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Camp Theme: 104 Days of Summer Vacation

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Dear Friends and Readers,

Phineas and Ferb is the best show on television. Don’t let anyone tell you anything differently. If they do, they are lying.

In addition to being highly entertaining, it has perhaps the catchiest theme song of all time. Better than “Where everybody knows your name.” Better than “I’ll be there for you.” Better even than the Mr. Ed theme song (A horse is a horse, of course of course!).

I have a deep desire to lead an entire summer camp based on this theme song. I may have to settle for just a week. Below are the lyrics to the song, and corresponding camp ideas. After all, there are a hundred and four days of summer vacation and school comes around just to end it. The annual problem for our generation is finding a good way to spend it.

Song Lyrics

Camp Ideas

There’s 104 days of summer vacation

And school comes along just to end it

So the annual problem for our generation

Is finding a good way to spend it

 

  • Acting Out the Song.

Have staff or older teams create skits or motions based on the song and preform in front of all camp.

  • Field Trips.

Go to a local television station or to a science museum.

  • Featured Presentation.

Television is not a babysitter, and neither is camp. That being said, counselors and campers both work incredibly hard, and rarely get breaks.

Pop some popcorn, have members make cars out of boxes to go to the drive in, and watch an episode of Phineas and Ferb.

Offering an alternative for the kids who still have energy (oh to be young again!) is essential to making sure this works.

Like maybe…

Building a rocket

Or fighting a mummy

Or climbing up the Eiffel Tower

 

  • Building Rockets.

Build rockets out of recyclables and have a contest to see how far they fly.

  • Mummy Relays.

Everyone loves this classic. Members race to wrap one another in toilet paper. If your budget is like mine, and toilet paper is a little too expensive, solicit donations for scrap fabric. It can be easily re-used.

  • Play Mummy Tag.
  • Dodge Ball While Dressed as Mummies.

Some people hate on dodge ball, and I understand.  The little guy often gets picked on, and it isn’t really a team sport.

But it is nearly impossible for anyone to dislike staff v camper dodge ball. It is all of the fun, with none of the pressure. It is even more fun if the staff are dressed as mummies.

  • Build an Eiffel Tower.

Give members toothpicks and marshmallows to build Eiffel Towers. For older members, make it a race or competition.

  • Running Ladders.

What? You make kids just run? Yes. Yes I do. Make an Eiffel Tower outline with rope or tape. Have campers run to different points of the tower and back.

(For the love of safety, do not have rope cross over where youth would run. If you’re kids are anywhere near as clumsy as mine, this could lead to a swift and sudden death.)

Discovering something that doesn’t exist

(Hey!)

Or giving a monkey a shower

 

  • Free Exploration Time.

Who doesn’t want to just wander around and explore? Give kids clear safety instructions for what not to touch. Give kids a brown paper bag to collect things in. Give kids clear physical boundaries, and let kids go discover!

  • Stuffed Monkey Water Relays.

Lead a basic sponge relay with a stuffed monkey instead of a sponge.

 

Surfing tidal waves

Creating nanobots

Or locating Frankenstein’s brain

(It’s over here!)

 

  • Slip N Slide!
  • Building Robots

Robots are the coolest. If I had a pet robot, I would teach it to make me pancakes every morning. Multiple members at the Club have agreed to invent a pancake-making robot for me, but so far, no one has followed through.

  • Brain Scavenger Hunt.

Have each counselor making a few fake brains with modeling clay during a staff meeting.

Hide the brains throughout the grounds and have teams compete to find them!

Finding a dodo bird

Painting a continent

Or driving your sister insane

(Phineas!)

  • Wolf (Remixed).

Have you ever heard of the game Wolf? One counselor hides, while groups of campers seek.

Campers give a wolf cry, and the hidden counselor must cry back, but only once every 5 minutes. The wolf usually stays on the move to make the game more difficult.

Play this same game, but instead of a wolf, substitute a doo doo bird, and have campers and counselors give a loud “sqwuak!”

