Want to foster camp camaraderie from day one? Want to avoid the cliché “getting to know you” activities that are seemingly inevitable at summer camp?

We all know that on the first day of camp, nerves, shy giggles, and awkward body language are in no short supply. That’s why we’ve come up with some fresh new icebreakers to turn awkward into ease for counselors and summer campers alike. Check them out!

#1: S’more Challenge

#2: Real-life CLUE

#3: Judge a Book By Its Cover

#4: Turn the Tarp

#5: Be Square

#6: RUOY EMAN

#7: Would You Rather

#8: Selfie Challenge

#9: Size Me Up

#10: Get Your Life in Order

#11: Heads Up

#1: The S’more Du Jour (“The S’more of the Day”)

Summer camp just isn’t summer camp without s’mores. So, why not start the summer off right by not only pumping the kids full of sugar but also bonding them together through competition?

This summer camp icebreaker doesn’t involve much preparation ahead of time, but you will need a few supplies to pull it off. First, make sure you have s’mores supplies on hand. Be sure you have enough for all of your campers and counselors. Next, create a simple obstacle course. This part is up to you. Simply create three age-appropriate obstacles. For example, each team could kick a soccer ball into a goal. Or, they could run from cabin to cabin collecting flags.

Once the campers arrive, split them up into groups of two or three. Then, explain to them that once they complete each obstacle as a team, they will receive one ingredient to make their S’more Du Jour. Once they’ve obtained all three ingredients, they’ll have to find a good roasting stick. Then, they’ll run over to the campfire (that you’ll already have roaring), and make the best s’more ever for their camp counselor. Whichever team does so first is the winner! And you can keep the other teams involved even if they don’t win. Simply tell them that they can only have their own s’more once they’ve completed the challenge.

#2: Real-life CLUE

Everyone loves a good mystery, right? Help your campers and counselors break the ice by playing a real life game of CLUE! Of course, this would take a lot of preparation, but imagine the memories the kids could take away from such an awesome icebreaker.

The setting…

Choose a large open setting to serve as the game board. This is where each of your murder locations will be located. You can indicate the location on the ground with tape if indoors or with a stake and an attached picture if outside. If you are having trouble envisioning this, take a quick look at the CLUE game board and do the best you can to replicate that at camp. Stage six murder locations on your “game board” and make cards for each one to be used for game play. Then, place pieces of tape down to indicate the spaces between each murder location. Fun hint: instead of mimicking murder locations from traditional CLUE such as the ballroom, the dining room, and the study, create summer camp-themed locations like a campsite, the kitchen, or the volleyball court.

Get creative with game supplies…

Next, have everyone write his or her name down on an index card. These will serve as character cards for the game. Lastly, determine silly camp-themed murder weapons like a boat oar, a marshmallow roasting stick, or a flashlight. Make a card for each of the potential murder weapons. Cool addition: if you’ve got a Polaroid camera laying around, take pictures of all of the campers/counselors, settings, and murder weapons and label each picture. For extra fun, have real-life props of each murder weapon for the kids to use while playing.

Time to play…

To play, follow the rules of the traditional game of CLUE. Take one random murder suspect card, one setting card, and one weapon card and place them in an envelope. Then, hand out all the cards to the players, give them a pen and paper to take some notes, and roll some dice to see who goes first. The contestants simply use the same guessing and revealing rules outlined in the traditional game of CLUE. Remember who goes in what order as your contestants move around the “game board.” Then, make guesses about what three cards are in the secret envelope to find out who dunnit!

#3: Judge a Book By Its Cover

Use this icebreaker for a quick and simple method to introduce counselors and campers. Campers will work together in small teams to learn all about their counselors.

Divide the kids into small groups of two or three. All you’ll need is a section of wall, a whiteboard, or even just a picnic table for each group to work with. For each counselor, you’ll need to come up with a list of ten interesting facts. The crazier the facts, the more fun (and surprising!) the game. So, let’s say you’ve got three counselors; for this game, you’d have ten facts each for a total of 30. Then, you’d make the same stack of 30 facts for however many teams you’ve got competing. It’s important that all teams have the same amount of facts.

