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August 15, 2012
Evening Activities: A quick overview (and a few ideas)
I have read on the blog about lots of activity ideas and suggestions. We are trying to come up with a few new evening activities. Do you have any ideas specific to all camp evening activities?
YES, but like everything else I don’t have a simple answer. Evening activities are one of my favorite parts of camp. Besides meals, it is usually the only time we get to spend with the whole community, all the campers and all the staff. That is also what makes it challenging to keep everyone engaged and having fun (not to mention that some campers (and staff) are pretty wiped out by that time of day). I think the most important question to ask about evening activities is not necessarily what (as in the actual activity), but how (as in the structure or format and the presentation). Having said that, at the end of this post a few of my favorites.
How you breakdown an all camp or evening activity has huge implications to what you can do, how you engage different ages, and the experience of the camper. Here are a few different ideas:
- Structured games (like Capture the Flag) – everyone basically plays the same game on one or more teams. These typically are the shortest kinds of activities. After 30mins or so of one game you will start to lose some campers.
- Stations – this is a favorite of most camp staff. Whether it is a Carnival, Messy Olympics, or some other kind of activity, this format allows you to cater to different age groups, or if you mix the ages for the activity it will allow for different levels of activity within a given station. This is the opposite of structured games in that these tend to go the longest unless the timing is really down.
- Small groups (like a scavenger hunt, Dutch auction, or treasure hunt) – this is the best format if mixing the age groups is really important for you. It typically involves lots of different activities that cater to each age and has a specific timeframe. It is also very dependent on the individual group leaders to make or break the activity.
- Free for all (like carnivals) – this is the kind of activity where you set up an area of camp with a bunch of different activities and let campers choose freely/individually for the whole time. These activities typically don’t last as long as the others and there is some potential for individual campers to get kind of lost during it. However, if you can identify some of those campers before hand and hook them up with a counselor buddy, it can be a lot of fun because kids just get to do what they want.
There are a few more, but those are the major ones. My biggest piece of advice about evening activities is about the staff. The very best activities are presented to campers almost like a show. They have a theme or storyline, the staff are dressed up as characters, the specific activities or games are steeped in imagination and creativity, there is some sort of mission or purpose to participating, and ALL the staff are in character and have a role. This is one of those times at camp where you can truly play. Make the most of it!
Here are my favorite evening activities (keep in mind, it is not about the activity it is about the presentation!)
- Counselor Hunt
- Capture the Flag
- Talent Show
- Messy Olympics
Scott “Funsize” Arizala
Camp Director for Camp Kesem, Vice President of Summer Programming for Dragonfly Forest, Summer Camp Consultant & Trainer, and award-winning author of S’more Than Camp. For more information please visit www.TheCampCounselor.com