On hot summer afternoons when the sun is baking the playing fields and a group’s turn for swimming is over, camp counselors wonder what they can do with restless campers. Here are some activities that are made for the shade.
There are three types of activities included here–variations of circle games, nature exploration and storytelling. Certainly there are additional games in each category.
For each of these games, campers sit in a circle on the ground or floor and choose one person to be “it.” Campers of all ages can play for as long as the group is interested.
· What Is Different?
The person designated as “it” stands in the center of the circle so the campers observe his/her appearance. Then “it” goes out of sight of the group and makes one small change to his/her appearance, such as putting shoes on the wrong feet, taking glasses off or changing hair. When “it” returns to the circle, the other campers try to guess what has changed.
· Honey, I Love You
“It” stands in front of a person in the circle and says, “Honey, I love you but I just can’t smile,” while trying to get that person in the circle to smile. If the person does not smile, “it” goes on to another person, continuing until someone in the circle smiles. That person then becomes “it.”
· Find The Leader
The “it” person leaves the circle and turns his/her back on the rest of the campers. In the circle, one camper is identified as the leader. That person creates a rhythm (by patting legs, snapping fingers, tapping head, etc.) for the rest of the group to follow. The leader will change the motion periodically and the other children will follow. Once everyone in the circle is doing the rhythm, have “it” return to the circle, and try to figure out who the rhythm leader is. Once “it” identifies the leader, a new “it” and “leader” are selected for another round.
These nature exploration activities can be done sitting or standing in one place. They do not involve lots of moving around or long walks–except a short walk to get to a place to explore.
· I Spy
Have the group sit in a circle and choose one person to be “it.” That person then selects an item in nature that he/she can see and says, “I spy something yellow or green or alive, etc.” The rest of the group asks questions which can be only answered by “yes” or “no.” When the item is guessed, the person who guessed correctly gets to be “it” and chooses the next item.
· Make A Sound Map
Take the group to a shady spot away from most of the sounds of camp life, and distribute paper, pencils and a hard surface to each camper. Have each camper find a place to sit a short distance from others, and mark an X in the middle of the paper to represent themselves. Tell campers to be quiet and to listen to the natural sounds around them. Whenever they hear a sound, they put a mark on the paper to show where the sound is coming from and what they think is making the sound. Give campers as much time as they can stay focused. Then gather them together, and invite them to talk about how many and what sounds they heard. If the group has access to field guides to scout out birds and other wildlife, they can find out more about the source of the sound.
· Take A Micro Hike
Go to a natural setting within the camp. Give all the campers a 15-inch piece of string or yarn, and have them make a circle with it on the ground. Then each camper explores what is inside the circle. Encourage them to observe what kinds of dirt, plants, creatures or evidence of creatures they see. Have campers dig and observe what the second level of the ground is like. When they are finished, have the campers fill in the holes they have dug, and return the ground to the way it was when they arrived. Encourage them to talk about their discoveries.
Sometimes the simple act of reading a book or making up stories is overlooked. Keep a supply of story books on hand for staff to read on hot afternoons.
· Read A Book
Find a comfortable place to sit in the shade. Choose a book from the camp library or a favorite you or a camper has brought to camp. You can read a short book every day or read a chapter or two a day from a longer book.
· Add A Line
Sit in a circle and choose someone to begin a story. Explain that each person will add one or two sentences to the story. Go around the circle as many times as necessary to finish the story. A variation of this activity is to have the group brainstorm words before they start. Record each word on an index card, and give each camper one of the cards. Each person then incorporates that word into the story when it is his/her turn.
· Answer A Question
Prior to this activity, make up a set of index cards with a question on each card. The questions should help campers tell something about themselves: What pets do you have? What is your favorite musical group? What is your favorite food? The questions can also be more difficult for older campers: What do you think is the greatest threat to the world today? If you could save one group of people in the world, who would you save? How? What do you want to do when you grow up? Why?
Find a comfortable place to sit outside, and encourage campers one at a time to select a card and answer the question. Counselors can begin by answering the first question.
Nancy Ferguson is an Outdoor Ministries consultant specializing in the creation of program resources for faith-based camps. She is the author of several books, including Training Staff to be Spiritual Leaders. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org