  • Painting a World Map Mural

Kids love art. Especially when they are trusted to create challenging and lasting art.

Teaching youth to respect, value and celebrate diversity and the global community is one of the most important parts of our job (no matter what part of the country or world you live in!).

As you can see

There’s a whole lot of stuff to do

Before school starts this fall

(Come on Perry)

So stick with us ’cause Phineas and Ferb

Are gonna do it all

So stick with us ’cause Phineas and Ferb are

Gonna do it all!

(Mom! Phineas and Ferb are making a title sequence!)

  • Summer Bucket Lists.

Have youth make summer bucket lists. What do they want to do at camp? What do they want to do at home? What do they want to learn?

  • Secret Agent Lessons.

Perry the Platypus (Phineas and Ferb’s pet) is a secret agent, but of course you knew this already because you are super cool and watch this show regularly.

Have members practice walking without making noise, refining their senses and creating disguises (See the Private Eye Lessons activity from Mystery Day Camp).

  • Make A Title Sequence.

Have members write a song to describe their camp experience, both what they have done and what they want to do. Video tape this!

Happy camp planning!

~ Miss Brenda

Let it Snow! (Camp Theme)

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Dear Friends and Readers,

A few years ago, I lead 4 year old camp at the local Y. Despite the “C” in YMCA, most of my campers that year were Jewish, Muslim or non-religious.

The themes of the weeks had been decided upon before I started, and one of the themes in the middle of the summer was “Christmas in July.” A significant amount of parents expressed concerns about the theme (understandably so!), and I changed it to “Let it Snow!” We celebrated winter, acknowledged multiple winter holidays and traditions, and walked around in line holding the rope toured camp in our one-horse open sleigh.

holidays

Here are the activities we did to make it special:

  • Made cut out snowflakes. We used colorful construction paper that counselors had pre-folded.
  • Had a “snow ball fight” with white plastic bags. Target donated these to us, and the kids loved it!
  • Made “Frosty the Snowman” hats with black paper. We then played Freeze Dance while singing the Frosty the Snowman song.
  • Built personal snowmen out of shaving cream. Each child was given a bowl and tried to form a snowman. They were entertained for 45 minutes!
  • Decorating boxes and making holiday gifts for family members
  • Making Times Square Balls with crumpled scrap paper, glue and lots of glitter. They were a bit misshapen, but were very fun.
  • Making gingerbread houses
  • Reading holiday themed books

What have you done for a winter, snow or holiday themed camp?

~Miss Brenda

15+ Camp Themes and Activities

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Dear Friends and Readers,

It’s that time of year, and we are all gearing up for a few months of Summer Camp Glory. If you are like me and have yet to plan activities for each of your wonderful themes, then this post is for you. Here is my list of 15 summer camp themes and corresponding activities. More will be added to the list in the future.

Camp Themes

  1. NEW! 104 Days of Summer Vacation
  2. An Indiana Jones Adventure
  3. Around the World 
  4. Club Hollywood with the activities Survivor and The Amazing Race and Movie Day
  5. Harry Potter Day
  6. It’s A Jungle Out There
  7. NEW: Let it Snow!
  8. MLK: Community Service Program with the activity LIFE
  9. More Than Conquerers
  10. Mud Pie
  11. Mystery Day Camp with the activity Clue
  12. Mystery Day Event (Preteen Girls)
  13. Ocean Commotion
  14. Outside the Box with the activities Safari Dodgeball, Big Taboo and Movie Day
  15. Pirates Versus Ninjas Day
  16. Summer Olympics
  17. Super Hero Day

What camp themes have you found successful? 

~Miss Brenda

Mystery Day: Camp Theme

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Dear Friends and Readers,

In every child, there is a small detective just DYING to come out. Who is the bathroom vandal at the BGC? What just made that noise? What happens when I try opening my juice box with my teeth? Kids want to learn and know and investigate.

