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Harry Potter Camp Ideas – Part 1 (First Day)

This is part 1 of a 3 part series designed to give you ideas for running a Harry Potter/Hogwarts camp.

Next summer (2011) brings us the last Harry Potter movie. Have you thought about having a Harry Potter Camp?

At the request of some of the kids I work with, I started running Harry Potter camps, after school programs and parties three years ago. Below are some of the tools I use for the camp.

If you run your own camp please leave a comment with your thoughts and ideas. Also, feel free to email me any PDFs that I can add to this list of tools.

Acceptance Letter

Since I run a day camp most of the campers are from the local area. The first couple of summers my one-week Harry Potter camp only got 12-15 campers. Because I had such a manageable number of campers, I hand delivered their acceptance letters. Let me rephrase that – an “owl” delivered the acceptance letter on the camper’s front doorstep late at night.

Update: Now that I get 35+ kids at this camp it’s much harder to do this. I have co-workers help me out now.

Hogwarts Letter of Acceptance_camp

I use parchment paper that I get from the local office supply store and hand sign each one. Then I place them in nice envelopes, seal it with a gold embossed sticker, stamp it “Owl Delivery” and write the child’s name on it. I then drive it to their house and place it on the doorstep late at night. The next morning the family finds the letter.Β  After our camps, we send out surveys to all of the parents. Here is one of the survey answers we got when we asked for additional comments – Love the theme camps…. my son was so interested.. and the little touches such as the ‘owl post’ the day before camp started was AWESOME.. it set the tone for a wonderful week. thank you, we wanted MORE!

It’s the little things that make a huge difference. If you have too many kids to personally deliver the letters, mail them the week before. It’s a wonderful touch.

Decorating for Camp

Our camp takes place primarily in one classroom. I spend a day decorating the room. I cover the walls with Flagstone Patterned Gossamer that I get from Shindigz.

A word on Shindigz, they can get very buys before the season begins due to a lot of school prom business. As long as you place your order a couple of months ahead of time, yes I said a couple of months, then you should be fine.

I set up one table with various potions (different styles of jars that have colored water and other ingredients in them), candles and potion ingredients. I have a second table with Harry Potter cards, magazine, plush figures from the books, Harry Potter specialty books for reference and more candles. I have a third table with the sorting hat and some other Harry Potter stuff. Each table is covered with fabric that I found at a fabric store which fits the magical theme of Harry Potter.

Finally, all campers sit at a table or desk. I create name placards that I put on the table in front of each camper so I can learn their names. All campers are addressed as Mr. or Ms. (last name) like they do in the books. Having the set-up of a normal classroom helps with the Hogwarts theme.

The First Day

At the beginning of the week certain things need to be accomplished, such as making wands, asking some trivia questions to see where everyone is at, sorting the campers into houses, etc.

Welcome – Since we are in America I call the camp Hogwarts Americana. I let the campers know that we are separate from the Hogwarts in the U.K. and therefore have different professors and different houses.

Camp Rules – Go over the camp rules as you would normally. For example, the campers need to know where the bathroom is, that they are to behave, there is no hitting, no put-downs, etc. One of the rules at Hogwarts Americana is that the professors are addressed as Professor (last name) or sir or ma’am. All the kids call me Professor Jackson. It’s weird to hear them say it, after all, many of them know me as Moose from the other camps.

Houses – We do not have Gryffindor and Slytherin. Why? Because 90% of the campers would want to be in Gryffindor and their camp experience would be ruined if they ended up in Slytherin or Hufflepuff. We have our own houses – Embredor and Firesong. I created crests for the houses using Publisher (using a program like Adobe Illustrator would probably give you better results).

Crests

Points – For the points I have two jars, each one with a house crest glued to it. For the points I use the glass gems that you would put in a vase. For Emredor I have blue gems and for Firesong I have red gems. Points are awarded for many things during the week, but they can also be taken away for negative behavior.

Trivia – Before I sort the campers into houses I want to find out how much they know about the world of Harry Potter. Some kids will have only seen a couple of the movies, while others will have seen them all and read all the books. I want to make sure that all of the knowledgeable, hard core Harry Potter fans aren’t in the same house, since a lot of points are given out during the week for answering trivia questions.

