30 Fun Summer Camp Activities for Kids
Summer is almost here and that means it’s time to get ready for camp! Many kids look forward to having adventures at camp and return each year to see their favorite counselors and friends. Summer camps give kids an opportunity to make new memories in a fun, safe place. Be sure to pack all the gear that they will need for a fun and safe summer camp adventure.
Camp organizers spend months planning before all those kids arrive, and activities are an exciting part of any summer experience. Whether you need a quick game to fill time or you’re looking for a more involved activity that will keep them busy for hours, there are plenty of ideas here for you and your campers. Here are 30 fun ideas for summer camp that include active outside games, water activities, crafts, drama, and even indoor options.
- Cardboard Box Car Races - In this fun activity, kids design their own cars out of cardboard boxes. Plan ahead by asking staff members (and even your families) to save big cardboard boxes and bring them to camp. Then, supply kids with tape, construction paper, pipe cleaners, poofs, and any other kind of supply they could need to turn their box into a car. Cut holes in the bottom for their legs to make these cars kid-powered! Then, they simply wear their cardboard box cars for a series of races. Design racetracks for their “cars” using orange cones or spray paint designed for grass.
- Myth Busters - Inspired by the popular show, design activities around myths, such as, “Can you really cook an egg on the sidewalk if it’s hot enough outside?” or “Is yawning really contagious?” Choose myth buster activities that don’t require a ton of special equipment, such as these 14 activities.
- Scavenger Hunts - An easy and fun activity - scavenger hunts can be used in all sorts of ways to keep kids entertained. Do an outdoor scavenger hunt by using a list of things to look for in nature. Kids can either collect a list of objects or simply check off items they’ve found. An indoor scavenger hunt can be used the same way on a particularly hot day.
Another fun activity is to use a deck of scavenger hunt cards and turn this into a game. Call out what is on the card and have kids race to touch an object that meets the description.
- Ninja Warrior Course - Obstacle courses are more popular than ever. Create a fun “Ninja Warrior” course by setting up an obstacle course for kids around an open field or area. Anything can be used here, such as chairs, boxes, pop-up tunnels, orange traffic cones and more. Kids can wear ninja headbands colored to their teams to make it a team activity or just decorate their own ninja headbands beforehand and wear them while racing through the obstacle course.
- Talent Show - Every kid has something special they can share! Give kids plenty of time to think about what they could do for the talent show and prepare their act. Set up a stage area and a place for your audience to sit. Have someone act as the MC to introduce the acts and give kids their moment in the spotlight. For kids who don’t know what to do, help them discover a special talent or supply a custom or prop to get them inspired. Check out these talent show ideas for kids.
- Children’s Theatre - Kids love to take the stage! Separate kids into groups and let them create a stage play (or get some play scripts to follow) showcasing a story such as, “Three Little Pigs” or “Little Red Riding Hood.” They’ll need plenty of time to practice before the big show. Simple costumes and props can be used or their performances can tell the story. You can even involve campers in setting up props and costumes for the play. Plan activities leading up to the plays, so they are familiar with the stories.
- Water Balloon Dodgeball - It’s going to get hot outside this summer. Water games are a fun way to keep kids cool and busy. Water balloons are easier than ever to inflate, thanks to sets like this that allow you to inflate dozens of water balloons in seconds. Then, place buckets of water balloons around a designated area, and have kids get in position for a simple dodgeball game! Any kids that are tagged are “out” or you just let them go until all the water balloons are used up.
- Sumo Suit Wrestling - This activity might be more of an investment, but the payout is well worth it. You can rent or buy inflatable sumo suits for kids to wrestle in a safe, padded area. The suits protect them when they do fall down, too, for a fun game sure to result in loads of laughter. Have kids take turns sumo wrestling to find your sumo winner. Try to keep matches fair by grouping kids by size and strength.
