Theme of the Week – Shipwrecked

Theme of the Week is a post where we ask readers like you to comment with ideas for a particular theme. What ideas and suggestions do you have? What game, craft, apparel choice, theme meal, evening activity, special event, song, skit, or anything else would you do at camp if your theme was…


Below are five of my ideas. Leave yours in the comments area below.

  1. You can do anything you would normally do for a Pirate theme, like treasure hunts, plank walks, gold coin collecting, water games and more.
  2. Have the shipwreck in a foreign local like Australia and hold Australian activities. Ever tried Vegemite, thrown a boomerang, or participated in a race where you had to hop like a kangaroo?
  3. Teach survival skills like starting a fire, scavenging for berries, making a shelter, and/or fishing.
  4. Wear tattered clothing and talk to Wilson, the volleyball.
  5. On the last day have a “Rescue Party”.

Okay, your turn. What are you great ideas?


  • We once did an entire summer based on Island activities. Here was the handout we used:
    Summer Staff Handout – Island Adventures Theme
    This week will focus on learning different games that might be played on an island or beach.
    Frisbee games
    Frisbee golf
    Cornhole Toss
    Washer Toss
    Bocce Ball
    Wiffle Ball
    Parachute games
    Four Square
    Tag Football (NO TACKLE!)
    You are welcome to try other games you like
    Let me know ahead of time which games you would like your group to play so that I will have them ready. You could also hold tournaments or contests. You have Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to play these games.

    We will have the Bike Rodeo on Thursday. You must have a helmet to ride with the kids.
    Friday morning we will have “Wacky Island Olympic Games.”

    This week will focus on pretending that the group has been shipwrecked on a deserted island.
    Boat building / float in small pool
    Popsicle stick boats
    Put messages in bottles
    Send messages to other groups in bottles
    Make necklaces from pasta
    Sea shell crafts
    Paint pet rocks
    Colored sand jars
    Build a shelter from cardboard, newspapers and tape
    Give kids a shipwrecked scenario and discuss gathering food, collecting water, building shelters, making SOS signals, starting a fire
    Tell a shipwreck story where the kids act out the motions, for example:
    A group of people are on a boat.
    Suddenly a storm appears and the boat becomes shaky.
    People start to feel nauseous.
    The storm gets worse and the people are thrown from side to side.
    The people have to abandon ship.
    The people swim to a far off island.
    Tye dye t-shirts, pillowcases or bandanas
    Watch episode of “Gilligan’s Island”

    Friday morning, we will have “Shipwrecked Castaways” games.

    This week will focus on Pirate and Mermaid activities.
    Pirate activities:
    There is a pirate name generator at
    Or you can make up pirate names with kids; put first name in one container and the second name in another container and let the kids draw out
    Create a pirate chant or song for group
    Pirate spyglass – cardboard tubes
    Pirate eye patch – felt and elastic string (have an eye patch fashion show – who can make the coolest eye patch?)
    Pirate flags – construction paper
    Treasure chest – cleaned milk cartons, popsicle sticks and rhinestones
    Make treasure pouches
    Pretend pirate ship made from large boxes
    Make a shrunken head by carving an apple or a potato and let dry out
    Mermaid activities:
    Use body glitter
    Glittery nail polish
    Fancy hairdos
    Make seashell necklaces
    Make crowns from wired star garlands
    Draw a life-size mermaid or merman by lying on a large sheet of paper, tracing body shape but at knees draw a tail fin shape. Draw features and decorate with tissue paper, glitter, jewels, shiny paper.
    Play “Mermaid, Mermaid, Shark” like “Duck, Duck, Goose”
    Play “Which Shell Contains the Pearl?” using 3 shells and a pearl

    Friday morning we will have a “Pirates vs. Mermaids Competition” (boys vs. girls!)

    This week will focus on animals that are usually found living on islands. Examples of these are reptiles, such as frogs, snakes, lizards and turtles; birds, such as pelicans, parrots, seagulls, egrets and penguins; bats; rats; lemurs; monkeys; seals; crabs and clams.
    Learn about animal camouflage (chameleon)
    Learn about animal tracking
    Relay races moving like island animals (crab, monkey, snake, etc.)
    Who Am I? – Tape the name or picture of an island animal on the backs of all the kids and they try to figure out what they are by asking “yes or no” questions.
    Animal Hunting – tape different island animals on the backs of all the kids and then they “hunt” by writing down the names of all the other animals around them. Kids try not to let other kids see their backs because the animal that was written down the fewest times wins.
    Make animal masks
    Make snakes out of some old ties
    Make an animal collage or picture book
    Make a paper mache penguin
    Make a lobster from an egg carton
    Make a baby turtle from cardboard, yarn, pipecleaners and glue
    Make a sock puppet parrot – stuff a sock, then use felt, construction paper and feathers to turn into a parrot
    Frozen Monkey Treats – chocolate or yogurt dipped bananas
    Fish Bowl – Swedish fish suspended in blue jello

    Friday morning we will have a “Sunshine Monkeyshines” show at about 10:30 a.m. (live monkeys!)