What better camp theme than to take that innate urge and run with it? Kids LOVED “Mystery Day” and I can’t wait to repeat it!

Here is what we did for our “Mystery Day” camp theme:

  •  “Decoding Drawings” 
    • One staff sat on one side of a field and drew a picture slowly.
    • Members were divided into teams, and one at a time ran across to where the staff was drawing.
    • The “runner” looked at the drawing, ran back and drew what they saw.
    • This continued until members guessed what the staff was drawing.
    • Variation: staff just draws a pattern and the game ends when all kids have run there and back. Whoever has the closest drawing wins.
  • “Riddle Relays”
    • Staff come up with an object, phrase or action that kids have to guess. They also create a list of corresponding clues.
    • Kids are divided into teams and run relay style to one side of the field, obtain a clue and run back.
    • Teams continue to collect more clues until they have a guess.
    • When ready to make a guess, teams send the next runner to the staff with the answer. Teams that guess forfeit their right to a clue that turn (this helps stop kids from guessing randomly).
  • “Private Eye Lessons”
    • Kids practiced skills needed to be a detective! Skills included:
    • Gadgets and Dress: Members divided into teams and competed to create the best detective outfits and gear.
    • Refining Your Senses: Members had to discover objects while blindfolded using only their senses of smell, hearing and feeling.
    • Being Sneaky: One staff was blindfolded while another managed the group. Kids had to tiptoe around the room without making noise. If the blindfolded staff was able to point to where they heard someone, that child was out.
  • “Life Size Clue” Who stole Miss Brenda’s Birthday Cake?!
    • Kids gathered at the BGCPD to be briefed on perhaps the most heinous crime of the century: the case of the stolen birthday cake.
    • Kids were divided into groups according to age, each with a staff to guide them, and worked together to find/piece together clues.
    • Kids were given an initial dossier & a logic problem. They used that, along with clues found throughout the club, to figure out which staff stole and ate the cake, where they ate it, and what utensil they used to eat it.

I will be uploading the details and printables for Life Size Clue within the next few days. Keep your eyes open! It took FOREVER to create, but was completely worth it. Hopefully it will involve less prep time the second time around!

What have you done for a mystery theme or activity?

~Miss Brenda

Summer Olympics: Camp Theme

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Dear Friends and Readers,

Personally, I am more of a winter olympics kind of girl. Figure skating + snowboarding + speed skating + bobsledding + curling + any and every skiing event ever = one very excited Miss Brenda. Gymnastics, track and field, beach volleyball? A mildly interested Miss Brenda.

Unfortunately, “summer” camp in the exotic terrain of our country’s farmland is not exactly the place to experience downhill skiing with campers. Not at all. So we adjust and celebrate summer olympics instead…

Last year, we started off the summer with a Summer Olympics themed week to have a looser, more active week to jump-start the summer and adapt to the exhausted, brain-dead state of our campers who are just out of school for the year. Here are things that we did:

  • Making Flags. Each team (cabin) choose team colors and tye dyed individual and team flags. Sidenote: tye dying is a camp tradition, but is by far my least favorite camp activity ever. So much work for so little fun…
  • Olympic Ring Scavenger Hunt. Each team had a camera and ran around the club/went outside to find as many different ways as they could to make olympic rings. Colors didn’t have to match, but they needed to be three circles (or other shapes) on bottom and two on top. Kids made them with marbles and boxes and juice cups and crayons and leaves… They had to take pictures of them and share with the group.
  • Quick Tournaments. We had “indoor olympics” one day, “outdoor olympics” another and “water olympics” on a hot day. This was just a bunch of quick, fun games with few instructions that kids could compete individually and in teams. We kept track of records and gave out “Boom Shaka Laka”s to winners.
  • Discus Throw. Kids colored and stapled paper plates together to create a discus/frisbee and then competed within their teams to see how far they could throw them.
  • Curling. In the hallway, we taped a poster board to the floor that had a target painted on it. We started at the opposite end of the hallway and used dodge balls for the stone. Kids rolled the ball and then ran along side it blowing on the ball to make it go faster/slower and have it stop on the target. Kids got VERY into this and we repeated it a few times later in the week.
  • Guest Speaker. One of my coworkers’ step mom is a former olympic athlete and came in to speak to the kids. They LOVED it, as did our counselors who got to sit back and relax for a while.

