Themes

Theme of the Week – Amazing Race

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.

Below are my five suggestions. What’s yours?

THE DETAILS

Here are a few things to consider.

How long will the race be?

Begin by determining how long the race will run. Will it be a two-hour program, a day long race, or will you extend it throughout the week by doing a couple of hours each day?

There’s something to be said about doing a longer race. While I have put together a day long race, I prefer a shorter one, maybe half-day. A week-long race might be similar to a traditional, resident camp color war program. It’s all up to you and what you think would work at your camp.

Will the race take place on camp or will it be off-site?

Running an Amazing Race program on-site is much easier than one that takes teams off-site. However, there is an added sense of excitement when campers get to leave camp. Still, if I were to take the race out of camp it would only be with teens, and it would need to be an all-day program.

Will it be themed?

I don’t think an Amazing Race needs to be themed (except for maybe an Around the World theme – especially if you have international staff). You’ll have enough to focus on without the added theme details. That said, if you want to add a theme, you certainly can, especially if you have a few races under your belt and the general planning has already been created. 

CHALLENGE AREAS

You need to have challenges, and you need to have different areas. Those areas can be camp areas (waterfront, ropes course, pool, etc.), countries, states, lands (Fantasyland, Candy Land, etc.), or even areas representing times in history.

Your teams will be racing from area to area (country to country). In each area, teams will need to complete a challenge to continue on. Set-up 10 challenges in 10 different areas.

Here are some examples of challenges (taken from the How To Run The Amazing Race at Camp book).
 
SCAVENGING FOR NATURE
Supplies Needed:

  • Lists of Nature Items (ex: acorn, pinecone, something blue, etc.)
  • Paper bags

Instructions to be written on the card:
SCAVENGING FOR NATURE

  1. Get a list of items from the supervising staff person. Gather all 15 items on the list.
  2. Once collected, take the items to the supervising staff person to get your next clue.
  3. The team that finishes first wins. Make sure they have their passports with them.

ALL WRAPPED UP
Supplies Needed:

  • Boxes
  • Wrapping Paper
  • Ribbon
  • Bows
  • Scotch Tape

Instructions to be written on the card:
ALL WRAPPED UP

  1. After watching a demonstration, each member of your team must wrap a box using the wrapping paper and tape provided.
  2. Once each of the boxes is wrapped correctly, your team will receive its next clue.

TALK TO THE HAND
Supplies Needed:

  • Instruction Cards of Alphabet in American Sign Language (ASL)
  • Instruction Cards of Words in ASL Needed for the Sentence

Instructions to be written on the card:
TALK TO THE HAND

  1. Using the provided materials, each player must learn the letters of their name in sign language, as well as how to sign, “I love the Amazing Race.”
  2. Once each player can prove to the supervising staff member that they can sign their name and the sentence, the team will receive the next clue. 

IT’S A TOSS UP
Supplies Needed:

  • Multiple Water Balloons
  • Ropes or Cones (to create lines for players to stand behind)

Instructions to be written on the card:
WHICH TWO PLAYERS CAN TOSS?

  1. Choose 2 Team Members.
  2. Toss a water balloon back and forth 4 times from the designated distances without bursting the balloon.
  3. If successful, you will receive your next clue. If not, try again.

DETOURS AND ROAD BLOCKS

Make sure you add in detours (teams have to choose between two tasks) and road blocks (only one person from each team performs the task).

BRAINS OR BRAWN? (DETOUR)
Supplies Needed:

  • Random items in a room
  • Four different tests on paper that ask questions like, What color is the shoe?, Where is the teddy bear sitting?, and What year was the quarter minted?
  • Pens
  • Lots of Sandbags or other heavy items (2 or 3 per player)

Instructions to be written on the card:
BRAINS

  1. Go into the designated room and memorize the items that are spread out inside.
  2. Come back out and request the test.
  3. You will be given one of four different test sheets with five questions. You may not go back into the room for the answers. This is a memory test.
  4. Write down your answers and turn the sheet into the supervising staff member.
  5. If any answer is incorrect, go back into the room and memorize everything. Then come back out and take test #2.
  6. Get all five answers correct, you’ll receive your next clue.

BRAWN

  1. Carry 20 sandbags 100 yards.

This is a team event, which means that it doesn’t matter how many each player carries. You just need to get all the bags to the designated area.

GOO GOO (ROAD BLOCK)
Supplies Needed:

  • A Variety of baby food jars.

Instructions to be written on the card:
WHO ENJOYS ACTING LIKE A BABY?

  • Choose one Team Member
  • That person must put on a bib, choose one of the jars of baby food, and eat all the food in it.

AROUND THE WORLD VARIATION

In this variation, teams “visit” a variety of countries and complete challenges that correlate to those countries.

On Amazon.com you can get flags of different countries for pretty cheap. Think of other ideas on decorations for this variation. You might find some useful ideas from my post Around the World in 80 Days.

Below are some suggested challenges for a few countries.

UK
• Solve the potions riddle in the book Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
• Eat bread with Marmite.