    This week will focus on party time on the islands (clean, family-friendly party time!).
    Music and dance activities – beach party, pool party, hula, reggae, etc.
    Beach ball games
    Frisbee games
    Volleyball games
    Limbo contests
    Hula hoop contests
    Make leis and grass skirts
    Make a paper mache piñata
    Shell anklet – ½” strip of felt with Velcro fastener, glue on shells
    Hemp bracelets
    Luau windsock with flowers and streamers
    Make an erupting volcano
    Make sno-cones
    Make home-made ice cream

    Friday morning we will have an “Island Luau” at about 10:00 a.m. Lynn Ellington will be here as our DJ with music and fun. We will also have a cookout.

    This week will focus on animals in the waters surrounding the islands.
    What Sea Animal Am I? – give clues and kids try to guess
    Play Octopus Tag
    Water balloon games (you must fill balloons and clean up after your group)
    Make jellyfish – drop food coloring on wet coffee filter; let dry; glue on clear plastic strips (from hardware department)
    Make a socktopus – Use adult size white socks; cut the open end into eight strips for legs (already have done for smaller children); let kids stuff and tie off with a rubber band; then decorate
    Make crabs – paint a paper bowl; then glue on legs and claws
    Make an Ocean in a Bottle – Fill an empty clean water bottle with oil, water, food coloring, shells, glitter, ocean animal toys
    Make a beady starfish – cut out cardboard shape of starfish; glue on one side; dip glue side into tray of seed beads; lift gently and let dry

    Friday morning we will have Water Day for all age groups. Be prepared to get wet. Bring a change of dry clothes, just in case. One person will most likely be inside with those not wanting to participate but everyone else will be fair game for the kids – – believe me, I know!

    This week will focus on activities pertaining to the TV show “Survivor.” No activities involving voting anyone off the island!
    I will hide an Immunity Idol for each group each day and you have until the end of the day to find it.
    Have kids select three items that they would want to have with them if they were stranded on an island and tell why
    Play parachute games
    Team challenges (come up with your own or I can help you)
    Team-building activities

    Friday morning we will have a “Survivor Games” challenge.

    This week will focus on being “surfer dudes and dudettes.” We will be Kings and Queens of the Beach.
    Make surfboard from cardboard (paint, then clear coat)
    Beach music
    Beach balls
    Fruit Loops sand art (crush by color and make picture with glue)
    Decorate sun visors
    Sea shell crafts
    Flip flop crafts
    Colored sand jars
    Mosaic art
    Tye dye t-shirts, pillowcases or bandanas
    Sand castles
    Beach volleyball
    Seashell hunt

    Friday morning, we will have “Beach Day Games.”

    This week will focus on Treasure Hunting.
    Seashell hunt
    Map reading activities
    Treasure hunts (with clues or maps to follow)
    Scavenger hunts
    Penny hunt (scatter in area and let kids find)
    Gold nugget hunt (same as above using gold painted rocks)
    Make treasure chests from shoe boxes (paint and decorate)

    We will have a Carnival here at the school on Thursday.
    Friday morning, we will have an “Amazing Treasure Hunt Race.”

    Island Adventures Large Group Games
    Wacky Island Olympic Games
    We divided the kids into 3 teams and did the following relay races and games:
    Coconut Bowling – each team rolled a coconut and tried to knock over a pineapple
    Banana Race – put banana in armpit and hop to cone and back. After everyone has gone, one person must eat the banana
    Boogie Board Relay – ride scooters through cone maze
    Over and under with long pool toy animals
    Wacky Waiter Relay – carry ping pong ball on plastic dinner plate
    Marshmallow Shooters – cut bottom from plastic solo cups, pull balloon over opening with end tied off for handle, place marshmallows inside cup, pull balloon handle and release to shoot marshmallow at target
    Grab Bag – put slips of paper with actions in bag, one player pulls out a slip and the whole team performs the action
    Rubber Duck Relay – kids ran with rubber duck on their heads while carrying cone with ball like snow cone
    Bubble Gum Bubble Contest – for older kids
    We then let the kids play giant beach ball volleyball

    Shipwrecked Castaways Games
    We divided the kids into 3 teams and did the following races and games:
    Mystery Box of Shipwrecked Remains – we put 15 random objects into a box with open top. Teams sent one person at a time to look in the box and return to team and tell them one item that they saw, and then the next person went. First team to identify all 15 items was the winner.
    Don’t Hit the Iceberg (hoops) – kids rode on scooters and tried to avoid the icebergs or hoops
    Help – kids use their bodies working together to spell the word “HELP”
    Character Match – we gave the kids a list of characters and the names of some movies and TV shows and they had to match them up. Here was what we used:
    Titanic – Rose Dewitt Bukater/Dawson, Jack Dawson, Margaret “Molly Brown”
    Swiss Family Robinson – Fritz Robinson, Bertie Robinson, Captain Moreland
    Castaway – Chuck Noland, Wilson, Kelly Frears
    Gilligan’s Island – Skipper, Ginger Grant, Thurston Howell III
    Survivor – Jeff Probst, Richard Hatch, Tina Wesson
    Alvin and the Chipmunks “Chipwrecked” – Alvin Seville, Simon Seville, Theodore Seville
    Sharks and Fish – Put gummy sharks and fish in a container. Kids pull out one without looking. Score points with fish and lose points with sharks
    Ship Wreck Island – Place hoops randomly around. Kids meander around area until you shout “Shark!” and then everyone must find a hoop to stand in. Can have multiple players in hoops. Take away a hoop each time.

