How do you keep kids entertained and active all summer long at camp? You need a long list of fun, exciting, challenging ideas for summer camp activities that everyone will love. Great camp activities help build your program’s community spirit and offer something new to campers that keep them coming back every summer.
From games to crafts, projects, experiments, and more, here is a list of 27 programming activities that will engage and delight kids of all ages.
1. Field day
Kids of all ages love Field Day where they can try their hands at all sorts of outdoor challenges. Set up several stations with group activities like a three-legged race, water balloon hot potato, relay race with eggs on spoons, potato sack race, beanbag toss, sprinkler limbo, super soaker tag, etc. Use your imagination to come up with fun outdoor games that let the kids get wet, dirty, and exhausted. Group kids by cabins, start each at a single station and have them rotate to a new station when they hear the air horn blow.
2. Cabin carnival
Give kids time in the morning to brainstorm a fun carnival game they can create with things they find in their cabins or outside in nature. Then set aside the afternoon for the kids to rotate from cabin to cabin playing carnival games they made. Encourage their creativity by having the kids vote on their favorite games, and award first, second, and third place ribbons to the winners.
3. Junkyard Wars
Based on an old TV series from the early 2000s, give campers a task to build a machine using only the items you give them. For example, one that all kids love is to make a catapult with scrap lumber, ropes, cloth, etc. to launch water balloons at each other. Give them a couple of hours to build their catapult, with the showdown a head-to-head water balloon war.
4. Myth Busters
Concordia University has a list of safe myth buster projects for kids you can find here. Set up different stations using these ideas and have kids rotate between them, so they experience each one. For example, kids can discover everyday objects that are “dirtier than a toilet seat.” This one takes planning and requires an overnight piece to let germs grow, but it well worth the “yuck” factor kids love.
5. Alka-Seltzer rockets
What kid doesn’t love creating a rocket and launching it into space? And what could be better than an alkaline-seltzer powered rocket that uses simple parts and teaches a bit of science? PlayfulLearning.net has downloadable instructions and a template for rocket decorations. Kids can create their own rockets and measure whose goes the farthest.
6. Nature scavenger hunt
Scavenger hunts are always popular, and the more challenging you make it, the more engaged the kids will be. You can find plenty of printable lists of nature items for kids to find by Googling “nature scavenger hunt for kids.” No need to recreate the wheel when you have plenty of ready-made ones a click away. Pinterest is also a great place to find creative nature scavenger hunt ideas.
7. Water balloon dodge ball
Playing dodge ball is more fun when it involves water balloons. This is an excellent activity for those hot days at summer camp when the kids want a fun way to cool off. You can give teams different colored balloons and track which one has the most hits. Then have the top two teams square off for a final dodge ball war.
8. Ninja Warrior course
Let the kids create an obstacle course using items they find in and around camp. Boxes, tree stumps, climbing walls, chairs, and more can be incorporated into a challenging obstacle course. You can separate the kids into teams and have them relay race through the obstacle course. The first team with all members successfully through the course wins.
9. Human Foosball
This one requires preparation and construction to build your foosball court. You can find instructions and more information here. Once you get your court set up, though, kids will enjoy this fun teamwork activity every summer. You can play cabin teams against each other or set up rivalries between counselors and campers.
10. Talent show
Kids love showing off their incredible talents. All you need is a stage, microphone and speakers, and chairs for your audience. Give the kids free time in the morning to plan their acts and rehearse, then hold your talent show in the evening after dinner. Make it even more fun for the kids by supplying an assortment of props they can use in their act.
11. Solar oven cooking
S’mores aren’t just for campfires; kids can cook s’mores in their solar oven. You need aluminum foil, a pizza box, and a few other supplies to create an oven to melt s’mores into a gooey mess that kids love. Find instructions for building solar ovens here. This site even includes a printable sheet for kids to use the scientific method to test their creations.
Kids love creating erupting volcanoes. It’s a fun way to learn a little science and get muddy at the same time. You can find an easy outdoor volcano project here. All you need is a water bottle, baking soda, vinegar, and dirt. To make it even more fun, you can include a little red food coloring, so it looks like real lava spewing from the volcano.
Kids love working with wood and learning how to handle woodworking tools. Here is a collection of comfortable woodworking projects kids can make. You can start with simple projects, and as the children master safely using woodworking tools, you can move to more complex projects like birdhouses or hanging planters. It can be fun for kids to have several wood projects from their summers at camp.
14. The Beadery
Kids love making bracelets, necklaces, sun catchers, and more with beads. Stock your Beadery with wooden, plastic, metal, glass, and other beads, and offer plenty of stringing cords. Have a few designs on how to give the kids ideas and then set them loose to create their amazing pieces. You can also have a variety of cord, string, or yarn to show kids how to make friendship bracelets.
