center your camp arts and crafts around a service project, so what they make will serve others.
A Day in the Life
Empathy is the key to inspiring the desire to serve others. Divide campers into groups, and provide each group with resources that teach them about a specific group in need. If you can, keep it local so that your campers have an opportunity to feel more attached to their cause and may continue providing support after camp. Campers can develop posters, skits, or other ways to share what they’ve learned. Request that campers include a clear call to action and present their cause in a way that promotes empathy and shows sensitivity and respect.
Kudos Board or Bags
Create stickers or small rewards that campers can give to other campers and team members to recognize something special. Have campers describe what it was like to give, and to get those rewards. Or create a board where campers can give words of gratitude and encouragement to each other.
Have each camper design a paper bag with his or her name on it. They can decorate their bags with things they’re grateful for or things they enjoy. Fasten the bags to a board or place them on a table so that they are easily accessible, open for campers to put stuff into, and won’t blow away or fall over. Campers can put kudos and/or small gifts into the bags for each other to take home at the end of the day.
Whichever method you use, create a small form that campers can complete to keep the kudos positive and focused. Make time in your program for staff to access the board or bags while campers are away to make sure that each camper is covered. The last thing you want is a camper going home without kudos.
2. Opposite Day
Doing things in reverse is not only fun, but it also makes you slow down and think about what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. An Opposite Day summer camp theme inspires campers to be more aware of the present while also being silly and having fun. You could have the kids:
Wear Clothes Backwards
Have campers come to camp with their clothes on backward and/or inside-out. If you’re giving out camp shirts, then consider a design that makes it even more fun to wear it backward.
Join in Backwards Field Day
From three-legged races to egg-in-spoon relays to water balloon obstacle courses, field days are a blast. Make your summer camp field day the biggest blast ever by having campers do the activities in reverse. If you have a lake or a pool, then bring the fun to the water with backward canoe races or pool relays.
Makeup Rewind Skits
Everybody loves a good summer camp skit, so have your campers and staff come up with camp skit ideas that also work in reverse. Campers will present their skits and then “rewind” them as they go back through everything they just but in reverse. Encourage campers to be thoughtful about each part of the plot so that it’s super hilarious when it’s done in reverse.
Make this interactive by allowing the audience to shout commands like “pause!”, “rewind”, or “fast forward”, and the actors will respond accordingly. This version is probably best when performed by counselors who can react quickly without getting too distracted or frustrated.
Eat Dessert First
Feed your campers in reverse order by serving dessert first. Have some fun by breaking summer camp meals into courses so that the reverse order is obvious. You could also serve lunch for breakfast and breakfast for lunch or dinner.
3. Unplugged Day
Camp is all about disconnecting from things that don’t matter and reconnecting with things that do. Truly promote the idea of disconnecting at camp with a camp theme day that’s all about being unplugged.
From phones and tablets to video games and Netflix, kids ages 8 to 18 spend an average of 7 hours a day looking at screens. These digital natives have only known a life where they are constantly plugged in, so it’s more difficult and more critical than ever to encourage kids and teens to unplug their devices and plug into themselves and the world immediately around them.
Make Human Connections Matter
Facilitate discussions about social media and the importance of human connections. Use discussion cards or have baskets or boxes on the tables during meals that encourage meaningful conversations about the pros and cons of social media and how and when campers should disconnect from it.
Video Game Obstacle Course or Relay
Develop real-life versions of popular video games like MineCraft or Super Mario 3D. Get creative with fun props and use a lot of space. Up the challenge by having campers create and then share their games. Prove them with plenty of props, costumes, and supplies.
With camp props and costumes, campers will stage scenes and then create posters with funny text to make living memes. They can “perform” their memes by taking turns setting up behind a curtain and then staying motionless for a reveal. If they need a little action, then they can make living gifs by adding some repetitive motions. This is also an excellent opportunity for some fun pictures for the camp photo show.
Looking for summer camp memes? Click the GIF or check our blog post titled, 10 GIFs to Share With Your Camp Friends.
4. Camp By Numbers
When we think numbers, we often think math, which doesn’t always elicit shouts of joy. But math can be fun! Revamp the way campers think about numbers with a Camp by Number summer camp theme that makes number fun, challenging, and memorable.
