This is part 5 of the Virtual Camp Ideas series. A number of the ideas in this list come from a recent email roundtable I ran.
Check out the other parts of this series:
Coloring Book Pages
Here’s an idea from Scott Thomas. At his camp, they are creating coloring book pages from camp photos.
There are a lot of ways to turn your photos into coloring sheets. It depends on what tools you use (i.e. Photoshop, Pixlr.com, Colorscape app, etc.). Do a quick Google search and you’ll find a lot of tutorials and also sites that will convert it for you.
Once converted, make the pages available for your campers to download, or add them to any kits or boxes you send out.
Characters Cooking Contest
This one comes from Ben Sparks. “We are creating and posting a few videos to YouTube that campers can view right now, which we may be able to compile for virtual camps later on. (This one) combines a couple of our popular skit characters with a baking activity. The two characters make the same cookie recipe, but one makes lots of mistakes. After a humorous taste test at the end, children can follow the correct recipe to make their own cookies at home.”
A book club can be a lot of fun. I would set up different book clubs for different ages so that the chosen books are age-appropriate.
When meeting to discuss the book make sure you have a list of discussion topics. You can also include things like a craft or recipe that ties into the book. Play Roll and Retell where each kid rolls a die and follows the chart below based on their number.
Other ideas to consider would be to decorate your space based around the book for your online meet-ups. Make general crafts like book covers or bookmarks. Read parts of the book with younger readers. Add worksheets and/or coloring pages. Hold a trivia contest for points or prizes. Choose a book that leads to watching a movie adaptation.
Play Simon Says on Zoom. Make sure the webcam is getting the kids’ whole body as you play.
If you have someone who speaks a second language on staff, have them give some basic language lessons. Play games in that language. Listen to music or play movie clips in that language. Or teach some basic sign language. There are courses and instructional videos online that can help you get started.
The neat thing about doing this on a live stream is that you can have fun with it by testing the kids, playing games with the kids, etc. It’s not just them watching a video and practicing on their own.
Around the World
If you normally hire international staff, put together a time when you can get some of them on a virtual call. Let them talk about their home and culture and give the kids a chance to ask questions. You could also run a trivia contest. Have your international staff come up with the questions.
Thanks to Gretchen Reeson for this idea. “Get a tray of items. For younger kids, I did 5 items. For older kids, I included more items. I used common household items (keys, marker, salt shaker, sunglasses). Be sure the kids have paper and markers. Show them the tray. I told them to memorize the items – with their mind- not write them down. I will take away an item and then show them the tray again. They need to write down the item I took away (don’t say it out loud) and then when I say “reveal” show me their answers that they wrote on their piece of paper. Level up by adding items to your tray. Tell the kids they can trick their moms and dads with this, and they love it!!”
Match the Lego Structure
Here’s another great idea from Gretchen Reeson. “Have all kids come with Legos. They will all be different and that’s ok. Make a figure of your own (different colors and shapes), then tell them they have 4 minutes to create the same thing (as best they can). Don’t get frustrated if they don’t have the exact color or exact Legos. We are all having to be creative right now. ”
Design all your weekly activities (crafts, games, hunts, videos, etc.) around a theme. There are lists of theme ideas on this site. Consider mailing a themed kit or box to your campers with craft supplies, activity sheets, trinkets and more.
There are a number of activities you can do virtually around music.
- Give instruction on a particular instrument.
- Hold a “drum circle” using pots and cardboard or storage boxes.
- Lead a round of camp songs.
- Make homemade instruments.
- Play Name That Tune.
Here’s a great suggestion from Cindy Grant. “I remember watching Romper Room as a little kid and how excited my friends and I were when she called out our names. (The Bozo show did it too, am I giving away my age?)
I think one of the things that makes camp so special is the investment staff puts into the relational aspect of camp. I think greeting campers by name, even remotely, makes them feel involved and special.”
During your virtual activities do some shout outs, particularly for birthdays and to recognize achievements. Just for fun, here’s a video of the magic mirror on Romper Room.
This one comes from Alexia Sideri. “Another thing we do every night at 8:30 pm is that we post a video of a bedtime story read to them by one of the counselors. We tried to do it live, but there were technical issues that caused too much stress, so now we just schedule bedtime stories every night Monday to Friday.”
This would be a great addition to your regular online program.
Hometown Tours by Staff
Robert Johnson suggests having your staff record hometown tours. Campers would love to see and hear about their counselor’s life outside of camp. This would be especially neat with international staff.
Afterward, showing the pre-recorded videos, let the kids ask questions live.
Spot the Difference
This is sort of like What’s Missing but a bit different. Tell your virtual campers to examine you and the room you’re in. Cover your webcam and add or take away something in the room or on your person. Uncover the webcam and ask the kids to spot the difference. What was added? What was taken away? Type your answers in the chat.
Make sure you have chat set so only you can see it. Then you can say, “Susie found it. Robbie found it.” End the round when 5 or more have “spotted the difference”.
Here’s an interesting idea by Joah Widman. Get 25 camp items (rubber chicken, plastic serving plate, etc.) and placing them in a five by five grid on your lawn. Then film a staff member shooting an arrow into the air and landing in a grid square. This would be bingo that everyone could play along with.
You could probably do this with a lawn dart as well. I would either find an online bingo card generator that lets you add items instead of numbers, or have the kids create their own cards using a list of items. If they make their own cards, have them show you the card before the game begins and screenshot it so there is no cheating.
You can play full games of archery bingo in one sitting, or you can call out one or two items each day and stretch the game out for a couple of weeks.
Celebrate a holiday each day for a week. Include holiday-themed crafts, games, stories, skits, recipes, printables, etc. There are many holidays to choose from, but besides the obvious, you can choose some holidays that aren’t as popular like Talk Like a Pirate Day, Kid Inventors’ Day, National Rubber Duckie Day or one of the hundreds of other bizarre and unique holidays.
This idea is courtesy of Stephanie Williams. “Teach real-world life skills they can follow along at home like how to cook (the basics and then advance to full meals), change a tire, laundry, build a fire, put up a tent, etc.
Virtual Camp Class sample description:
Put on your aprons, campers! Are you ready to learn how to make some yummy easy recipes? You will learn the basic skills of preparing a meal or snack, to proper kitchen basics, tools, safety, how to use a mixer, blender, frying pan, microwave, etc.
Each week we will learn about new equipment and by the end of the week make a simple yummy meal.”
Book of Records
Ali Stoffels suggests you…“Create a Book of Records where kids can look up (camp) records (suggested or previously completed) and seek to set a new one.”
I like this idea. Kids can choose a record that was set for your camp, choose one from a list that hasn’t been attempted yet, or ask for approval on one they came up with. Then they can practice it on their own time. At that point, you can either have them record themselves and submit any record-breaking attempts for verification, or you can set a specific time to live stream any attempts at breaking or setting records.
Does your camp have a drone? Get it in the air and take a tour of camp to remind kids how wonderful it is there.
Take it up a notch and hide (in plain sight) a bunch of random items. During one of your hunt activity times have the kids print out (or write out) a list of items to look for. Now show the kids your drone footage and have them try and find them all. You can also add in someone dressed as Waldo.
Teddy Bear Mascot Election
This idea comes from Mark Greenburg. Hold a teddy bear election. Here’s how it works.
- Have 4 veteran staff take on personas of their favorite teddy bears.
- Have them record campaign videos to show. You can post these on your social media channels.
- Have the campers vote in a primary election.
- The 2 finalists will hold a live debate.
- Then have a final vote to find the Quarantine Camp Mascot.