How to play…

Now, make sure that the facts are jumbled, so that each team has no idea which facts are associated with which counselor. On the wall, whiteboard, or table, write the counselors’ names and provide space for the teams to divvy up the facts and place ten each under the counselor’s name that they think fits best. Keep the kids moving quickly by timing the game (5 minutes max) and whoever has the most facts paired with the correct counselor wins!

A funny option: instead of using a board or table to match facts to counselors, you could always use the counselors themselves! To pull this off, color-code each group’s stack of facts. That way you’ll know who guessed what. Put tape on the back of each fact so that the kids can stick the facts directly on the counselors as they play. This hilarious option is sure to keep the kids and counselors laughing.

#4: Turn the Tarp

For this summer camp icebreaker, you’ll need to get a few tarps, one for each equally sized group. The object of this game is to challenge each group of campers to stand on the tarp simultaneously and flip the tarp over. But here’s the challenge: no one can step off of the tarp (not even one toe) at any time. This is a hilarious game that forces kids (or adults) to work together toward a common goal. The first group to flip their tarp completely over without stepping off wins!

Some practical notes: On a 5’x7’ tarp, you can fit about 6-10 kids depending on whether your camp is for little ones or teens. The tarp should not have a lot of empty space available or the game will be too easy. Use your own judgment to decide how many campers to put on each tarp.

#5: Be Square

This icebreaker only involves the use of some blindfolds and a simple rope for each group. Separate campers into groups of 4 or 8 and give them each a blindfold. They should not know the object of this game until they have their blindfolds securely in place and are completely silent.

Once all of your groups are ready, explain the rules. Tell them that once you say “go,” each member of the group will need to introduce him- or herself to the rest of the group so that they can communicate. Then, their goal is to use all members of the group to make the rope into a perfect square. All members have to be touching the rope at all times and they must communicate to make it happen.

Wondering how they’ll figure it out without being able to see what they’re doing? Watch and see!

#6: RUOY EMAN

This icebreaker gets everyone working together toward a common goal. They’ll think that goal is a treat, but you’ll know that the goal is simply getting to know each other’s names. First, line all of the campers up. Depending on how many kids you’ve got, determine a fair time cap for the campers to complete this game. Tell them that if they can get it done in, say, two minutes (or much more if you’ve got lots of campers), then they’ll get candy, or ice cream, or whatever sweet treat you think will get them hyped.

The object of the game is for the first camper in line to spell his or her first name backward, and for the second camper in line to scream it out once he or she figures it out. So, if the first camper’s name is “John,” he’ll say “My name is N-H-O-J.” Then, Camper #2 will do some quick computing and scream out “JOHN!” Now, it’s Camper #2’s turn. The game continues until every camper has been named. And if they make it in under the time allotted, they win! But if they don’t, give them the treat anyway.

#7: Would You Rather?

All kids love to talk about gross things. So, what better way to break the ice than to choose between licking a tire and eating a bug in a hypothetical game of “Would You Rather”?

“Would You Rather?” games have become all the rage in recent years, so you’re probably already familiar with the concept. Plus, you shouldn’t have a hard time coming up with questions to ask the kids since there are books and websites just filled with silly options. Cool addition: if you want to get the campers up and moving, you could have students get up and go to a corner labeled “Option 1” or “Option 2.” No doubt, the kids will be laughing, and you’ll probably be surprised what gross choices others end up making. Who knows? You may end up finding more about them that you really wanted to.

#8: Selfie Challenge

If you allow cell phones at your camp, another exciting camp icebreaker is the Selfie Challenge. Simply pair campers up and send them on a scavenger hunt. This icebreaker  not only allows them time to get to know one another but also gives them the lay of the land. You can keep it simple by giving them a basic map of the grounds and a list of items. Then, all they have to do is find the items on the list, pose alongside each of them, and return to home base with their phones to prove to you that they accomplished all the listed tasks.