- Paper Bag Puppet Show - What’s better than watching a puppet show? Making your own! Give kids simple supplies: lunch-sized paper bags, construction paper, poufs, googly eyes, pipe cleaners, etc., and let them design paper bag puppets. Then, they can either follow simple scripts for kids or just create their own puppet shows with their friends. Create or pick up a simple puppet show stage for them to use to act out their shows.
- Crafting with Beads - Creating with beads is a very soothing activity for all types of children, especially kids who may be on the spectrum or have ADHD. Supply lots of different types of beads, as well as soft thread strong enough to hold the beads. Let kids create necklaces, bracelets, or whatever they want and then wear (or gift) their designs.
- Balloon Tennis - Make popular sports accessible for everyone with adaptations like balloon tennis. Use fly swatters or tennis rackets and inflated balloons for a slower, softer, easier version of tennis. Let kids play with their friends or divide them into teams. Since the balloons are less of a safety hazard, you can place all the teams on a large field at the same time.
- Cooking Class - Many kids really enjoy cooking and baking. Inspire their inner chefs by offering short cooking classes with simple recipes that kids can make and then eat. They are much more likely to enjoy a meal they have made themselves! Easy recipes for your campers could include fruit skewers, simple pizzas, ice cream sundaes, no-bake cookies, tortilla roll-ups with their choice of filling (such as peanut butter and sliced bananas, etc.) and yogurt bark.
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- Camping for the Day - Enjoy camping during the day by making teepees, doing a nature scavenger hunt, and making s’mores using a solo stove or firepit!
- Genius Day - Kids grow up seeing the famous inventions of brilliant people around them. Give them an opportunity to be the genius and have Genius Day. Tell kids in advance to think about an invention that they could make to improve something in their lives or at the camp. If they need any special supplies, gather them in advance or ask families to provide some items to help them out. Then, on Genius Day, give kids plenty of time to create inventions before presenting them to others. To build excitement, have kids decorate their own thinking caps to wear on Genius Day.
- Dr. Seuss STEM Week - A great way to incorporate reading, science, and hands-on learning is to do activities inspired by Dr. Seuss books! You could do just one of the activities or do one a day for a week. Start by reading the book and then talking through what you would need to do the science experiment in the book. Supply all materials and let kids create their Ooblek or design their apple boats. Here are 10 Dr. Seuss STEM activities to get you started.
- Animal Charades - Charades is a great way for kids to use their imagination and have fun! Put names of animals on separate small strips of paper and put them in a bucket or hat. Then, have kids take turns pulling a sheet of paper, acting out the animal, while the other kids yell out guesses. The kid who gets the animal right gets to go next.
- Cat & Mouse - In this popular game, everyone but two kids form a circle — standing far enough apart so that players can stretch arms to hold hands. The two players will be running through these spaces between players. One of the two is the cat and the other is the mouse. The cat tries to catch the mouse. They can run between players, but once one of them runs between players, those players close up so there is no space.
As the game proceeds, more spaces will close up. If one of the two players gets trapped inside the circle, the other player wins. If both are trapped inside or outside, the group counts to ten and the cat tries to catch the mouse. If they do, they win. Otherwise, the mouse wins. Select two new players and play again.
- Flashlight Limbo - Sometimes, playing a game in the dark is just more fun. Turn off the lights inside and use a strong flashlight to create a limbo “beam” instead of a bar. Play music and have kids take turns going under the beam without falling or touching the ground with their hands. Slowly move the limbo light lower to the ground until you have a winner.
- Treasure Hunt - They’re all pirates and they want to find the treasure! Lead up to the hunt by letting kids create their own pirate hats. Then, create a treasure full of treats, play jewelry and gold coins and put the items in a little treasure chest or box. Alternatively, hide supplies needed for their next game as the treasure.
When they open it, you can seamlessly move on to the next activity. Hide the treasure somewhere within your camp and design a treasure map that kids can use to work in teams and find it. Be sure to discuss the limits of the hunt, so kids don’t wander off the property or into an unsafe area.
