Theme of the Week – Mission Impossible

Does your camp have theme weeks or theme days? In this series of posts, I give you 5 ideas for different themes. Check the comments for more ideas and to add your own.


Show your campers how to create messages using invisible ink.

There are a number of ways to do this.

  • Use lemon juice. Cut a lemon in half and squeeze out the juice. Add a few drops of water and stir. Take a cotton swab and write the message. Let it dry. To reveal the message, place the paper over a light bulb.
  • Use milk. Pour some milk into a bowl. Using a cotton swab, write the message. Let it dry. Heat up the paper using a lightbulb or even an iron.
  • Use a white crayon. Write the message with a white crayon. Paint over the message using watercolors. The message will appear.
  • Purchase invisible ink and a UV flashlight. Write your message using invisible ink. Use the UV light to reveal the message. This is my favorite and one I use in my escape rooms.
TaoTronics Black Light, 12 LEDs 395nm UV Blacklight Flashlights Detector for Pets Urine and Stains with 3 Free AAA Batteries
  • Find invisible stains: Daktronics UV flashlight helps detect food stains and pet urine...
  • Versatile use: authenticate currency and official documents like drivers licenses or...


Speaking of escape rooms, have your campers go through an escape room game can be a lot of fun.

If you aren’t sure what an escape room is or you want some tips on how to create one, check out my post, Creating an Escape Room at Camp. Just know that an escape room doesn’t always mean that a group is locked in a room and needs to escape. Many times it means that the group needs to solve a mystery or find an object in a certain amount of time, and usually, it takes place inside one (or maybe two) rooms.

You can create a game that is short (10-20 minutes) or one that is longer (40-60) minutes.


Show your campers how to create ciphered messages. You could even go through some history of ciphered messages and talk about how coded messages have been used for centuries by armies, spies, and even businesses.

Encoding and decoding is called cryptography from the Greek word “kryptos” (hidden) and “graphia” (writing).

Here are some of my favorite ways to code a message.

Caesar Cypher
The Caesar Cypher uses a key (shown below) to decode a message that looks like just a jumble of letters.

To decode it you need to know where to set the inner circle in relation to the outer one. Then you can decipher the message.

For example, if you know that the shift number is 20 you would first line up the “A”s in the two circles. Then you would shift the inner circle to the left 20 times. Now the outer A is lined up with the inner G.

If the coded message started with a G, you would now know that the actual letter is an A. Or, if the message read NKRRU the decoded message would be HELLO.

Pig Pen
This is a popular coding technique. The coded message below needs to be decoded using a Pig Pen key.

Using the key below the message, campers will find that the code says, X MARKS THE SPOT.

Pig Pen Key

Letter or Poem Codes
Another neat coding technique is to write a letter or a poem and hide the secret in the text. Can you decipher the message below?

Let me tell you something I have never told anyone. I like
all types of music, from Bach to the Beatles. Yes, I even like
Nickelback. But my favorite artist of all time, don’t laugh, is
Taylor Swift.

Can you find the secret message? It’s one word.

Take a look at the first letter of each row of text.


This secret word could be a clue to look for a plant in the room where another clue is hidden in the pot or maybe a key. It can also be the word that unlocks a word lock.

Now that campers know how to create a coded message, it’s time to have them decode a few. I would add in one or two that you haven’t taught them to see if they can figure them out.

You could post a message each day and have them decipher it. It could be directions to an activity spot or special instructions for mealtime.

You could also have teams create messages to send to a spy (staff member). If the message is intercepted, it would need to be decoded within a certain time limit.

Treasure hunts are more than just a scavenger hunt. It usually involves the solving of clues and puzzles to find a specific location or item.

Create a treasure hunt that involves stealth (don’t get caught by the guards), solving puzzles, and a lot of teamwork. This can be sort of like an escape room style game but expanded to multiple areas.

Give each group a daily mini-mission, something fun. Record the message on video and upload it to YouTube. Groups will need to use their counselor’s phone, tablet or laptop to watch it.

Have it self-destruct (taken down) at a specific time. If the group doesn’t watch it in time, they miss out.

You could also use everything they have been taught over the week to have a final mission on the last day.


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 you ran this theme?


  • Set up a “lazer” maze by tying yarn between two walls or two trees and have campers try to get to the other side without moving the strings. You can also attach small jingle bells to each string for an even more definite sound when they touch it!

    • Agreed, Matt. This is a fun activity. I have done this in a hallway. It was challenging. One thing to be careful of is putting overweight kids in the position of being embarrassed by an activity like this. They won’t be as nimble and it will be much more difficult to find success due to their larger body. With all eyes on them, many overweight kids will be embarrassed, and we don’t want that to be the thing that sticks in their mind about camp. This is one reason I stay away from the Spider’s Web on ropes courses when I’m facilitating a team building program. However, the activity lines right up with a Mission Impossible theme. Thanks for bringing it up.

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