When we were kids, everything about going to summer camp was fun from packing our bags, singing endless silly camp songs, munching snacks with friends, and making unforgettable memories.
Nowadays, things are a little more challenging with all the tech the kids are using. You need to be more entertaining than the online game they’re playing, and say something more interesting than the chat they’re having with their friends.
You can share great times with the campers with just a little preplanning. I know from experience that these summer camp games are winners. I made sure that all ages can play, adults included, and all weather conditions are accounted for.
To overcome all that here is a list of the best summer camp games to entertain the campers.
1. Scavenger Hunts
This is a traditional summer camp game, but it never gets old. Make a scavenger hunt list of interesting items that each player must collect to win the challenge. Be creative and try to include an item that would be a bit difficult to get. Easy games aren’t much fun.
If the game is for very young children, narrow down the area they have to search, make sure it’s well supervised, and the list should be in pictures rather than words.
A big camp with children of different ages can make the game even more engaging by teaming up an older player with a younger one. This is also a good setting for bonding and making new friends.
2. Water Balloon Fights
I hope you still remember how hilarious that game was when you played it with your friends, and as you recall, it was so messy that it was only allowed at the beach. You might’ve missed that part of childhood, but there’s a chance to recap.
Here’s how it’s played: you get about 50 small sized balloons and 10 big ones. Use the bathroom faucet or a garden hose to fill them up with water. Tie the opening of the balloons into a tight knot.
You can split into teams, or keep it an individual player game. There’s no clear winning or losing here, just throw the water balloon at someone and make sure that it bursts and splashes them nicely with water.
You’re supposed to target others and avoid getting hit, but really, getting a little wet in this hot weather is hardly a bad thing at all.
3. Beach Volley Ball
Anything you play on the sand is ten times harder. The game stops being about ball shooting skills and becomes about how to keep your balance and run on the sand dunes.
The beach volleyball game is played with preset time or a preset number of goals. The number of players is flexible as long as it’s even.
The net and playing field are usually already set up in the camp. Sometimes there are several play fields. Teens love it, and a simpler version of the game could be arranged for younger children.
4. Blob Tag
Playing tag is an essential activity in summer and otherwise. You can make any variations you like in the rules of the game to make it more appealing, especially to the teens of the group.
One such variation is playing blob tag. Every tagged player holds hands with the rest of the tagged players. By the end of the game, you’ll see a blob of players holding hands, and a single winner standing alone.
5. Battleships Game
This is a game for the extra hot days when you need to stay in the shade, or an after-hours activity to unwind before bedtime. It’s a close cousin to board games, but with a bit more punch.
I’ve played this game with an elaborate metal set, a miniature plastic set, and on paper where we draw the pieces and the play field by hand. There’s a printable version of it that can be very practical. It’s an incredibly engaging game in all forms.
Two players or two teams can play this game. Each one has 5 ships of varying sizes and a coordinate plane where you place your ships.
A ship could be placed in squares A1 and A2 for example, and another one in C5, D5, E5, and F5, that’s obviously a big ship. You hide your setup from your opponent and they hide theirs too.
Each player tries to guess where the other side's ships are placed. First, it’s a random guess, but once you hit a spot in your opponent’s ship, you can make more strategic guesses.
Battleships game is more suited for the teens and adults of the group, but the younger kids enjoy hovering and watching.
6. Mastermind Game
Mastermind is very similar to battleships. But the thing you guess is either a combination of numbers or a combination of colors.
It can be played with a game set or you can draw it on paper. There’s also a printable form of Mastermind that you can easily use.
The rules are so easy, one player makes a combination of colored pins and hides it, then the other player makes a guess by assuming a color arrangement.
You respond that he has no colored pins right at all, some right pins in the wrong place, or some right pins in the right place.
Your opponent keeps on making arrangements of colored pins till he reaches the arrangement you made at the beginning.
7. Charades Game
Missing the right answer is sometimes better than being correct, that’s where all the laughing happens for an entertaining game of charades.
Charades can be played with any theme other than the regular movies we all know. It could be something related to the camp ambiance, or you can make it just a tad educational by making it about scientific topics, historic figures, places, or people.
You need to take into consideration the ages and interests of the players. Make the game only a little difficult and just one level above their common knowledge. The things we learn while playing are extremely hard to forget.
