Great camp theme days transform a camper’s experience. Not everyone will remember what they did on the third Monday of camp. But, if that Monday was Backward day who could forget that ocassion?
Fun themes stick in campers’ minds and help build your camp’s community spirit. At reunions, memorable theme days inspire stories that start with: “Hey, remember that time…”
Chances are you and your campers have your favorite camp theme days. But there might be a few you’re looking to replace and spice up with a new, novel theme. Hopefully, these 19 ideas help get the creative juices flowing!
Summer camp provides young people with a chance to explore new places, but you can bring even more adventure by extending this exploration beyond your camp’s welcome gate. Take campers on a tour of the sights, sounds, and oddities of different states across the US. You can choose states near your camp or one that’s further away. If you run a sleepaway camp, you can choose the states where your campers live. Set up a variety of activities and stations around camp, one for each state. Here are a few ideas:
- Change Your Menu – Every state (or region) has its own unique cuisine. Spice up your menu with some hometown favorites.
- A Visit from State Icons – Who (or what) are your state’s icons? For instance, in Pennsylvania, Punxsutawney Phil might make “appearances” at your camp.
- Landmarks – Teach campers about different states’ landmarks and then give them fun supplies to build miniature versions.
Shark Week Day
Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week” is more popular than ever. Integrate shark-related activities during a Shark Week-themed day.
- Race the Shark – Dress up a counselor (or swim instructor) in shark garb, and see which campers can give the shark a run for its money.
- Shark Tooth Crafts – There’s nothing quite as pirate-y as a shark tooth necklace. So let your campers inspire their inner pirates with faux shark tooth crafts.
- Shark trivia – Research some fun facts about sharks, split your campers into teams and see who can guess the right answers.
Shark Tank Day
Do you have any future inventors at camp? Let them flex those entrepreneur muscles during a Shark Tank day. Organize groups of inventors and give them the chance to brainstorm ideas to pitch at a Shark Tank-style pitch meeting.
- The Marshmallow Challenge is a simple team-building project. Teams get 20 dry spaghetti noodles, a yard of tape, and a marshmallow to try and build the tallest structure.
- Showcase history inventors by dressing counselors up as famous inventors and let campers explore each innovator’s contributions.
- Encourage campers to invent solutions for real-world problems, then see which ideas can make a deal in Camp Shark Tank.
Some camps have rural locations that provide a haven for campers to get back to nature and are in close proximity to food growers, which makes these the perfect place for local food explorations.
- Get Dirty in the Garden – A camp garden is a living, breathing classroom. Make it a camp community project, and have campers plan and tend to the garden. (Just make sure you’re planting fast-growing veggies, so they can appreciate the fruits of their labors.)
- Taste “Local” at the Farmer’s Market – Is there a farmer’s market nearby? Go on a food scavenger hunt and see what your campers find.
- Let Your Camp’s Master Chefs Compete – Split campers up into groups and have them create restaurant-worthy dishes. A twist: They only have an hour to create a dish – and they won’t know what ingredients they’ll be using.
Your Wildest Adventure Day
Bring the adventure to camp with extreme sports races, adventure field trips, and themed activities.
- A Race with a Twist – Let teams try all the adventure sports during a canoe/hiking/ropes course/mountain biking race.
- Go on an Adventure – Are you near a whitewater rafting, rock climbing, or cliff diving hotspot? Take a trip and let campers loose.
- Take an Overnight in the Woods – A backpacking trip – now that’s an adventure.
Run your camp day in reverse! Teach songs with backward lyrics, and have campers wear name tags with their names spelled backward. There are hilarious ways to do so many activities in reverse. You can play sports where the fewest points win, have slow races, and eat meals with dessert first.
Some camps are lucky enough to be near a beach, but many others are not. That’s no worry—the beach is a state of mind. Blow up some beach balls, find a spot to catch some rays (preferably near water), and enjoy some fun in the sun.
- Sand Sculptures Competition – There’s no need to call in a truckload of sand. All you need is a bucket or two for your campers to create sand sculptures.
- Bonfire on the “Beach” – Host a bonfire near the water with Hawaiian-inspired treats. Have some Hawaiian shirts in the costume closet, too? Pull ’em out!
- Call in the Lifeguards – Get your counselors to inspire the spirit of the day, by dressing up in SoCal lifeguard-inspired costumes.
Treasure Hunters Day
Does your camp have any legends of hidden treasures? Maybe not, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start one. Excite your campers and spend a treasure-themed day in search of amazing finds.
- Scavenger Hunts Galore – Send campers on a scavenger hunt around camp in search of treasures of nature.
- Geocaching for “Treasures” – Set up a geocaching course and let your campers put those GPS units to work.
- Pirates Make an Appearance – Counselors can take to the High Seas and dress up in pirate garb. Hey, and after dinner, maybe someone’s unlucky enough to walk the plank (into the lake).
Obstacle Course Day
Here’s a team that’s one part athletics, one part friendly competition, and a whole lot of fun. Let campers spend the day completing obstacle courses. Build fun (and safe) courses and have teams compete for the title.
- Try Out Martial Arts – Give campers a morning wake-up with Tai Chi to get into the spirit of the day.
- Encourage Team-Building – Build courses designed for relay teams, so everyone can get in on the fun.
- Make Mini-Courses – Provide supplies
Dancing with the Stars Day
Let campers explore their choreography creativity during Dancing With the Stars Day. Host dance workouts, play Dance Dance Revolution, teach popular dances through history, and let groups compete to put together the most compelling routine.
- Hip Hop Abs – Host a dance-inspired aerobics class for your campers.
- Counselor Dance-Offs – Which counselor has the best moves? You’ll find out during the Counselor Dance Off.