Assign each camper a number and then do random count-offs. A staff member will loudly announce “count-off!”, then, campers will shout their numbers and names, or nicknames, back in sequence. Up the camp entertainment by having the caller include a command like, “count-off favorite animal sound!”. Then each camper will not only shout their number and name but also make their favorite animal sound. Depending on the size of your camp, you can do this with the whole camp or do it in smaller groups.
Paint by Numbers
This classic summer camp arts and crafts activity is always a hit. Include a wide range of options to meet as many campers’ interests as possible. If you can, customize them to represent aspects of your summer camp program, staff, or area.
Crack the Code
Hide clues around camp that each lead to a number. Place a large container in a central location and lock it with a combination lock. When campers find all of the clues, they can try to unlock the container using the numbers they’ve found. You can have one container for the whole camp or have separate containers around the camp for each cabin or group. Whatever’s in the container is up to you, but remember why you develop summer camp programs in the first place: you want campers to have fun and to feel included. This doesn’t mean gold stars for everyone, but it does mean that you’ll want to be considerate as you develop friendly competitions and rewards.
Hide rubber ducks around the camp and have campers find and count them. They should leave them where they are, so come up with creative ways to secure them around camp. Whoever has the most accurate count wins.
5. Camp from A to Z
More into letters than numbers? An alphabet camp theme day is a great way to plan fun camp activities.
Giant Boggle, Crossword, or Scrabble
Use giant pieces of cardboard to create a life-size version of a classic word-based board game. If you’re doing a crossword, then have clues for each group, and use tape on the ground or eco-friendly marking paint in a field to create a grid.
A to Z Treasure Hunt
Hide objects around camp that are clearly out of place and represent each letter in the alphabet. Have campers find and collect them throughout the day, and then reward the group that’s the first to complete the alphabet.
Plan summer camp meals with dishes that all start with the same letter. Don’t worry if the foods don’t traditionally go together; that’s half of the fun!
Alphabet Arts & Crafts
Create camp lanyards or jewelry with letters, or have campers create acrostic paintings or wood carvings of their names. You can also get creative with scrabble pieces or making letters out of objects.
Each group will randomly choose a letter, and then that group has to create a skit in which they only use words that start with that letter. Just use letters that will lead to enough options.
6. Enchanted Forest
Fairy tales aren’t new, but approaching each with a new lesson and a fresh perspective is. Have fun with classic fairy tale motifs throughout your camp, and modernize them with current-day references and analogies.
Once Upon a Time in the 21st Century
Campers and counselors choose a traditional fairy tale and modernize it in a meaningful way. “Meaningful” doesn’t mean severe or not fun; it means adding more than slang and current references. The message needs to remain the same; however, it needs to apply to a modern audience. For example, if a theme in the fairy tale is the importance of being yourself, then how can groups present that message in a contemporary way with a scenario that will provide camp entertainment and also mean something to an audience of 21st-century campers?
And They Lived Happily Ever After, Or Did They?
Create skits with alternate endings to classic fairy tales. We’re not thinking morbid here; we’re thinking real. With an appeal to campers old enough to appreciate sarcasm or dry humor, these skits would present what happens when a couple meets, kisses, and marries within three days. How does Cinderella feel about Prince Charming’s smelly socks all over the bedroom floor, or what does Prince Eric think of Ariel’s constant singing in the shower and pretty much everywhere else?
Fairy Tale Scavenger Hunt
Hide clues around camp that have to do with classic fairy tales, and that leads to a prize fit for a prince or princess.
Campers can put together costumes based on fairy tale balls and learn traditional ballroom dances. Because it’s camp, this will all be done with humor and fun.
7. Little Italy
Take campers to one of the most vibrant, outgoing countries in the world with a little taste of la dolce vita as they experience an Italian summer camp theme day.
Play Traditional Italian Field Games
If you can get your hands on some bocce ball sets, then you’re golden. If that’s not an option, then turn cops and robbers into the Italian version of the game: Guardie e Lardi. Alternatively, play Piovra, where one camper is the piovra, or octopus, and the other campers try not to get caught. When the piovra catches a camper, they must stay where they were caught and are now a polipetti, or baby octopus, who can now help the piovra tag more campers.
