Top Programming Ideas 2004

Each camp year brings with it the usual struggle to not only maintain quality programming, but to tweak and revitalize it year after year.

Even the seemingly small stuff can make a big difference. It’s those little dashes of creative changes that can provide greater camper retention.

So we asked camp and program directors and experts from all over, representing just about every camp experience, for their input on camp programming.

Our contributors were kind enough to offer their perspectives and ideas. We’re running as much as space allows and hope you find something that helps. If you happen to meet up with one of these great camp professionals, please let them know you appreciate their input.

If you have any great ideas, or you’re looking for more information, please let us know. E-mail us at, call (830) 257-1012 or fax (830) 257-1020.

Great Time Killers

Look Down, Look Up: Sometimes we need a little game just to kill five or ten minutes waiting in line so we’ll play Look Down, Look Up.

Play with a minimum of three people. The more the merrier. Everyone stands in a tight circle. The leader says “Look down,” and everyone looks at the ground. When the leader says, “Look up”, everyone looks up, focusing their gaze on anyone else’s eyes. If that other person happens to be looking back, both are out. If you are looking at someone who is looking at someone else, you keep playing. Goes quick, makes you laugh.

Pebbles: Surely this game has a distinguished origin, so let’s just say Plato and his students used to sit around and kill time with this one while waiting in line for lunch. Best with no more than two or three players. Pick up a random number of pea-gravel pebbles, but at least 10. The first player may remove one, two or three rocks from the pile. The next player then removes one, two or three rocks. Play alternates between players. The person to remove the last pebble loses.

Pisatones: I’m a bit reluctant to recommend this one, because it can get rambunctious. It was taught to me by some Mexican friends at camp, and it’s a lot of fun, but chaotic and informal. Everyone is “it” at once. You try to step on someone (anyone) else’s toes without getting your toes stepped on. The result is everyone hopping around like mad.

Rainy night skits: Every now and then you’re faced with an evening activity that’s rained out. Here’s a quick skit night solution… Give each group a paper sack with five or so random items, and give them 20 minutes to come up with a skit. The only rules are 1) you have to use every item in the sack as a prop, and 2) the items must be used to represent something they are not. In other words, a baseball bat can represent anything at all, except a baseball bat. The results are guaranteed to be hilarious.

–Jane Ragsdale is the director of Heart O’ the Hills Camp for Girls in Hunt, Texas.

A Red Herring Rainy-Day Game

Here is a fun game that involves both campers and staff. It is ideal for a rainy day, or just for a change from the usual routine staff show (pun intended!).

In this game, campers guess which “strange but true” fact goes with which staffer. They also have to avoid guessing the one “false” statement that has been made up.

First, secretly poll each staff member privately and find out one unique true fact about him or her. This should be as unusual as possible. The more bizarre, the better! Some wonderful examples I’ve collected from staff members in the past include such gems as: “In third grade a girl I was teasing shoved me out of a second floor window,” “I was once chased by a bear,” and “I waited on Jack Nicholson’s table when I was a waitress in Colorado.”

Once you have completed this list, keep it secret. Next, arrange these statements into groups of four. Of course, this number can be flexible. The number of groups this makes will be the number of rounds in the game, so you may need to alter it to fit your staff size, camper group size, or time limits.

Try to make these groups interesting by possibly putting similar kinds of facts together by themes, or by trying to match statements with staff members who may seem likely to be the ones who match more than one of the four statements.

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