Traditions are an important part of camp.
- They bring campers and staff together (competitions, events, special meals)
- They provide a sense of comfort (routine, fond memories)
- They provide a sense of belonging (annual experiences that everyone can relate to and share)
Newer camps often find it difficult to create and/or choose traditions that will stand the test of time. In this post I give you 10 fun ideas that can work at just about any day or resident camp.
Whether it be beads, badges, patches, pins or bandanas, campers (and staff) are driven to earn accomplishment awards. They enjoy collecting them, wearing them and showing the world that what they’ve earned.
Counselor for a Day
Make it a tradition that every year a select few get to be counselors for a day. You can choose your youngest campers or your oldest. Let them dress up like their counselor and lead the day, just like their counselor would. It is so much fun to watch them take control and responsibility of their groups. It’s also fun for the counselors who get to be campers for the day.
Five Year Awards
Reward campers who have been coming to camp for 5 years for their loyalty. Recognize them in front of the whole camp. Awards can be a paddle, camp letterman style jacket, framed photo, or anything else you can think of that campers will keep and cherish.
Give each staff a necklace or bracelet with camp charm on it or made with specific camp colors. Staff will proudly wear them all summer and beyond. Campers will hope to one day be able to wear the camp staff necklace.
Camp Shirt Signing
On the last day bring out a ton of Sharpies and let the campers and staff sign each other’s t-shirts. Obviously this won’t work if your camp shirts are black or some other dark color. The shirt will become a treasured item and token of their wonderful camp experience.
Hold an all camp treasure or scavenger hunt. It can be as simple as finding a Golden Smurf or something a little more difficult with campers being given a clue each day of where a well hidden item is.
One camp I know of offers daily clues. Once the item is found, there is a nature fact attached to it. The finder of the item gets to read the fact in front of everyone in the dining hall. Then the cheers go out for the treasure hunter.
First Day Competition
Kick off the week with a quick team competition to get the camaraderie rolling. We do a shoe kick by age. Another camp I know of does Capture the Flag on the first day. For both camps it has become a tradition. Campers know that there will be a shoe kick (or Capture the Flag) on the first day.
This is a tradition for many camps that have rich histories. Campers and staff are all about it. To them Color War IS camp.
At our camp all campers and staff touch the “Lucky Rock” (a boulder at the front of camp) for a good day. It’s tradition (after I started it 6 years ago). Anything can be “lucky”. It’s great if you have a story to go with it. The year after I started having everyone touch the Lucky Rock, one of our CIT’s refused to touch it. She made a big deal about how she didn’t need luck. That day she not only sat in pigeon poo, but a pigeon also dropped its “business” on her shoulder. After that EVERYONE started touching the lucky rock. The story has become legend, and it solidified the tradition. Thanks Bubbles for NOT touching the Lucky Rock on that fateful day.