    Pirates vs. Mermaids Competitions
    Walk the Plank – walk to the end of a plank (board), grab a jigsaw puzzle piece, take back to team, next person repeats until can solve jigsaw puzzle. We placed plastic snakes and gators around the board.
    Sword Relay Race – carry a gold coin on the blade of a sword to a cone and back
    Mermaid Race – wrap Velcro strap around feet of kids and they lie on their bellies and swim to cone and back. We had string stretched across above them with blue balloons hanging down around them.
    Find the Pearl – Put ping pong balls under random overturned cups. Kids go up one at a time for each team to look for ball or “pearl.”
    Island Scurry – teams cross a designated area (water) using hoops. Entire team must cross.
    Pop the Cannonball – we tied small black inflated balloons to the ankles of the staff and the kids attempted to stomp them to bust them. Staff tried to avoid the kids.
    Pirate Quiz – each team placed one player on planks with numbered steps. We gave each team a pirate question. If their answer was wrong, their player had to take a step on the plank. Several pirate quizzes can be found on-line. We did one where the answer was multiple choice A, B, C or D. The team could hold up their answer.

    Survivor Games
    We divided the kids into 3 teams and gave each team different colored “buffs” or cut up material.
    Scavenger Hunt – give each team a list of pictures to hunt for. Pictures are taped to the wall.
    Blind Mice Challenge – scatter colored balls and give each team one color to find. Designate one team member the caller and they direct team one person at a time blindfolded to retrieve a ball.
    Worm Wranglers – container of cooked spaghetti. Teams carry one piece at a time to 2L bottle to deposit.
    Target Knockdown – scatter colored cups with each team assigned a color. Teams use balls to try to knock over other teams cups.
    Survivor Word Search – word search puzzle for each team to solve
    Food Challenge – find 6 interesting looking foods and give them creative names. Label food items 1 to 6. Kids roll a dice to see which item they try.
    Baby Food Roullette – place baby food in jars around the edge of a lazy susan. Kids take turns spinning to see what they get to try.
    Friendly Feud – like Family Feud. We used the topic Hamburger Toppings. Teams took turns guessing an answer.

    Beach Day Games
    We divided the group into 3 teams and then did the following races and games:
    Volleyball with beach towels and beach balls
    Beach Ball Dodgeball – two teams stand and make circle. One team stands in the middle of the circle. Play dodgeball. If hit, must run around the outside of the circle and then return to circle.
    Hot Beach Ball – like “Hot Potato”
    Basket Toss – toss beach balls into laundry baskets for points
    Partner volley a beach ball to cone and back
    Obstacle course kicking a beach ball
    Cooperation Carry – two people carry a beach to cone and back using their backs
    Relay – carry beach ball between knees to cone and back
    Ice Cream Cone Carry – carry beach ball in an up-turned cone
    Tunnel Pass – team stands in line and passes beach ball down line between legs
    Beach Ball Tag – one team it at a time
    Hula Hoop Contest

    Amazing Treasure Hunt Race
    We divided into 3 teams and each team completed challenges before moving on to the next challenge. When they finished a challenge, they were given the directions to the next one. I had planned an outdoor race but we had rain and had to move indoors. Here were our challenges:
    Team Challenge – each team had to do a total of 50 jumping jacks, 50 push ups and 50 sit-ups. Only one person could perform at a time.
    Solo Challenge – one person had to draw a zoo animal on paper taped to the wall
    Team Challenge – each person had to hop through a hopscotch pattern
    Solo Challenge – one person had to make a free throw
    Solo Challenge – one person had to stand in hoop and hit a waffle ball with a bat
    Solo Challenge – one person had to throw a Frisbee at a target
    Team Challenge – team had to decode a secret message (code was given)
    Solo Challenge – one team member had to eat a peanut butter and cracker and then whistle
    Solo Challenge – one team member had to eat small medicine cups of M&M’s until they found a cup with a sticker under the candy
    Solo Challenge – one team member must sing “Rudolph the White Nosed Reindeer” with a cotton ball on their nose held with Vaseline
    The reward at the end was popsicles.

  • We have done “shipwrecked” meals- each camper only gets one utensil- it’s great fun with random kitchen stuff- potato masher, slotted spoon, ladle, etc!

  • I love this. I always use an overarching theme that encompasses each weeks theme. At the end of last summer, several of the counselors took suggestions for themes for next summer. This will be a nice challenge to bring in some of those other ideas and make it fall under the shipwrecked umbrella theme. I’ll let you know my thoughts when I pull them together. I design our campers teeshirts and now I’m excited to come up with my design for the teeshirts as well.

    • Annette, I like your idea of using Shipwrecked as an umbrella theme. There really is a lot you can do with it. Clever.

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