- Parachute Games - Kids of all ages enjoy playing with a parachute. There are so many ways you can use a parachute to help kids focus and get them working together. From lifting the parachute up and down, to working together to keep a beach ball on the parachute and even lifting the parachute up, moving inside and then closing it, so they’re inside a big colorful globe. A parachute makes for an easy filler game - with almost no prep required but the parachute and enough space to use it.
- Counselor Fashion Show - Need an inside game on a rainy or hot day? Dress up your camp counselors! Split up the kids into groups designed around your number of camp counselors. Each group gets to create a costume for their counselor. It can be a theme, such as a famous person, or it can be a costume of their choosing, such as toilet paper bride or an astronaut.
Let kids create a costume for their counselor and when all the costumes are ready, designate a stage area for the counselors. Blast the music and let the kids cheer for their counselors as they strut the runway. Kids can vote to award the counselors with the winning design and best moves on the runway.
- Water Sponge Tag - Pick up small sponges at the dollar store or have kids craft little water sponges to use. Fill buckets with water and station them around the tag area. Have kids play tag by tossing their water sponges at each other. Of course, it’ll become difficult to track who is “it” after a few seconds or minutes, so pretty much everyone is it. Ask kids to try to avoid faces, though, to prevent any possible injuries.
- Fireman’s Relay - A slightly more organized water game that is still fun, kids will enjoy playing Fireman’s Relay. To start, form a line with the first player 10 feet from a water hose. Every kid has a large plastic cup. A large bucket sits at the end of the line. The first player uses the hose to fill a cup. Then, they pour their cup into the second person’s cup, who does the same. Kids continue to pour their cup into the next person’s until the end when the last person dumps the water into the bucket.
- Blob Tag - Blob Tag is a fun variation on the classic tag game. Every tagged player holds hands with the rest of the tagged players and they must run together to tag more people to join their blob. The last person to get tagged by the blob wins.
- Stone Painting - It’s likely there are plenty of stones near your camp and they make for an excellent and easy craft activity. Have kids select the smoothest stones they’d like to paint. Then, provide materials to paint them. After the stones have dried, kids can place them around the camp area for other campers to find, near a nearby river bed, or leave them anonymously around their neighborhood as gifts.
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- Capture the Flag - Kids love to play this classic game. The goal is to capture the other team’s flag. Divide your group into two and designate a play area. Each team hides their flag on one side of the playing area. Teams work together to find the other team’s flag. Meanwhile, team members do not want to get tagged by members of the opposing team. If tagged, they must go to "jail" — a designated area on the opposing team’s side. They can only get out of jail if someone on their team can manage to tag and free them without being tagged by an opposing team member. The game ends when the time is up or when one team captures the other team’s flag.
- Sardines - A fun version of Hide ‘n Seek with a twist, in Sardines only one person hides. Everyone searches for the person and if they find them, they hide with them. The last player to find them is the first person to hide on the next round.
- Storyteller - Kids are natural storytellers. This game requires no prep or props, so you can use it anytime you need a quick activity. Have everyone sit in a circle. A counselor starts a story that sets the scene, such as, “Last summer, right at this camp, something mysterious happened…” Then, each camper adds a sentence until the story ends. If the story ends before each player has a turn, start a new story.
- Don’t Set Off the Alarm - In a hallway, use strips of paper or tape to create a maze, similar to those scenes in movies where people have to get through a hallway without tripping an alarm. Then, time students as they try to make it through the hallway without touching any of the paper/tape to see who can do it the fastest.
- Nature Art - This easy activity just requires basic art supplies and paper. Take kids outside and give them a designated area to wander and find something in nature that inspires them. Then, they can recreate the object or area using their drawing or painting supplies. When they’re finished with their art, make sure to display them inside so kids can enjoy everyone’s creations.
Games and activities are a big part of the summer camp experience. Whether you plan ahead or leave some room in your schedule to pick games that suit your group, you’ll be sure to have the best summer camp around with this list that will keep them active, engaged, and interested in what’s coming next.
Erica Jabali is a freelance writer and blogs over at ispyfabulous.com.