Trivia Questions_book 1

The Sorting – The campers are always excited about the sorting. I place a chair at the front of the room and grab the sorting hat. The sorting hat first sings his song. I will either place a small recorder in the hat and push play, without the campers seeing (the recording is of me singing, in a strange voice, the rewritten sorting hat song) or I will hide a walkie talkie and have my colleague sing the song from another room.

The Sorting Hat song – revised

After the song each camper sits on the chair and wears the sorting hat. He or she then reaches into a bag and pulls out a slip of parchment that has the name of their house on it. We tell the campers that the sorting hat is guiding their hand to the correct parchment of the house they should be in. In reality I use a magic change bag. This allows me to control which house they are in. You can find a change bag at any magic shop.

Once they have been sorted campers receive a scarf with their house colors. I get these through Amazon. They are Rugby style. The scarves themselves are made by Sportsman. They are great quality, very reasonably priced and the shipping is pretty quick. The campers love them and the parents are impressed that we give the campers a nice house scarf.

Knit Rugby Scarf

The scarves must stay in the room the whole week. They can be taken home at the end of the week. By wearing the scarves at camp I’m able to see who is in which house. Some of the campers like to tie it around their waist like a sash since the weather is usually pretty warm. That’s fine with me, as long as they have it on. At our Hogwarts after school program, I make the kids buttons instead of giving them scarves. This can be done at camp as well to show who is in each house if you don’t want to go with scarves.

Owls on the Loose – At some point during the day I tell the kids that I just got a post from John Rakspur, the owner of Eeylops Owl Emporium, telling me that a bunch of his owls had escaped his shop. I let the campers know that John told me if any of them catch an owl they can keep it as their own. I then let them go outside and hunt for an owl. I get a variety of plush owls from Amazon and then we hide them around the camp. For an example of the owls I get, click on the link below.

Aurora Plush 9″ Barney Wildlife

Once the campers have each found an owl they receive a paper with their type of owl on it (Barn, Great-Horned, Snowy, etc.) that has a picture and facts about their type of owl. The campers are then asked to name their owl and write it on the paper they were given.

Each morning campers receive an owl post. This can be anything from a snack item to a copy of the Daily Prophet. So their owls must remain at camp, along with their scarves until the end of the week. Each morning I place their owl post item with their owl. The campers are always excited to see what their owl has brought them.

Wand Making – I use the directions I got from Instructables.com to make the wands out of paper. The instructions are below. My staff and I create the wands ahead of time and place them in individual boxes we get from the Container Store. I also fill them with either a strand of Dragon heartstring (shiny green thread), a strand of Unicorn hair (shiny white/silver thread) or a Phoenix feather (red feather from the craft supply store). The first year I did this camp i had the kids try and make their own. It was a disaster. Since then we’ve made them the week before camp.

On the first day we do a wand choosing ceremony. the campers choose a box. They can take a look at the wand and wave it around. If they like it, they keep it. If they don’t like it they get one more pick. The wands have different looks, different cores, different lengths and different colors (varying shades of brown).Β  Since they are made of paper the campers need to be careful with them as they dent and bend easily. We always make extra wands just in case. Campers are not allowed to take the wands home until the end of the week.

Make-an-awesome-Harry-Potter-wand-from-a-sheet-of-paper

______

Harry Potter Camp Ideas-Part 2 (The Classes)

Harry Potter Camp Ideas-Part 3 (The Extras)

Harry Potter Camp Ideas…an Update

52 Comments

  • Love the ideas! For a birthday party I sent similar “acceptance letters” by owl post. I also printed on to parchment-like stationery, I used a script font. I rolled and wrapped with a string before putting in the envelope. Now that I have visited the Wizarding World I have a Hogwarts wax seal and Hogwarts stamps (accepted by USPS). I’m searching on-line to buy more and I found Zazzle.com has the stamps. I’m not sure if you can buy the wax seal stamper outside of Universal yet.
    Regarding sorting: my experience (at another HP camp and kids track at an HP conference) is that there are more kids that want to be Slytherin than you’d think (especially boys). Gryffindor is most popular, and Slytherin and Ravenclaw next, but hardly anyone wants to be Hufflepuff. I think the idea of creating new houses is a neat solution if you want even numbers. I was thinking of sending a sorting questionaire to be returned with the application, and at the bottom including something like “I really __Do / __Do Not want to be in ______ House. And that way be able to take their wishes into account. After the sorting ceremony at one camp, the kids had fun decorating corners of the room, each representing a different “common room.”