15. Bird feeders
A simple way to make bird feeders is covering an empty toilet paper roll with peanut butter, rolling it in bird seed and running a string through the middle for hanging. Or if you have a woodshed, you can make more complex bird feeders. Have the kids track the different kinds of birds that show up over the summer at their feeders. Make sure they have plenty of supplies to keep their feeders full. Create a printable sheet of birds in your area and have the kids check them off their list as they see them.
Another activity that doesn’t get old summer after summer is tie-dying. Parents Magazine shows ten simple ways you can tie-dye shirts to create stripes, dots, swirls, and more. After designing their tie-dyed shirts and following the instructions for curing and drying the dyed shirts, schedule a tie-dye day and have all kids dress in their shirts. You can have them vote for their favorite design, favorite colors, and more.
Kids naturally gravitate towards playing in the dirt, so use that desire to grow a garden. Use fast-growing seeds like green beans and give the kids time every day to tend their patch in the garden. Here are instructions on how to make your seed tape kids can plant in the garden. They’ll learn how food goes from farm to table and make it even more memorable by giving them the opportunity to cook the food they grow and serve it to their peers.
18. Indoor games
Have these indoor games in your back pocket for rainy days. Play balloon tennis with balloons, fly swatters, and a net or rope strung between chairs. Another fun indoor game is a DIY laser maze or an indoor golf course that the kids can build themselves. Give them plenty of boxes and cans and set them free to create a challenging indoor putt-putt course.
Introduce the kids to cooking. Start with simple projects like making ice cream in a bag or butter in a jar. Then graduate to Make Your Own Pizza Night. Don’t forget to incorporate your garden into your cooking ideas. Consider letting the kids learn how to make regional dishes from different countries to try. You could encourage your kids to come back each summer to try food from another country.
Let the kids write their story ideas on a piece of paper, then fold them up and put them in a jar or a hat. You could separate the kids by cabins or let them choose their partners to work together to act out the story prompt they pick. Again, provide plenty of props to help them be creative and explore their theatrical sides.
21. Field trips
Don’t forget to schedule fun field trips nearby. Ideas include touring a fire station, factory, or recycling facility. Museums, libraries, or zoos make great field trips and don’t forget to take kids to local water parks or the movies if you can. Or schedule a tour to a local farm to pick berries, corn, or other food they can eat for dinner that evening.
Much like a Field Day, your Olympics should include plenty of familiar games and sports. Use a mixture of individual sports like a hundred-yard dash or swimming two laps in the pool and team sports like soccer, kickball, or volleyball. You can have cabins compete against each other and attend an awards ceremony at the end of the day for the first, second, and third place teams and individuals.
23. Game show
Choose a different game show each summer and create the props needed for the kids to play. Or you could let the kids create their game show complete with the accessories, rules, and a set for performing. Take some ideas from Nickelodeon game shows here. Consider putting on trivia shows indoors on rainy days, and the messier pie-in-the-face game shows outdoors when weather permits.
24. Camp newspaper
Start a camp newspaper. Have the kids brainstorm the different sections they want like news articles, features stories, editorials, sports, classified, etc. They might even want to include a daily crossword puzzle. Choose different campers each day to create the newspaper and make enough copies to hand out to everyone.
Camp wouldn’t be complete without a campfire. It’s a time to make s’mores, sing camp songs, and hear ghost stories. Today’s Parent has a listing of 8 campfire songs every kid should learn. Also, don’t forget some of these fun campfire games that don’t need a lot of prep work to play. Take advantage of campfires to show the kids how to make fun and easy meals like a hobo dinner over the fire.
Play the “what if” game to encourage children to come up with their creative inventions. For example, ask the kids, “What if when you flushed the toilet, it whisked you away to China?” Give them time together to brainstorm their invention ideas, and have them create a name, slogan, and sales pitch. You could offer ribbons for categories like Most Creative, Most Useful, etc.
27. Life-sized board games
Another fun activity is creating life-sized board games the kids can play. For example, use spray paint on the grass to map out a checkers board with the kids as the pieces. Or spray paint a tic-tac-toe board and have the kids represent X’s and O’s. If you have older kids, you could create a chess board and have the kids be the pawns, rooks, Bishop, etc. for an to make an interactive activity.
Your summer activities program can be the highlight of your kids’ summer. These ideas should give you plenty of ways to create a memorable camp experience—one that keeps kids coming back summer and summer.
We’d like to hear your unique ideas for summer camp activities. What are some great ideas we should add to this list?