In the afternoon, our camp becomes open to all members of the B&G Club and is less structured. Some of our optional activities during Olympics week in the afternoon were watching Cool Runnings, repeating some of our olympic games, making olympic torches and medals in the art room, and learning colors and sports in Spanish club.

This year, our Olympics themed week is scheduled for the first week of the 2012 games. We are calling our theme “Olympic Village 2012″ and are blending a sports week with an “around the world” multicultural week. I can’t wait to whip out my horrendous fake British accent.

How are you planning to celebrate the Olympics this year at camp? 

~Miss Brenda

The Power of the Parachute

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Dear Friends and Readers,

Sometimes, one word acts as a miracle all on its own. When working with kids, that one word is parachute, as in, it is time to play with the PARACHUTE! I remember loving the one day a year that we got to use the parachute in gym class as I was growing up. In the years since then, the power of the parachute has not faded.

When I was in college, a few friends and myself went to Romania to volunteer with children. In our limited space to pack our things and donations for the missionaries we stayed with, we made sure to make room for a parachute. And the kids loved it!

When I worked at the YMCA preschool camp, we brought out the parachute one day mid summer. It made at least a weekly appearance from then on for the rest of the summer.

Here are some games that we have played with the parachute:

  • Making a Bubble: Lift up the parachute all at once, step underneath the parachute and sit down/bring it to the ground swiftly. This creates a “dome” that you can sit on the edge of… it lasts for only a few seconds but is a ton of fun!
  • Making Waves: Try doing this fast, slow, medium, big, little, etc.
  • Keep Off: Kids try to bounce balls off of the parachute by waving it as counselors/staff run around and throw the balls back onto the parachute.
  • Popcorn: Kids try to bounce balls on the parachute making sure they are all moving but none “pop” off!
  • Running Underneath: Kids wave the parachute. Call out two or three names and those kids get to run beneath the parachute to the other side.

What parachute games have you played with kids?

~Miss Brenda

Ocean Commotion: Camp Theme

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Dear Friends and Readers,

“Ocean” is a fairly common theme among preschoolers. It is the new rainforest/jungle theme. Which was the new zoo/menagerie  theme. I loved the ocean theme because it combined both the animal/environment theme of the jungle with an easy segue to water games. Perfect for summer camp when it is hot outside and there is little time to plan.

“Ocean Commotion” was one of our summer camp themes in the middle of July when I worked with preschoolers at the YMCA. Here is what we did:

