Game Day

It is the community feel that distinguishes camps from one another. Each one is unique and made up of traditions, games, ceremonies or even camp jargon that kids remember and pass on to other campers.

One aspect of programming that some camps use is the all-camp Big Game or special event activity, which also works well for day camps.

Big Games are different from the traditional activity programming that is offered to children. Campers are usually divided into smaller groups and get to experience archery, arts and crafts, field games, nature, climbing, and so on.

Big Games can bring the entire camp together to experience a unique form of programming that encompasses hundreds of campers at a time and gives the counselors an opportunity to work together on a shared project.

Camp directors need to remember that role modeling for campers is not focused on the senior staff alone. Campers come into contact with all ages at camp. The how and when is normally designed by the program director.

The merging of ages in activities can be very positive if structured and supervised, and made easier by professional role models, your camp staff.

The Right Combo

To enhance your camp culture, provide the opportunity for older campers to have the ability to work with younger campers. It creates closeness in the camp and a role-modeled progression throughout the program.

All-camp games allow younger campers to see how older campers play, and provide for them a sense of achievement that they are playing the same game as older campers. Younger campers have met and want to be like older campers… Older campers remember that there is a responsibility that comes with having younger kids around.

Now on to the games! Most camps have similar programming. The golden oldies that most camps play in variations includes Capture the Flag, Counselor Hunt and Dutch Auction, to name a few.

The real fun, and the real indelible memories, comes from going beyond the basics and in order to include more imagination, more decision-making, more characters, and more winners. Games that encompass the entire staff, and all the campers, are easy to create if you follow a few steps:

1. Choose the story or theme for the game. All great games have a story line or theme — Wizard of Oz Day, Harry Potter Day, Medieval Day, Paul Bunyan Day, Pirates, Gold Rush, and others… Big event games can follow along with a day’s theme or stand alone as an evening or afternoon activity.

But to make it fun, first sit down and discuss the theme and brainstorm the story. Look for the details… What was the name of the pirate who came to camp and buried his gold? Why did he do it? Who was after him? Who were his crew? Why did he end up at camp? A great technique is to try storyboarding, which in our case at Camp Kern is the use of index cards and ideas to lay out the game.

Let no idea be squashed at this point in the process. It is important to get team input to get buy-in from those selected to help plan.

Any experienced program director remembers the program in their past that didn’t go well! Let’s avoid that by getting more people involved. This increases dedication and commitment to the game.

Another way to increase your chances for a successful game is to take themes that are in line with current themes in kids’ lives. This allows campers to identify easier with the characters and their objectives.

We created our Harry Potter Day game a few years ago and updated it with a Chamber of Secrets version this past summer. In addition, we created Pirates, which was perfect timing with the releases of some new pirate-theme movies. The flexibility and ease with which campers and staff identify with the project adds to its possible success.

2. Choose the type of Big game. Is this going to be an all-day theme game? Afternoon all-camp or evening activity?

It is important to decide the timing allotted to the game. The timing of the game allows the planning team to think of ways to build up anticipation and education for the game for the kids. An all-day game should start building up the day before. Here at Camp Kern, when we run our Harry Potter day, the campers receive acceptance letters to Hogwarts the night before. The letter outlines the basics of the day to follow after their sorting ceremony at flag raising.

The morning wake-up is the theme music from the movies over the camp’s PA system! For an evening game we introduce the concept of the game by dinner time. Counselors answer questions over dinner, or a skit might be put on for the kids during the meal.

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