  • Rachel, I definitely want to get to the theme park before this coming summer. I hear it’s really neat. I love the idea of the different corners being decorated and used as common rooms. Thanks for the comments.

  • Great resource, Curt! I work at YMCA Camp Kern, and we also run a Harry Potter camp. This is our first summer (2011) that we will be doing a fully-themed camp based around Harry Potter. We have used HP as a day program for the past 8 years, and are really excited to make it into a full week long program. I will totally borrow some of your ideas, and I’ll hopefully have some great resources to post here once we start the program!

    • @Mike – Excellent! I would love to post your Harry Potter resources, and I’m glad my ideas are going to be of use to you. Thanks for the comment.

  • I noticed on the acceptance letter you had typed/written, ‘flew powder’. This is a mistake and you should be ashamed as a person running a harry potter CAMP, because it is not spelled like that. In the book, it is clearly spelled ‘Floo Powder’ I was very upset and stopped reading this because I thought that it was very amateur and unprofessional as a ‘professor’ to spell something as simple as that in an acceptance letter.

    • Augh! I am ashamed. I had the flu at the time I wrote that and my owl flew away on the same day. Unfortunately I didn’t use the “spell check” spell either. I am going to hide in shame and the headmistress is probably going to fire me. I guess I ‘ll just have to apply for a custodian position at the Ministry of Magic; that is, if they will have me.

      Please don’t hate me for making such a heinous mistake, and please don’t take my wand. All I am trying to do is bring a little magic and happiness to some wonderful kids and share my experiences with others so they can do the same. I humbly ask for your forgiveness.

      Update: I have changed and updated the Hogwarts Acceptance Letter to read Floo Powder. I appreciate it when readers catch my mistakes so I can correct them.

      Thank you very much for letting me know about my error.

  • Yes you are forgiven, I suppose I did go a little bit over the line there; now re-reading my comment. I appreciate that you are bringing magic to kids. . .might I ask where this camp is?

  • Yep, we Harry Potter fans tend to notice those little things. Thats too bad, I would have gone but alas I live in Minnesota.

  • I am absolutely loving your ideas. This is my second “Harry Potter” summer camp. I hope you don’t mind but I would like to use some of your fantastic ideas especially your “acceptance letter!” And you are right by saying it’s those little things that count.

    • Hi Barbara. Feel free to use any of the ideas and templates. That’s why I put it up here. I am so glad that you have found the info useful. πŸ™‚

  • Hi. I was just wondering in which age your suppose to be in and will this camp really happen. I am a girl at 13 and a half from Sweden and I would gladly come to your camp. I have seen all the films and I am reading the books at the moment. I am very talanted in Harry Potter (what’s so called…) facts because I have spent a year looking at Harry Wiki.

    I want to come to this camp. How am I suppose to register? πŸ™‚

    Please mail back! :))

    • Hi Lisa,
      The camp I run is for ages 7-14. It is located in California. This year’s camp is full and we have also closed the long wait-list. Sorry. I suggest you use some of the ideas you see here and possibly create a one or two day camp for other kids in your area. I don’t know of a Harry Potter camp in Sweden, so it might be fun to do something like this there.

  • This is AMAZING! Thank you so much for sharing. I have just begun the process of brainstorming for a HP camp next summer, and this has some wonderful ideas. I will come back and share my own soon!

    • Crickets (love the name), thanks for commenting. I would love to see what you come up with for next summer. We are doing some new things this year as well and I will write about them next month or so.