8. Water Dodgeball
The original idea for this game is water polo, but since it would be hard to set up the play field properly, then water dodgeball should be fine.
Targeting one another with a beachball and trying to get away by swimming is such a blast. You really shouldn’t miss it.
To add more splash, use water balloons instead of plastic ones!
9. Obstacle Races
Physical activity is essential for kids. It helps their coordination, balances their temperament, and boosts their self-confidence. They also learn more about socializing and being an effective part of a team.
Obstacle racecourses are an unpredictable exciting game, and players have to utilize many skill sets to reach the finish line. They often have to run, climb, jump, swing, and sometimes swim to move ahead.
Sometimes a special talent like long-jump really gives a player the boost he needs to win. Be creative with the props you place in the arena, the more complex and innovative it is, the higher the engagement level you’d get from the kids.
10. Coloring Stones
This is a new fad that we expect would become a summer camp staple. People have been making and hiding colored stones, and when others find them, they carry on with the tradition, paint more of the same, and hide them for the next strangers.
The materials needed are simple. Ask the kids to pick the stones, and procure the colors and brushes.
This activity is great when the sun is too harsh and you need the kids to stay indoors, or at the end of the day when they’re still not sleepy, but too tired for anything that involves moving.
You can pick a colored stone theme, or let the kids paint what they want. At the end of the session spray the stones with a setting spray, and after the stones dry, tell everyone to hide it somewhere.
The best colored-stones are the ones hiding in plain sight.
11. Capture the Flag
This is a variation of playing tag. Here, both teams have flags that they carefully hide. The mission of each team is to grab the flag of the other ones.
There’s also the matter of tagging players. If you catch an opponent then you tag him. This means he gets a time out in a designated prison area. He can only escape this situation if one of his teammates can sneak to the prison area and untag him.
They could both be tagged at that point and that’s a huge risk your teammate is taking for you. This game obviously teaches some lofty concepts, in a very adventurous way.
The winner is the team who can capture the other team’s flag or the ones still in the arena after the game time is over.
12. Telephone Game
Originally, I knew this game by a French name: ‘telephone cassé’, which means a broken phone.
One player whispers a sentence to the player next to her. That person now relays the message she heard to the person beside her, also in whispers.
By the time the message is whispered five or six times it’s drastically changed, and as the last person in the row announces the sentence he heard, it becomes clear that the original message was hilariously distorted.
This is an indoor or outdoor game, it’d be great beside a campfire or in a patio. It’s suitable for all ages and the punchline is never missed by anyone.
13. I Spy Game
A player picks any object, but it has to be a visible thing in the immediate surroundings. He starts describing it by saying: “I spy with my little eye something …..”, then the opponent looks around the place and tries to find out what’s the spied on object.
My daughter used to play the I spy game endlessly and she never minded if we played it in the car, at the beach, or inside the living room. There was always an object she loved to guess.
This game is more fun for younger children, but the older ones also enjoy picking the mysterious object.
14. Build a Fort
This is one of the many awesome water gun games. Split the children into teams and ask each team to build a fort with the available resources. The campsite usually has many discarded implements lying about. These can easily be used to build a solid structure.
Once the fort building is done, both teams can get their water guns and start targeting one another. The best hiding place would provide a spot to shoot water from while keeping the player out of harm’s way.
If your summer camp is by the beach, you can make forts from sand, seashells, and stones. It’ll be very creative and enjoyable to build.
Games like this enable the kids to excel in building things from scratch, guided only by an idea, and a vision of their dream sand fort.
For very young children, you can build a fairy house instead of a fort. They usually get more imaginative with the fairy theme.
This is a card game, but it has a very different deck. It’s simple enough for a young child to play it and zany enough for a teen to like playing it. Here’s more on how to play UNO.
Two to ten players can play together. Each one gets seven cards facing down, and there’s a discard pile of cards in the middle of the table.
The game moves clockwise from the card dealer. Each player places a card that matches the one at the top of the discard pile. It should match its color, number, or symbol.
Some cards call for certain actions to be carried out by the next player, like missing a turn, drawing four more cards, changing the color, or reversing the sequence of play.
The first player who has one card left should announce that it's UNO, and the game ends then by him winning, but here’s the catch, another player can steal that win if he notices that the player with the lonely card forgot to say UNO and says it instead.