- Dancing Under the Stars – End the day with an outdoor dance party where campers can show off the moves they’ve learned.
Escape the Day
Escape rooms engage campers’ problem-solving skills like nothing else. And an added bonus: They’re tons of fun. So create an escape room (or two) and have teams compete to see who’s the slyest of them all.
- Puzzle the Competition – Get everyone warmed up with some morning riddles, brain-benders and problem-solving puzzles.
- Escape the Sun – Take the “escape” theme to the next level with a relaxing indoor yoga session.
- Escape Room Ideas – What will your room’s theme be? How about escaping from zombies, defusing a bomb, solving a crime, or escaping from a haunted camp bunk?
Camp’s Got Talent
Take your camp talent shows to new heights with a Camp (Name)’s Got Talent day. Host fun, friendly competitions throughout the day, and hold auditions for your “talent” show. Then, feature the big reveal at the end of the day.
- Hold Auditions – Let each act show off what they’ve got, and then let crowd response determine if they’ve got what it takes to move on.
- Counselor Talent Competitions – Inspire friendly competition with a dinnertime staff talent show.
- Host Your Talent Show – At the end of the day, turn camp into the set of America’s Got Talent, and then feature the day’s best acts in a battle for the most talented camper.
Halloween is a great holiday, but there’s no need to wait until October to get in on the fun.
- Give campers all sorts of supplies and encourage them to create their own costumes
- Make healthy snacks and do cabin trick-or-treating
- Create a haunted camp and have campers travel in groups to see if you can scare them
- Sit around the campfire and tell scary stories
Full Moon Jamboree
City-dwelling campers might not get to see the stars back home. During this astronomy-themed day, give them a chance to experience and learn about what’s above. One hint: Choose an event like a full moon or meteor shower to get everyone excited.
- Dance Around the Full Moon – Celebrate the full moon around the campfire, and see if any werewolves show up.
- Take a Moonlit Hike – Take advantage of the extra nighttime light during a moonlit hike.
- Learn About the Constellations – Teach your campers about constellations during the day, and then see who can point out the most at night.
Split your camp into groups and let them compete during a Survivor-like competition. Obstacle courses, puzzles, and team-building exercises all are perfect for Survivor Day.
- Give Your Group Names – Each team should have a chance to name themselves, and be sure each team has a color.
- Obstacle Courses and Relay Races – Get each group involved with team-oriented races and courses.
- Hold Meetings – Review the day’s highlights and give prizes and awards to the tribes who’ve earned the most points throughout the day.
Art through the Ages Day
Today, camp is all things art. Campers get a chance to put their creativity to work. So come up with fun projects that enable campers to express themselves.
- Hold a Paint and Sip – Open a fruit smoothie bar, and let campers have their own paint and sip event.
- Organize Groups by Movements – Group teams according to artist movements – cubists, impressionists, pop artists, surrealists and expressionists – and have counselors dress in costumes that represent the movement.
- Creating Found Art Collages – Encourage your budding artists to create collages that represent themselves – the catch: they can only use materials found around camp.
Fear Factor Day
Fear Factor hasn’t been on the air for years, but it still makes for a great themed day at camp. During Fear Factor Day, campers get to face their fears during fun-themed competitions and challenges.
- Host a Haunted Campfire – Tonight is the perfect night for campfire ghost stories.
- Touch and Taste Your Fears – Fried mealworms, crickets, and other bugs – give campers a chance to eat bugs.
- A Spooky Obstacle Course – Organize an obstacle course that features freak-out elements, like counselors that jump out and high ropes elements.
Turn camp into Hollywood and spend a night with your camp’s stars. You might host a camper-created film festival, a red carpet event, and “celebrities” might show up at mealtimes.
- Let the Paparazzi Loose – Give a staff member (or photo-buff camper) the chance to go full TMZ and snap candid shots of your camp’s celebrities. Before the film fest, host a red carpet event and let campers pose for the paparazzi.
- A Floating Film Fest – Take your film fest poolside with a floating movie screen. You can even showcase movies created by campers during the event!
- Staff Impersonators Get a Chance to Shine – At lunch and dinner, the celebrities should show up. Play a game of Celebrity Jeopardy, if you’ve got enough “movie stars” on staff.
A Day of Mindfulness
Spend the day learning the art of mindfulness. Meditation, yoga and pilates, mindful eating and empathy – all skills your campers will be learning during this relaxing day.
- Start the Day with Sunrise Yoga – Hire a yoga instructor who can lead your campers on guided yoga sessions. And set up the class in unique and inspiring locations, i.e. lakeside or in the middle of the woods.
- Give Guided Meditation Lessons – Today, teach your campers how they can relax and unwind with guided meditations. In small groups, have counselors lead visualization and meditation sessions that seek to calm the mind.
- What Are You Grateful For? Have campers create collages and artwork that show thankfulness.
Time Traveler Day
Every camp seems to host decade-themed days – the 60s, 70s or 80s, for instance. But what if you could pack them all into one? You can with a time traveler theme.
- Let Your Counselors Travel Through Time – Have counselors change costumes throughout the day, depending on the period of history campers have entered.
- Host Staff Skits to Highlight Each Era – Are you entering the Roaring 20s? Staffers might host a Gatsby-inspired skit that brings the history of the 1920s to life.
- Capture the Flag History – Create a capture the flag game based on a historical era – the Age of Pirates is great.
Camp Theme Days Are The Most Memorable Part of Camp, Make Them Count
A great theme can create memories that last a lifetime. But sometimes, those themes you’ve been using summer after summer has overstayed their welcome. Keep things fresh with a new theme. Hopefully, these 19 suggestions give you some ideas.