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9 Engaging Summer Camp Activities for Kids

Summer camp activities help children build essential life skills from an early age

Everyone has a summer camp memory or two that is looked back on fondly from time to time. They're an integral part of one's childhood - a time spent building life skills during the most formative years of their life. The outdoors provide a unique environment for children with various stimuli that aid their development from an early age. What makes summer camps truly special is the fact that children are taught through a combination of memorable indoor and outdoor activities. It gives them an opportunity to explore their interests and grow as young individuals in a safe and positive environment all summer long!

The benefits of summer camp for children have been clear for a while now. A study by the American Camp Association (ACA) in 2005 observed developments at 80 camps and found a notable improvement in the children's social and emotional skills after completing the camp. A summer camp is also one of those places where kids will learn to build healthy relationships, pick up leadership skills, build their communication and social skills, and improve their decision-making abilities. This is why organizing a summer camp is a truly noble job. You have the opportunity to entertain and educate children through fun activities and make a positive impact on your community!

That said, delivering an exceptional summer camp experience is easier said than done. How do you find the right balance between keeping your kids entertained while still educating them? More importantly, how do you make sure that your camp games and activities connect with every child? To make your job easier, we have worked on a list of our favorite summer camp activities for kids that will help you engage and inspire, teach and entertain every child at your camp this summer! But before we dive into the fun camp activities that can help you create a memorable experience for the kids, it is essential to understand why such activities are so helpful to young children - it is then that the impact of your program can be maximized.

Benefits of summer camp

Through a combination of outdoor fun and friendly competition, summer camps help children:

  1. Learn to build and value relationships
  2. Explore their interests
  3. Develop basic skills
  4. Improve physical and mental well-being
  5. Gain confidence in their abilities
  6. Become more independent
  7. Boost their creativity

1. Learn to build and value relationships

Meeting a number of peers at summer camp can certainly make quite the impression on kids. They're on their own in a shared environment with other children of the same or similar age group. This is where they get to explore social interactions most comfortably in a safe, yet independent space. In fact, in a study of over 5,000 families conducted by the ACA on Youth Outcomes, 96% of the campers said that summer camp helped them make new friends.

This is why it is important to create a friendly and open environment for children through summer camp activities that would let them feel free to explore and build their social skills at their own pace.

2. Explore their interests

Summer camp activities help children explore their interests

Summer camps are as much a place of entertainment as they are a place of learning! They bring together all the things that kids love with all the things that they need to learn as they grow older. With so much to take in, it is a wonderful opportunity for children to seek out the activities and subjects that pique their curiosity more than others. After all, as research by the Center of Everyday Child Language Learning (CECLL) indicates, children's learning outcomes improve if their interests are blended with the subject of study.

With children going to summer camp during their most formative years, the activities would serve as a fun way for them to pick up and hone essential life skills together with their friends and peers!

3. Develop unique skills

A variety of activities can help children build unique skills

With children finding themselves in a new setting, they are most likely to find themselves exposed to new ideas, skills, and experiences. This is the perfect opportunity to introduce them to exciting activities that they can explore and polish in the years to come!

When preparing your list of summer camp activities for the season, make sure to look at the variety you are offering the kids. Offering a healthy mix of options including camp crafts, coding, swimming, archery, and photography will allow more children to find the best suited activity for them to pick up.

4. Improve physical and mental well-being

Children who attend summer camp can improve their physical and mental wellbeing

Beyond the learning and the recreation, the outdoors offer children the opportunity to refresh and rejuvenate themselves away from their daily lives. It can drive away any lethargy that might affect children and keep them active and energized instead!

Enough research has been carried out over the years to show how outdoor activities can help fight childhood obesity and the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Your summer camp activities could help children stay physically fit and boost their mental health at the same time!

5. Gain confidence in their abilities

Summer camp activities can make children more confident in their abilities

With successive achievements come increasing levels of confidence in one's own abilities. At camp children are tested to give their best and explore their skills and decision-making abilities. Failure at any point will teach children what they need to improve, while success will reinforce their belief in their abilities.

While running your camp, your role will include standing by the kids as a constant support and guide. Reassuring them at the right time can make all the difference to their perspective and truly make it a time to remember for years to come!

6. Become more independent

Parents may do their best to help their kids be independent from an early age, but spending some time on their own at a young age can make a significant difference to the child's perspective early on. They will be faced with every decision and will be called upon to work it out by themselves for the first time in their lives.

At summer camp, they will be among peers in a safe and comfortable environment that would support them in their choices! More importantly, they will have the time to think through every decision and understand the process on their own. The best summer camp activities you can offer will test children on their ability to make decisions and give them confidence to explore this further without any fear or restraint.

7. Boost their creativity

Being able to express yourself freely is the first step towards giving your creativity the room to grow! Especially for children who haven't experienced such creative freedom before, being encouraged to find new or different ways to express yourself can show them the difference it makes when they adopt a fresh creative approach.

You can ensure creative freedom at your summer camp by setting up fun activities that allow children to take any approach. Open-ended art projects, story cubes, and word games like scrabble are just some of the activities you could organize to set the children up for a creative and fun-filled summer!

