Update 4/1/17 – Since writing this post, I have changed and improved some things about the bead program. I wrote a complete how to guide that you can get on Patchwork. Click here to get more info.

Last year I started a bead reward program. A friend of mine had told me about it. The YMCA she had worked at ran a bead reward program at their camps. So I thought, “What the heck, I’ll give it a shot.” The rating system of the beads (common to super ultra-rare) came from a workshop called Beads and Nachos: Inspiring Great Staffers and Great Campers that was given by Bryan Vitale and Peter Vigeant at an ACA conference.

I wasn’t sure what the campers would think about it. I certainly wasn’t expecting to get the response that I did. They loved it. I was shocked.

On the first day of camp (a one week day camp) I explained the program to the campers. That day all campers created a tree cookie name tag that they were required to wear the rest of the week. The necklace part was a thin leather. I had to make sure that any beads I purchased would have a large enough hole for the string or leather to go through.

At the end of each day the camp counselors had to turn in a list of their campers with the bead(s) they were to get the following day. I would then put the beads in a Ziploc bag (one for each counselor) that the counselors would receive the next morning. For each “bead reward” they would receive 2 beads, a set, one for each side of the tree cookie necklace.

The beads ranged from Common to Super Ultra-Rare. As the beads were handed out the campers that received Super Ultra-Rare beads would be recognized in front of the whole camp.

Campers that came back to camp for a few weeks would continue to grow their collection of beads. It became a real token of pride for many of them.

This summer I am planning to give each camper a few sets of friendship beads that they can give to, or trade with, other campers during the week. I’m also planning to give campers the ability to nominate other campers for special beads.

The beads are a mix of pony beads to glass beads.

Here is our current list of beads.


Return Camper (from a previous week)
Positive Attitude
Good Sportsmanship


Camp Spirit


Fishing (caught a fish)
Game Master
Top Shot (archery)
Craft Superstar
Treasure Hunter
Braveheart (showed courage in the face of fear)
One with Nature

Super Ultra-Rare

Original (a camper who really stands out from the crowd)
Strength of Character
Making a Difference (CITs and Staff get this, but occasionally a camper will, too)
Director’s Bead (I’ve yet to give any of these out. I’m not sure what I would give a pair out for, but all the campers want a set.)


Winner (a team or camper that wins a challenge or game)

Do you run a bead program? What beads would you recommend?