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A while back I ran an email round table with the topic Special and Magical Things Done at Your Camp. One of the submissions was by Lexie Blessing. She wrote:
We have a small hike along the lake our camp is on. We tell the youngest campers they are going to Pooh’s house. Along the way they get to stop at Piglet’s house and go inside (it’s a tree that a neighbor hollowed out and put a latter in so you could see out the top). When they get to the end of the hike there is a table made out of rocks and a few seats. Pooh, though is always busy, but he leaves a note explaining his absence along with some snacks.
I love this idea so much that I started thinking about other “set-ups” you could do.
FINDING THE RIGHT SPOT
Of course, this would all depend on your property. Most of the camps I have worked at or visited have trails leading off to different areas of camp or even beyond the camp property. You’ll need to find the right spot to create your special area. It will need to be a place that is kind of hidden, a place campers won’t stumble upon on their own. You don’t want a counselor to take her group to the “special spot” only to have a couple of the campers say, “Oh, yeah we found this place during free time yesterday.” All the excitement of discovery gone (kablooey).
It should also be a place that fits the set-up. Lexie mentions that on the way to Pooh’s they stop by Piglet’s hallowed out tree house. That’s a pretty specific spot they had to use.
So, take a look at the different places on your camp property that is a bit of a hike away, hidden and fits your set-up idea, or decide on the set-up after you have found your special spot.
SPECIAL AREA IDEAS
A Pooh’s Corner is a fantastic idea, but maybe you want to do something different. Here are some other ideas to consider.
Tea Time with Alice in Wonderland
Find a shaded area and place a large wooden table there. Add a table-cloth and a colorful tea set with enough cups for a group. Before heading out to discover the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party table, have someone drop off some tea and snacks. Also, leave a note from the Mad Hatter about how he had to run off with The White Rabbit who was late for an important date, but that the group was welcome to help themselves to the snacks and tea. You can also add props like the Mad Hatter’s hat, The White Rabbits pocket watch, a Queen of Hearts playing card, etc.
The Giving Tree
Find a large fruit tree. If you have an apple tree, that would be ideal. Have different items available that may come from the tree stacked at its base. If it’s an apple tree you could have apples, apple pie, apple sauce, apple juice, wood cookies for crafts or name tags, paper, etc. Basically anything that might be made from what the tree could provide. While the campers are enjoying their treats or doing their crafts, read the book The Giving Tree and have a discussion afterwards.
Dr Seuss’ Secret Hideaway
If you have a little shack or cabin that is out of sight, set it up as Dr. Seuss’ Secret Hideaway. Place the hat from Cat in the Hat on a hat rack. put the shorts of Thing 1 and Thing 2 in a drawer. Have a bowl with one fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish in it. You get the idea. You could also have frames with photos of characters from the book and camp staff Photoshopped together.
The New Order of the Phoenix Hideout
Even though Voldemort is gone, Harry decided to keep the Order of the Phoenix together in case the Ministry of Magic is once again taken over by evil forces. But he needed a new location for their meetings. It just so happens, that location is on camp property and Harry has given the camp permission to bring campers by to see it.
This, too, will require an actual building or shack. When the Order meets, the spell is automatically triggered to make the room bigger on the inside. However, you are just a bunch of Muggles, so it will remain a small room. Add some trinkets in the room like Hogwarts house banners, a broken wand, a clock that shows everyone in the Order are safe and at work, a cot for the house elf that usually stays there, etc.
Where the Wild Things Are
Do you have, or can you get, a small sailboat? I doesn’t even need to float as it will be up on shore. If you have a small sailboat paint it red and write MAX on it. Inside place a crown, Max’ costume and a letter from Max to the campers.
The Cabin of the Three Bears that Goldilocks Visited
I know that we usually need more buildings at camp and that it is rare for a camp to have a surplus of cabins, but on the off-chance that you have an extra cabin, it would be so neat to set it up with three beds, three chairs and three bowls of porridge. Create a newspaper that has the headline, ‘Little Girl Breaks Into Home, Eats Porridge’ and the story can be that of Goldilocks.
Grandma’s Cabin that Red-Riding Hood visits
Here’s another set-up you can do if you just so happen to have that extra cabin that’s not being used. These could also be Escape Room (Puzzle Room) game set-ups. How fun would that be? “Escape the cabin before the wolf returns”.
Find a spot outdoors and set it up as though a young superhero is living there. You can set up a tent and a campfire cooking area. When the campers get there, ask them if they can figure out what sort of powers this new superhero has. Leave clues around like a book on flight or a book on the speed of animals. Create a journal or diary that would have the writings of a young superhero just learning to use his or her powers.
I have written about fairy houses and fairy villages before on this site. Create a fairy village where staff and alumni create the fairy houses and shops. Let them get as creative and detailed as they like.