    • Hi Yvonne, this is a post to give camp directors ideas if they decide to run a Harry Potter camp. I run one week of Hogwarts camp but it is in California and it’s full. Check with local libraries and parks and recreation departments. They may be running a Harry Potter camp or know of one around your area.

  • I cannot believe I never found you online! I have been running a HP camp for my kids and their friends for 6 summers and this summer will be going “public” for kids in the area. I was looking for ideas to make it more business-like on my end, since I am just a mom who likes creating fun for my kids. I can’t wait to share my ideas with you as I think I’ve come up with quite a few fun things! “Owl Post” during lunch was my favorite last year. I have owls made out of posterboard that slide onto my ceiling fan blades. I had the parents send notes (even some howlers) that I placed on top of the blades. During lunch, nonchalantly,I had someone turn on the fan and …. wow! was it fun! I’ll be back to your site soon.

    • Hi Carrie, I’m glad you found the site. I would love it if you shared more of your ideas. Its very cool of you to run a camp for your kids and their friends. How fun! Thanks for leaving the comment and I look forward to more.

  • Quick note: I use Steve Spangler’s site for potions. If you’ve never seen him, he’s interesting! He has great science experiments for kids…perfect for potions, charms or trasnfiguration. Even though we do it every year, creating snow in a bowl is their favorite potion!

  • Well, it’s official! I have a camp open to some school kids in June. I’m nervous but settled on a price and dates and sent out flyers. Almost full! We have 12-16 students so it’s easy to sort and have a class schedule. I use a plastic tablecloth painted like bricks and tape it over the front door. They have to run through just like at Kings Cross! My daughter’s favorite day is always the first: School shopping in Diagon alley which is a scavenger hunt for all their supplies. Can’t wait til jUne. Thanks for all the great ideas from you and your readers!

  • We are doing our Harry Potter Day Camp this August. We have our Local Zoo Mobile bringing out animals for a ‘Care of Magical Creatures’ class.

  • I wish I could go to your camp, but I live in Indiana. I am a total fan for Harry Potter, but I’m the only one in my small town who likes it besides my best friend. Do you know of any other Harry Potter camps in Howard County Indiana? I am turning 13 this summer

    • Hi Megan, I don’t know of any HP camps in Indiana. They are few and far between. The library might know of something.

  • Thanks πŸ™‚ I figured out a cool plan for this summer. I’m gonna get my best friends brothers together, and have a little summer camp of our own at the local park borrowing some of your ideas Thanks for inspiring me to do this awesome plan!

  • Way to go, Megan! That’s what got me started…and now I have 15 3/4th graders coming for a week-long camp. Thanks for asking, Moose! Gathering potions & charms. I print out their school books, too. Only a spell book and History of Hogwarts (which lists all of the kids that have been at my camps and what house they’re in). Then we can use those for their OWLS at the end of the week! I can’t wait for summer. I’ll send a few more ideas for Megan soon.

  • Megan, how’s planning going for your camp? I’m just in St.Louis…I’d be willing to share some ideas if you need them…

  • Hi! I have been planning a Harry Potter Science camp for a while now and I am about to put it in to action (so excited)! After all my researching, I just stumbled across your site for the first time. I have my full curriculum planned, as well as administrative aspects and creative ideas.. and if you don’t mind, I would love to incorporate some of yours too! You truly are creative and have some awesome activities to choose from. I too think Owl Post is bloody brilliant!

    But I do have a couple of questions for you from a business stand point. What kind of location/facility do you hold your camp at and do you have any suggestions for mine? The camp will be in the Orlando, Fl area and I’m not sure where to start the facility hunt; schools on break, churches/christian schools, rec centers, etc? The camp will be geared towards children 7/8-12/13 and I would love a facility that offers some form of a classroom as well as outdoor space.

    Also, how have you advertised for your camp? I’ll take as many ideas you got πŸ™‚

    Thank you for this awesome post and congratulations on being so creative and successful!