And don’t worry! If cell phones aren’t allowed, you can alter this challenge by having students collect items scattered all over the grounds. Either way, this challenge gets kids moving and working together toward a common goal!

#9: Size Me Up

This icebreaker will allow the campers and counselors to learn the valuable lesson that things aren’t always as they seem. For this icebreaker, you’ll only need to do a little bit of prep work. Using green and red construction paper, make a rectangle about the size of an index card, green on one side and red on the other. You can even laminate them for future use if you’d like.

Find a room or outdoor area where you can label “corners” with common interests like music, sports, drama, art, video games, or cooking. You may even want to make a corner that says “None” or “Still Looking” for the kids who haven’t found their passion yet. Indicate each “corner” with a sign. For example, for the music “corner,” you could hang up a poster with a music note. Be sure to explain the meaning of these signs before you start the game.

How it works…

Now, the object of the game is for each camper to end up in the proper corner (a corner that represents their interests in life), but not by their own choosing. The rest of the campers will attempt to match each camper with their proper corner. The game ends when all are placed correctly with their corner of interest.

Hand out the cards and have students deliberately stand in a corner that would NOT be considered their “favorite.” Once they’re all in place, tell all campers to hold up the red side of their cards. They are to keep this red side showing until they end up in the corner that represents their interest.

Start sizing each other up

Now, starting with whomever you choose, have one camper point out any other camper and move him out of his current corner and into another corner (let’s say from “music” to “art”) based off of what type they think the camper seems to be. Once the camper moves, and if he has not been placed in his area of interest, he should continue to hold up his red card. If this move is actually correct, he should hold up his green card and sit. Then, call on the next person to move a camper of his or her choosing to another corner. Each camper gets only one guess before play moves to another camper.

Play should continue until everyone is in a their “true” corner, sitting and holding their green card facing out. Added fun: play this game silently to see how quickly they can communicate and finish the game.

Note: it might take several turns before each camper is in his or her proper corner. You could shorten the game by choosing a small group of students who will just be “guessers” instead of playing and guessing at the same time.

A lesson learned

This is a great time to talk about judging people before we get to know them. You can use a couple of willing students as examples by pointing out where others thought they should go versus where they actually ended up.

#10: Get Your Life in Order

We know that summer camp is hectic. You might already be in the swing of major preparations even as you read this blog! That’s why we’ve created this super simple activity to help you break the ice with virtually no prep. We call this one “Get Your Life in Order” because it involves groups of campers lining themselves “in order” based off of the instructions you give them. You can do groups of any equal amount, but we suggest at least 4 per group. Simple as that! When you say “go,” the first team to get in the correct order wins. Keep going until the kids become friends!

Tell the groups of campers to get in order based on:

  •     Birthdays (earliest to latest in the year)
  •     State or town in which they were born (northernmost to southernmost)
  •     Height (tallest to shortest)
  •     Pets (most to least)
  •     Hair length (shortest to longest)
  •     Longest toes (shortest to longest)
  •     Parents’ age (youngest to oldest)

As you can see, you can do some easy rounds, like the birthday round, or some weird and silly rounds, like toe length. Either way, the summer campers will know each other by the end!

#11: Heads Up

Here’s yet another summer camp icebreaker that takes no prep at all. The object of this game is to gather all of the campers together and put them in a circle facing one another. For each round, the campers will simply look down at their laps until you scream out “Heads Up!” When the campers lift up their heads, they will look at another camper from across the circle. If they “meet eyes” with that camper, then both have to scream as loud and as long as they can. Whoever holds the scream the longest wins and the losing camper exits the circle.

As the circle contains fewer and fewer contestants, bring the campers in closer to one another. Keep going until there are only two contestants who, naturally, must look at each other when you yell “Heads Up!” As always, the longest scream wins the game!

If you like this post we suggest you check out out post on 27 Summer Camp Activities to Spice Up the Summer Camp Atmosphere! And feel free to browse our blog for ideas on Camp Programming, Camp Inspiration, and Camp Leadership.

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