5 Summer Camp Activities All Staff Should Know

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Group of kids smiling, outside.

Summer camp activities are something that every counselor and staff member should know and if you don’t have a list of activities that are ready for use, have no fear! You’re in the right place. I’m so confident in these ideas that I almost went with the title “what to do when you suspect that your campers are about to revolt against you because they are bored” but that gets a little bit too wordy.

We’ve all been there my friend! Whether it’s a rainy day, just too blazing hot outside or the campers need to wait in the lunch line for a while, it’s good to have a few great summer camp activities up your sleeve.

In-the-cabin activities like board or card games, coloring, reading and napping are all excellent ways to pass the time but they don’t work in every situation. These 5 summer camp activities can all be used whenever the need strikes! Outside, inside, or even in transit from place to place.


woman making shadow puppets on wall with children and man.

Memorize stories so that these entertainment bombs can be deployed at a moment’s notice. Find a book filled with short stories, keep a few personal anecdotes handy or listen to story forward podcasts. The Moth or Super Great Kid’s Stories are on Spotify, iTunes or online and provide some awesome story inspiration.

No matter your campers’ ages a good story never disappoints. It might even spark them to share some stories of their own with the group. Storytelling can also be especially useful when the campers need sleep, but the energy won’t leave. Shorter stories are great while you’re waiting in line for the next activity or for lunch.

Make an awesome handshake with the cabin!

Making a handshake with the cabin is a great activity in my humble opinion. Imagine with me. It’s line call at the flagpole or in your village. Attendance is called, your cabin steps forward, says “all present”, then step back in line. That’s it.

Now let’s imagine this same scenario but with your cabin’s personalized handshake. Your group is called, and the entirety of the cabin execute their amazing handshake! There’s even a chant that goes along with the beat of the high fives. The crowd goes wild! It’s a smashing success! Can you see it? I sure can!

Handshakes that include all the campers’ names can be useful for when you do a personal count of your cabin. Yes, you can number them all off, but you usually need to get them still and quite first. (That will likely take a bit of time. Trust me, I’ve done it!) Don’t despair though! You can call a sound off and have them all do their specialized handshake with each other. If a camper is missing you’ll hear about it quickly and it’s more fun for everyone!

The Almighty Scavenger Hunt

I know I said that these summer camp activities involve no equipment and I stand by that! You don’t need anything specific to be able to do a scavenger hunt and you will always have access to a random object that your campers can search for inside or outside.

If you’re stuck in the cabin (or a set location outdoors), try doing a “hide-and-seek” style scavenger hunt. Pick a unique object like a stuffed animal, multicolored ball, hair tie, stick, marker, or any other random knick-knack that you can find. Make sure that your campers know what it is!

Place your object somewhere in the cabin while all your campers or “seekers” are outside or have their eyes closed. Then bring them back into the cabin to search for the object. All the seekers sit on their own bunks and search for the object in the room then raise their hand or walk over and grab it when they find it. Less rifling through belongings equals less mess. With this searching method campers’ belongings are safe from their peers.

Alphabet scavenger hunts (find something that starts with specific letters of the alphabet) and prompt hunts (find something with legs, something that’s brown, something that makes noise etc.) are also great options.

Word Games

Small group of kids sitting in the grass talking.

You’ve run out of icebreakers and need some conversation starting activities. Word games are here for you! You can start by asking for suggestions from your cabin. Campers are super creative! Kids know all kinds of word games. They pick them up at school or out in the wild. However, putting a camper on the spot can sometimes make all the bright ideas run away for a little bit. Knowing some word games for yourself can come in handy at those times so I’ve got a few to start you off.

Fortunately, Unfortunately

This is a story building game that is great for thinking up optimistic situations. The first player says something unfortunate like “unfortunately the campers alarm did not go off that morning and now they are late to roll call.”

It is now the next players job to say something fortunate like “Fortunately the directors alarm didn’t go off either, so the cabin showed up right when the director did.”

Next is something unfortunate. “Unfortunately, after roll call, a camper tripped in their rush to get to breakfast.”

“Fortunately, they landed on a bed of marshmallows.” The game continues as long as you want it to. You hold the power!

– Would you Rather…?

Players are asked a question like, “would you rather go tubing behind the boat or go horseback riding?”

Then each camper can think on the question and answer with which one they would rather do. Pretty straightforward. Go around the group so that everyone has a chance to ask a “would you rather” question.

– Hesitation

Pick a category like animals, countries or food. Make sure that it is a long list. Now each player names something in that category without hesitation or repetition of what has already been said. If you hesitate for too long or repeat you are out of the game. Last one standing wins.

By the end of this game, you may find yourself scrambling to think of something to say on your next turn. Your campers might already know how to play this and if so, the kids probably play with a pretty sweet poem and hand clapping sequence. Ask them to teach it to you!

Use the alphabet for a different game version. Pick a topic, then the first player names something that starts with the first letter of the alphabet. For instance, the first players letter is “A”, and the topic is animals so the player might say anaconda. The second players letter is “B” so they might say bear and so on and so forth. When a player hesitates for too long, or can’t think of something to say, they are out. That letter is then passed to the next player. For instance, the third player has the letter “C” and can’t think of an animal. They are out and player four now has the letter “C” they say cat and the game continues until the last person standing wins.

These are only a couple fun examples but again, if you’re stuck ask your campers and fellow staff for ideas, people have been creating word games for a long time! (If people are scarce, you can find some more ideas here.)

Plan out acts of kindness.

Working at camp is awesome but the workload can get a little overwhelming sometimes. If your cabin has willingness and just a little bit of creativity, they have what it takes to do some acts of kindness. Do some brainstorming with your cabin about who you appreciate around camp. It could be the kitchen staff, the nurse, the village directors, the custodian… anybody!

Once you have your list of people or departments, think of ways to say thank you or lighten their workload. You might do the dishes for the kitchen staff, write thank you notes for the nurse, draw pictures for your director or clean the bathrooms for your custodian.

Planning these acts out can be fun but doing them with a willing cabin is even MORE fun especially when the campers come up with ideas of their own.

Wrap it up!

There you go peoples! These are just a few summer camp activities to put a halt to the next camper uprising. With these tools in your arsenal, you will be able to keep the troops having fun even while waiting in line or waiting for the next awesome program to start. Happy summer camping!

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