    • Hi, KitCat. If you are looking to do something this summer you are a little late on trying to get a site and market it. If this is something that you are planning to do during a school break in the fall , winter or spring then you’re alright. Here’s what I would suggest; go to your local parks and recreation department and talk to them about being one of their contract instructors. If they like your idea for a Harry Potter Science Camp then they will help you set a price for the camp and the split is usually around 60/40, with you receiving 60% of the money that comes in. In exchange for the 40% they take you will get a facility to run your camp at, advertising in their activity guide, and they will take in all the registration so you don’t have to wait by the phone, process credit cards and gather all the campers’ personal information. I would then submit a press release to all the newspapers in your area. You can, of course, do this same thing in at other recreation departments, offering your camp all over your county at different times and locations. Parks and recreation departments are always looking for good contract instructors to work with. Hope this helps. Good luck.

  • Like to revisit your site every once in awhile to see how creative people can be! Our camp went well and, as usual, the best activities came at the last minute: I could tell that the kids we had needed more games than I had planned so we threw together a potion relay. Each house had a box of ingredients (a feather, marble, plastic spider, hot pepper, balloon, vial of blue koolaid, etc) that they had to get into the main cauldron in the middle of the yard. But they could only use their tongs or mouths. Seeing these kids carrying a marble with tongs or spitting their koolaid into the pot was hilarious!! Messy and fun!! Also, it turned out to be about 100 degrees that week so we also played “Crossing the Black Lake”. I bought a 50 ft. roll of black plastic sheeting (at Lowe’s) and had my helpers cover it with liquid dish soap and set the sprinkler up. The kids all lined up on one side and their Prefect (my teenage helpers) had to get each person from their house to the other side…by carrying, pulling, sliding. It basically just turned into a 30 minute slippery wrestling match. All fun and not too rough, of course, but just what they needed to cool off. Even though this was your last year for HP camp…hope you leave the site up for everyone to continue to exchange ideas. It’s great. Thanks!

  • This is an awesome collection of ideas! I especially like the idea of doing a Horcrux hunt! I’m running a Harry Potter camp for kids aged 5-9 for a week this summer and you have some gems here. Thanks for sharing.

  • What do you do about copyright infringements using the Name Harry Potter? Is this a non profit organization? I want to do Harry Potter Day Camp, but the copyright infringement has me worried

    • Lynsie, I have tried and tried to contact someone who could approve or deny my request to do a Harry Potter camp with no success. I’ve contacted multiple people at Warner Bros., Scholastic and even JK’s agent. No response. At one point I heard that Warner Bros had so many requests that they set up a fax line for requests to run Harry Potter events and were approving nearly all of them. I am not sure if this is true as I have never been able to find that fax number.

      The way I set up our camp makes it easy to switch over to a general Wizarding School camp if I ever have to. For our American version of Hogwarts we naturally needed unique houses so I created house name and icons. We started with two and know have four. All the activities can easily be renamed as well. It would be an easy shift for us. The thing is that there are a lot of Harry Potter Camps running without permission and none of them are getting shut down. Sometimes you just need to take your chances, but always have a back-up plan.

      I run a set of “book series” camps (Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Star Wars, Middle Earth, etc.) and wanted to include a Hunger Games camp for our teens, so I went in search of permission to do so. After sending out emails and letters and doing some follow-up calls with multiple people, I finally received a letter from one of Suzanne Collins’ lawyers refusing to give me permission to use any of the names, movie stills, and copyrighted materials from the Hunger Games series to be used for a camp. So instead, I changed the name of the camp and set the “storyline” 20 years after the fall of the capitol. The teen campers participate in the “Games”, which is now an event to celebrate the districts’ freedom from the capitol, as volunteers representing their districts. Instead of “killing” each other, it’s more of a game of tag with points and skill stations. The camper with the most points at the end of the time limit is the Victor. We don’t use any of the characters or copyrighted material from the book or movies.

  • Hey!! Thank you so much for your ideas, I’m trying to convince my co-monitors (don’t even know if this word really exists in English haha) to have next year’s summer camp based on Harry Potter,though they don’t really like the idea. It would be amazing if we could use some of these ideas!!