  • Ocean Placemats: Placemats are a great craft for preschoolers! Have kids make any flat, paper-size art project. Then laminate the papers with their names clearly labeled and use them to define the child’s eating space for the rest of the week!
  • Duck Duck Goose Variations
    • Dolphin, Dolphin, Shark: Same game, different name.
    • Drip, Drip, Drop: Why use your hand when you can tag others with water? Some kids don’t like getting wet on their heads, and many like getting other kids wet, so we used a sponge rather than a bucket. Kids squeezed a little to “drip” and wrung out the whole sponge to “drop” the water.
  • Song time: Have you ever sang The Beatles in circle time? I highly reccomend it. We all live in a yellow submarine, a yellow submarine, a yellow submarine…
  • The Wave + Summer  = the best of a baseball game. We taught kids the wave and they loved it. I think the counselors loved it more.
  • Pin the Tail on the Whale
  • Make Fishing Poles
    • We used straws for poles, yarn for string and magnets taped to the yarn for hooks.
    • Kids later “went fishing” for paper fish with paperclips attached.
  • Hair Gel/Sticker Ocean
    • Quart sized plastic bag filled 1/3 full with blue hair gel. Have kids pick out 4 or 5 fish stickers and put them into the bag. (Counselors/staff should handle everything up to this point.)
    • Once the bag is sealed, kids move the animals around in the gel. They loved it!
  • Tag Games
    • Octopus Tag: One person is “it” and runs to tag others. Once tagged, kids sit down in the same spot like freeze tag, but reach out to tag others with their hands and feet.
    • Sharks and Minnows: One person starts out as a shark and the rest minnows. Once the shark tags a minnow, the minnow becomes another shark. Last person to be a minnow wins.
  • Rainbow Fish
    • Story Time: Rainbow Fish. I had always asumed that everyone knew this book, but recently met a few people who haven’t. Some things that are “classics” among preschool teachers are foreign to those who don’t spend a lot of time with the under age 6 crowd. In case you haven’t read it, please head to a library and check it out. It will be well worth the trip.
    • Rainbow Fish Craft. I had cut out “scale” shapes. Each member decorated two with markers, glitter and glue. They got to keep one and gave one away.
  • Ocean Animal Puppets
    • This was a super easy rainy-day craft. We found printables for ocean animal puppets and had kids glue them to paper bags.
    • Kids walked around with octopi, crabs and sea-horses for hands for the rest of the day.

What “ocean” activities have you done in the past?

~Miss Brenda

An Indiana Jones Adventure: Camp Theme

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Dear Friends and Readers,

I have not watched the new Indiana Jones for two reasons. 1) Shia LaBeouf will be Louis Stevens forever and for always. He is not whatever characters he plays in movies; he is a 12 year old boy who plays pranks on his big sister. 2) Nothing will ever best the “Invisible Bridge” scene. Everything is down hill from there.

I don’t blame them for making more movies though. Who doesn’t love stories about searching for lost treasure? I can’t even blame my kids for loving the new Indiana Jones movie. They are too young to have watched Even Stevens and have probably never seen the older IJ movies either.

At the Y, one of our preschool camp themes was “An Indiana Jones Adventure.” Most of my preschoolers had never seen the Indiana Jones movies (or I hope they hadn’t seen them… PG-13 at age 4?), so it became more of a general exploration, treasure hunting theme. The kids loved it!

Here is what we did: 

  • Newspaper Explorer hats: We made them and painted them as a craft and they took them home to play with at the end of the day. Kids were begging to wear them before they were even dry and a few brought them back and wore them throughout the week.
  • Stepping Stones: Layed out paper and hula hoops and had kids use them as stepping stones from one side of the field to the other. Kids then moved the stepping stones to new places and went through the obstacle course again.
  • Treasure Hunt: Kids were given paper bags and rolled them down to be half the height. These were our “treasure bags.” While they decorated them, counselors hid coins (cut out of construction paper) and jewels (cut up Mardi Gras necklaces). Kids then searched for the treasure!
  • Treasure Map Activity: I made a “map” with pictures and words. Each kid got to read the map, discover a clue and lead the line to that destination. The final destination was a park across the street where we ate our lunches and played on the playground.
  • Treasure Map Craft: Kids tore and crumpled grocery bags and then drew their own treasure maps. We rolled the maps and tied them with yarn before they took them home.
  • Pyramids Building: We used blocks, rocks, cups and other objects to build pyramids.
  • Paper Telescopes: Kids rolled up paper into telescopes, we taped them, and they ran around on the playground searching and spying for hours!
  • Mummy Relay: Kids were divided into teams and raced to wrap up (and later unwrap) a counselor like a mummy.
  • Fort Making: Kids took blankets/sheets and chose where to hang them on the playground. Staff stapled, tied and safety pinned the blankets/sheets around the railings and posts to create a fort. Kids played and explored in complete contentment (if not bliss) for the rest of the day.
What exploration/treasure hunting/Indiana Jones type activities have you tried? 

~Miss Brenda

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