IRISH
• Teach (via a dance instructor or an instructional DVD) an Irish Step Dance routine.
• Eat black pudding (pork meat, fat and blood mixed with barley, suet and oatmeal in a sausage).

GREECE
• Test the teams on their Greek Mythology.
• Run a marathon (okay, maybe just one mile).

ITALY
• Build a structure using spaghetti noodles and marshmallows.
• Teams learn 5 phrases in Italian and are tested on it.

TIME TRAVEL VARIATION

In this variation, not only do teams “travel” to different parts of the world, they also “travel” through time. Everything else is the same.

Set up different parts of camp as different time periods and locations, as much as you can. Here are some examples of challenges.

Jurassic Period – Dino Eggs
Find a dino egg (watermelon) somewhere in the area.

Scandinavia 800 AD – Viking Ship Race
Using a cardboard box and duct tape, build a Viking ship that will get you from one end of the pool to the other end without sinking.

Pirates 1720 AD – Find the Treasure
Follow the map that leads to the treasure. Collect 5 gold coins and 5 gems.

This is just a short list. There are plenty of challenges you could create with all of history to work from. You could also have campers “travel” to the future.

 

STEP-BY-STEP INSTRUCTIONS

Want step-by-step instructions, templates, checklists, and more ideas for challenges? Check out this ebook. Also available on Amazon in print version.

 
 
 


27 Comments

  • We just did this theme. We visited Mexico where the children had to get a certain number of “jumping beans” [we used regular beans] into a sombrero. The second challenge was to match Spanish phrases with the corresponding English ones. In Africa, the challenge was a match the Big 5 animals with their tracks worksheet. The second Africa challenge involved beading a necklace following a specific pattern. In Hawaii we learned a Hula dance and tried ‘surfing’ on scooters [we have no access to water]The Carribean brought the challenges of limbo dancing and drumming. The country of Japan is where we learned about Ikebana – Japanese Flower arranging. We put out a pattern of paper flowers, let them memorize it for one minute and then as a team they had to recreate it. The also had to learn to use chopsticks to move rice from one bowl to another.
    That’s what we did and the children really enjoyed it.

  • I just found your website. My wife & I have done a local amazing clue hunt two times for our sons’ 14th birthday. It started with the teacher sending them to the office after school where they recieved their first clue that led them out to the parking lot where we had a limosine waiting. In the limo was their next clue and a set of rules. Part of the rules is that they had wear any wearable items & get group photos at each stop & they could not ask the driver or a relative for help with clues or photos. They were stopping strangers in the street to ask them for photos. 18 stops in all with local businesses participating happily just by asking. We did not buy stuff from every place yet they were still very happy to participate. Some of the clues were word scrambles, crossword puzzles, rhyming clues that they had to figure out, We even made a dvd for one stop telling them that they were in the wrong place. They had to wear dyed t-shirts, top hats 7 baby floaties among other things. Great times, worked their brains & fun, fun, fun!

  • We did this theme by involving the downtown merchants. Had Three groups of kids and we timed the whole event. I made clues to different merchants and the kids had to guess where and go there.They had to do a small task like sing a silly song to receive an item from that merchant . They worked together as a team. One merchant was an ice cream shop where they had to eat an ice cream as fast as possible for a brain freeze which we timed. There was ten merchants in all.We also took a camera and video to prove they did everything. The merchants even had the next clue to read to the kids so they were involved also. I only took one group out at a time and while we were doing that event I has other events set up at the center for the other two groups to do and also be timed. One event was to go to our infant/toddler room and everyone in the group had to take a bite of baby food (applesauce flavor so as not th gross them out to bad). The teachers helpd out and got a kick out of doing it for us.
    We posted all the events on a huge posterboard and the kids could see how the times we going. At the end of the week we tallied all the scores up and gave out trophies for first,second ,and third and also other prizes. It was a fun week but I didhave to prepare ahead of time with the merchants and make up all the clues which took alitte time but it was worth it. Cheryl

    • Sounds like a lot of fun, Cheryl. It is a ton of work to prep good Amazing Race program but any director I have spoken with that has successfully attempted it always says it’s one of the best programs they have every done.

  • Last year for our summer camp program, we did a small amazing race day. Since we are in a school, we really couldn`t do that much. All of the `stops`were detours I guess, they had to pick one or the other (one was sensory, other was not so they could pick if they didn`t like sticking their hands in dirt) and the `stops`was me hiding somewhere in the school and they had to come and find me. The kids had a blast, big time. It was age appropriate as we set up two teams of 4, of all ages so one person could always help read out the clues and whatnot. I will definitely try to do a more elaborate Amazing Race this summer!!

    Thanks for all the great ideas on the website! I plan on using a lot of them this summer. 🙂

    • Kristina,

      I really like the idea of having each stop a “detour”. As a fan of the show I always cringe when a team gets to a stop and they only have one challenge but it takes forever to complete. During the detours on the show, many of the teams will switch to the other challenge to find that one that suits them better. That’s how I would like it if I were racing – give me choices. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

  • So I just used this idea for an Independence Family day and tweaked it using some cultural and local clues, detors and roadblocks. It was a blast.