    • Mimicq, I have found that if you don’t have buy in from the staff for a specific theme the campers and your co-monitors (surely that’s a word) will not enjoy it. A theme like Harry Potter is one that people are either really going to get into or they are going to roll there eyes at. You could always do a generic wizard theme or maybe a fantasy theme that includes wizards, unicorns, giants, elves, etc. This allows those with different interests to participate. Maybe with the overall fantasy theme you could have a Hogwarts day, a Lord of the Rings day, a knights of the roundtable/Excalibur day, a ferries and elves day, and a How to Train Your Dragon day…or something similar.

  • I’m running a “Harry Potter: camp at our church this summer. I love all of your ideas! I was wondering if you tell the kids the “history” of each house and why the crest looks the way it does.

    • Hi Cathy, no we didn’t but that is a great idea. We actually added 2 more houses since our numbers increased. I am planning to write an update post in a few weeks. We’ve made a number of improvements and additions to the camp that I would love to share, so look out for that. I love the idea of the history of each house, though.

  • Fantastic ideas on this website! I teach third grade at the Anglo American School in Moscow, Russia. I’ll be running a Harry Potter after school activity this year for fourth and fifth graders. I am really looking forward to using some of these ideas that you have posted. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Hey I think this is really awesome!! You are so probably the best professor ever!! I almost feel like starting my own camp now!! (If I had the time!) Please make more things like this!!

    • It is a lot of fun (and hard work) to create a specialty camp like this. I wish you did have the time to start your own HP camp. The world would be a better place with more of them. πŸ™‚

  • I am overjoyed at finding this site! Some of your ideas have saved me HOURS of work! I teach reading and in the past I’ve just done a Harry Potter Day with my class. This year when I moved up to 5th grade I talked the other reading teacher into reading Harry Potter as well. Since between the both of us we teach practically every 5th grader in our school (260 kiddos) we made Harry Potter Day a full day event. Students will go to their regular classes but each class has been ‘transfigured’ into a class from Hogwarts. With so many classes I was at a loss as to what to do with each of them. Your transfiguration class is genius! We already did potions but love the different potions you have on your site and will put those into the mix. Also your version of quidditch with the rules will work so much better than what we have done in the past!
    I wanted to pass along two things we do that I didn’t see mentioned. We have herbology where students plant mandrakes! Basically Chia Pets- you need knee highs, potting soil, grass seeds, and googley eyes. Super easy and the grass seeds start to sprout within days. The other class I’ve been fortunate to do is Care of Magical Creatures. I found a man at a renaissance faire that had a birds of prey show. He brings his owl to class every year for no charge since we are a school etc. He talks to the kids about owls and other birds of prey. Not totally Harry Potter but it’s a live owl so no one complains. I know our local zoo does the same sort of program so that may be something you may want to look into in your area.
    Any way, sorry for the long post but truly so excited to have found this site!!!

    • Juli, thank yo so much for the kind words. I am thrilled that you got a lot of ideas from the posts. The Mandrake idea you speak of is something I had considered doing but given that our camp is only a week long we weren’t sure if it was worth it since they didn’t have long to grow. If we ran a two week program we definitely would do the Mandrake project.

      I love the idea of having a birds of prey program visit camp. I bet the kids go nuts over that. Very memorable. Thanks for the ideas.

  • Hi there! We have summer camps at our theatre and were thinking that this might be an excellent idea for next summer! I wonder about the legalities of it. Have you hit any snags advertising that you are doing a harry Potter camp? This would be perfect for us with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child opening on Broadway next spring. Any info would be VERY helpful! Thank you so very much!

    • Hi, Justin. Lynsie asked about this a few years ago. My answer is in the comments above. In short, I tried to get approval, but after unsuccessfully trying to contact people at the publishers and Warner Bros. I gave up and went forward with it. I never had an issue in the years that I ran the camp. I also know that there are a few other Harry Potter camps that have websites and programs that are clearly in violation of the copyrights and they have been going for years without issue as well. I wish I could tell you who to contact to get authorization or a licensing rate, but my search (and all the sent emails that never got a response) turned up empty.

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