Camp Songs Opera Style
Who doesn’t like singing traditional camp songs opera style? You can also do this with classic camp skits. Alternatively, make an Italian themed camp meal more entertaining with counselors performing an opera, camp style, of course.
Turn classic rope tangle games into something Italian by calling the rope a super long piece of spaghetti.
Cook up a bunch of al dente spaghetti and then have campers fling it at a plastic-covered wall or board. Choose a type of surface on which the spaghetti will best stick. Whichever camper or group can get the most spaghetti to stick wins.
Campers can top personal pizzas with traditional, or maybe not so traditional, toppings to have for lunch later in the day. Encourage creative combinations and designs. Please don’t cut the pizzas, so campers have to eat them with a knife and fork like an authentic Italian.
mmm…I’m hungry already!
A classic Italian Renaissance favorite, the masquerade is a great summer camp dance theme. Campers can make and decorate their masks during the day and then wear them to the masquerade.
8. Colorful Camp
With so many meanings and connotations, colors are a significant part of every camper’s world, and many campers aren’t even aware of it. Shed light on campers’ favorite colors with a vibrant and creative ideas for a Colorful Camp theme day.
Have camper groups wear the same colors. Either provide camp shirts or prompt campers to wear a particular color to camp.
Colorful Charades or Pictionary
Promote creativity and silly fun by playing charades based on colors. How would a kid act out the color “blue”? A Pictionary version of this game is also a blast.
Personal Flags or Crests
For an engaging and meaningful summer camp arts and crafts activity, have campers list their favorite colors and then provide resources for them to study what those colors mean in different cultures and contexts. Campers can design their camp name tags or create paper flags based not only on their favorite colors but also on the meanings of those colors. Encourage them to choose colors that best represent who they are and show off their strengths. If they make paper flags, then have each camper incorporate his or her name into the flag design, and then display all of the flags in a common area.
Taste the Rainbow
Have your camp cooks use natural food colorings to make camp theme meals more vibrant. Use beet juice for red mashed potatoes or pureed spinach for green mac ‘n’ cheese. Let your camp chefs get creative and promote healthy ways to make food more colorful and fun.
9. Happy Birthday Day!
Birthdays are the best, so why not make it everybody’s birthday at camp all on the same day? Celebrate your campers’ amazing lives with birthday-themed activities. This theme also makes camp decorations easy and colorful camp.
Premake a bunch of simple sheet cakes and let groups of campers decorate them. Add some friendly competition with a cake decorating contest.
Cupcake Eating Contest
Speaking of cake, why not have a cake eating contest? This is best for counselors and not campers; the last thing you want is a camper calling home with a massive sugar high and upset stomach. Turn a birthday cake eating contest into camp entertainment by having a group of counselors make a messy show of devouring colorful, frosting-filled cakes.
Prompt campers to bring a small gift to exchange with another camper. Gifts will be anonymous and inexpensive. Set a price point that best aligns with your camps’ demographic, and offers to supply gifts for those who are unable to bring them. Want to keep it free for all campers? Have them make their gifts while at camp.
Happy Birthday the Musical
Divide campers into groups, and give each group the lyrics to a modern pop song. Have each group create a musical performance of their song to the tune of Happy Birthday.
Have fun with classic birthday games like pin the tail on the donkey, balloon pop relays, pinatas, and musical chairs. Switch them up with twists like having to do them tied to a partner or in reverse.
10. Hit the Road
Create a day of fun and adventure with a road trip camp theme. Think exploration, navigation, songs, snacks, and everything else that goes along with an unforgettable road trip.
Create a camp version of The Amazing Race by having groups of campers complete challenges around camp that require them to move from place to place while using navigation tools like maps, compasses, and points of reference.
Truck Stop Snack Cook
Trucks stops are known for their incredible array of road trip snack options. Stock up on some of the classic and have groups come up with culinary masterpieces using only truck stop snack items.
Create a camp arts and crafts activity by having campers make large and colorful maps of their lives. Encourage them to include significant events and meaningful memories.
Thanks for joining us on our blog and we hope that you have gotten some creative ideas for camp theme days at your camp or where ever you may use them! Take a look at our previous post on 19 Creative Ideas for Camp Theme Days