    • Zo, good for you. Running an amazing race is not easy to do. I’ve seen Amazing Races done at camp that have totally failed. It’s nice to hear when they are a success.

  • I am considering using this theme for our annual kids summer camp. It is a 3 day camp for kids ages 7-12. They are split into teams of about 8-10 kids per team. I am new to the show and have only seen a couple of episodes. We always do team competitions that last the whole week. Last year we did Survivor as our theme because the guy that won, Mike Holloway, attended our church for a very long time before leaving to help my brother start his church. Anyway, I am wondering if the Amazing Race theme could be done where we do a different “country” each day and the kids could have to decide after reading the clue which of their teammates will do the challenge??? Please give me any hints or tips that you can! I do not want to be one of the camps that you talked about that tried to use this theme and failed! Our church is an inner-city church and this camp is a Huge escape for many of our kids, so we strive to make it the very best that we can! Thank you in advance for your help!
    God Bless You,
    Jennifer

    • Jennifer, I am coming out with an ebook next month on how to run an Amazing Race theme at camp. So look out for that. “Visiting” a different country each day is perfect.

      Personally, I am not a huge fan of having groups choose one person to represent their team at each challenge. The weight of winning or losing a challenge is all on that one person. While some kids can handle the pressure, others cannot. Instead, what I prefer to do is have each of the kids do the challenge and combine each of their scores for a total team score of that particular challenge. Of course, you can do team challenges like relays as well.

      As for only having watched a couple of episodes, that’s really all it takes to understand the concept of the Amazing Race and how Clues, Detours, U-Turns, etc. work. I wouldn’t copy any of their challenges as they aren’t geared towards kids. Come up with your own (or get my book when it comes out). I hope that helps.

      • Michele, as soon as you paid through PayPal you would have been redirected to a page that shows the title of the ebook which is a link to download it. Don’t worry, a lot of people just click off this page not thinking twice about it. You also receive two emails, one from PayPal and one from my store. The one from my store also has a link to download it. That email may have gone to your spam, especially since you have hotmail. Hotmail and Yahoo email accounts are notorious for sending things to spam that they shouldn’t. I will email you to get this worked out.

  • I run the high school session of a week long church camp. Last year we did an Amazing Race instead of our usual scavenger hunt. We had teams of 4 to 5 kids. They had to do tasks like make a specific shape out of tangram puzzle pieces, answer 10 US History questions (both of these challenges were surprisingly difficult), assemble a marshmallow shooter after only looking at a sample one and then use it to shoot mini marshmallows into a cup held on a teammate’s head, count how many boards were on the bridge to the dining hall, recreate a series of shapes from memory in a different room, etc. It was pretty amazing, if I do say so myself. A common complaint about our other scavenger hunts was that some team members didn’t want to run and they slowed their team down. Even though this technically was a race, running did not really help a team do better.

    This year I’m thinking of using some of your escape room ideas.

    • Katrina, those are some fantastic tasks. I love the marshmallow shooter one. I have done a similar competition with marshmallow shooters where they have to assemble it before using it, but not as an Amazing Race task. Love it. I hear you about the running thing. There are a couple of ways to get around that. One way is to not allow running. Teams must walk to each area. Penalties are given for running. Another is to have a Hub where each team goes to between challenges. At the Hub teams must pay for “transportation” or food or supplies that will help them in the race. Each task is a short walk from the Hub (20 yards or so). That way, even if a team is running, it’s not very far. The final suggestion is to assign each team a challenge they have to overcome (one teammate has their legs tied together, one teammate is blindfolded, etc.) that ensures they have to slow it down (as long as a rule is that the team must stay together). After every 2 or 3 tasks they come back to the main area and roll dice to see what their next challenge will be (uh oh, looks like all teammates must waddle like a penguin to each task).

    • Hi Anthonette, the challenges you choose and how they are performed dictate the age group. You can make challenges really easy for younger kids or more difficult for older ones. Also the length of the race can be shorter or longer. You can add or take away different elements to the race depending on the age group as well. My ebook has a framework that you can adjust. In short, yes, an Amazing Race program is definitely suitable for 10-12 year olds. Thanks for the question.

  • Sorry, one last question, I would like to buy the book and would just like to make sure that I can edit the templates as I see that you say it is in PDF. “The ebook and the templates are in PDF format. All you need is Adobe Acrobat to view them, which is standard on nearly all computers these days.” Can I only view or Edit, because I am buying this for a Afrikaans church in South Africa…

    • I have made the PDFs editable so that you can type any clue or task you want on it. I will also say that I am always willing to refund someone if they purchase one of my ebooks and find that it won’t work for them. Just email me at [email protected]. I don’t ever want anyone to pay for something they are unhappy with. Sure, it’s only $17 for something that will save the buyer hours and hours of planning time, but if it won’t work for your situation then that’s $17 you could use for craft supplies or something else for camp. I hope that helps, Anthonette.

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