Read 7 Quick Tips about Organizing your First Summer Camp

Essential activities for a successful summer camp

  1. Outdoor scrabble
  2. Swimming competitions
  3. Scavenger hunt
  4. Arts and crafts
  5. Bicycle games
  6. Nature Hike
  7. Cooking classes
  8. Fitness classes
  9. Kids yoga

With all that children stand to gain from summer camps, it is important to make sure you set up the right activities that encourage them to test their abilities and grow as individuals while still having an unforgettable, fun experience. Let us explore each of these activities in detail and see why they would ensure that your summer camp is the most  memorable one.

1. Outdoor Scrabble

Outdoor scrabble is an engaging activity that boosts creativity at summer camp

The classic word game that we all enjoy playing with our loved ones - only larger than life this time! Scrabble is one of those classic board games that can entertain, educate, and inspire all at once. Outdoor scrabble can be relatively easy to set up and will engage your kids in an exciting contest on the lawns.

The game will test the children's creativity and organization skills and they will learn new words with each passing round. You can pair kids into teams of two and encourage collaboration through the game.

2. Swimming competitions

There's nothing quite like taking a dip to cool off on a hot summer day! Swimming regularly can help build endurance, improve muscle strength, and maintain good health and fitness in the long run.

You can start your camp with swimming classes by teaching the basics and the different types of strokes they can use to build their skills. Close out the camp with a round of friendly competitions that help them test their newly-learnt skills and build a healthy competitive spirit among the kids.

3. Scavenger hunt

Scavenger hunt may be a camp classic, but far from limiting its potential, you will find yourself with plenty of options on how to organize a memorable adventure at your camp!

Use the outdoors wisely when designing your scavenger hunt and be sure to include items which can be easily retrieved by children from the camp area. A good scavenger hunt will test children on their problem solving skills, while you can also find ways to educate them on the importance of environmental conservation while they play.

4. Arts and crafts

Of all the camp activities for kids, arts and crafts may be among the most popular and a mainstay thanks to the world of possibilities that comes with them. You can teach a variety of camp crafts such as painting, pottery, origami, and other unique practices that encourage creative thinking.

Art being deeply emotive, you can use your classes to encourage children to express freely and understand themselves better. You could also use the opportunity to bring the children closer to nature through arts and crafts that involve using material from the world around them. This way, they will learn to appreciate the world around them and understand the importance of conservation from an early age.

5. Bicycle games

Cycling is another popular option that would add plenty of color to your summer camp. So, if you happen to have bicycles at your camp, organizing at least a couple of bicycle games would only add to the excitement!

Work on ensuring a variety of team and individual competitions that keep things light and fun. These games will entertain the children while also ensuring a bit of exercise while they play.

6. Nature hike

A hike through the woods will bring children closer to nature

Pack in a mini adventure for the kids with a fun nature hike around your camp. A hike will give the kids an opportunity to explore the world around them and learn about the flora and fauna in the area. With environmental conservation increasingly important today, you will get to show them the myriad relationships that exist in the wild and the importance of respecting and protecting our environment.

Pick out a comfortable, yet scenic route that covers plenty of ground. You can even educate them on the various birds and insects you may find along the way and teach them how to identify the various trees and plants in the region.

7. Cooking classes

Cooking is an art and a necessity for healthy living. Teaching children to cook will help them understand the importance of nutrition and maintaining a balanced diet. It will also encourage them to be more independent and manage their lifestyle from an early age.

You can make it interesting by teaching them to bake fun items like cakes and cookies in groups. You could also organize a Pizza Day where every child gets to choose their own toppings and even prepare a healthy salad on the side!

8. Fitness classes

Encourage a healthy lifestyle with fitness classes at summer camp

The summer vacation provides a great opportunity for children to brush up on their fitness in a dedicated environment. Fitness classes give them the opportunity to understand the importance of exercise and maintaining a healthy lifestyle with regular physical activity.

Fitness trainers are also receptive to mental health concerns and would serve to support the children’s emotional needs through the duration of the camp.

9. Kids Yoga

Help children maintain their mental wellbeing with yoga classes at summer camp

Yoga practice is a great addition to the all-round development of children at your summer camp. Practicing yoga regularly from a young age will only add to their understanding of a healthy lifestyle. More importantly, it will help improve their concentration and memory while helping them manage their anxiety effectively.

You can start by teaching children the basics of yoga and how it can help them. Allow them to work on the simple exercises and improve their practice over time. You can schedule one class every day during camp to ensure they get to work on their form regularly.

Optimize your summer camp for success

Conducting a summer camp is hardly a walk in the park - you need to track every child's progress and make sure each of them receives the best care and attention from your team. More importantly, you will need to organize a variety of activities in a relatively shorter period of time while ensuring everything goes through without any significant complications. So, how do you work on all this while you have your hands full with managing a team of your own?

Simplifying your operations with technology is a good place to start! Omnify offers you a smart and intuitive solution that will allow you to organize various classes in one calendar, accept registrations online, manage your bookings from your phone, and communicate with your team and your students effortlessly throughout the duration of your camp. If you would like to know more about how Omnify can help your business, sign up for a FREE TRIAL and get started today!

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