Playing sports and games outside is a key ingredient to a successful camp experience. And sometimes campers tend to get bored of the same. old. games. Shake things up by taking a break from traditional games and give these three unique outdoor activities a try:
1. Camp-style Highland Games:
There’s a fun way to “campify” these famed Scottish events for campers’ safety and without the heavyweights:
- Caber Toss: Traditionally, a long wooden pole is stood up on its end and a thrower picks it up, balancing the end in both hands, and then heaves the log in a long toss. For campers, use the same approach, just replace the heavy wooden pole with a narrow PVC pipe about 6-10 feet long. PVC is super light and easy to toss for most ages. The player with the longest toss wins! For an extra safety measure, have campers wear a climbing helmet for protection.
- Weight-Over-The-Bar: Customarily, this event consists of tossing a heavy weight over a bar above the thrower’s head. Campify this one by stuffing a race-sack with soft fabric, t-shirts or other bundled up race sacks to create the weight. Measure each toss over the bar and award the winner with the highest throw.
Bonus tip! Really get into the games by taking a trip to the fabric store to find an argyle pattern in your camp colors to make kilts for campers. Also, before you start the games, teach campers about the importance of the Highland Games in Scottish history.
2. Kickball with a twist:
This may be a familiar sport to most but adding a twist to the rules allows for a completely new and fun experience. Try these modifications with campers:
- Run the bases backward: Have campers start by running to third, second, first then home. This new route always gets lots of laughs and keeps players on their toes.
- Double-time: Let two kickers run the bases in opposite directions. Keep only one runner on a base at a time. Once runners stop on a base, they can run any direction they choose when the ball is kicked again.
- Fielder’s score: Keep score by allowing the fielders to get points for getting the runners out. A pop-fly catch is worth three points, tagging the runner off base is two points and tally one point for throwing out a forced runner.
Bonus tip! Let campers redefine rules for some of their favorite traditional games. And don’t forget, staff always have the right to stop unsafe or negative behaviors.
3. Ga-ga Ball:
This is currently one of the hottest crazes at camps! With origins from Israel, Ga-ga in Hebrew: גע-גע literally means 'touch-touch.' Here are some of the basics to get you started:
- Played with one ball in a small octagonal set-up, campers hit the ball with their hand to tag another person out. Last person standing wins!
- Rules vary, but generally, the ball must tag a player below the waist twice in a row for that player to be considered out of the game. Look up different sets of rules to fit your camp. Safety tip: While Ga-ga is an amazing game for campers, it should always be supervised by staff, otherwise it can lead to children getting hurt and/or taking it too far.
- Wooden or plastic Ga-ga pits can be purchased, but some camps save money by placing folding tables on their side (tabletop-side facing inward) to create the octagonal setting.
I hope you enjoy including these activities into your #BestSummerEver. And remember, while these games can be super fun for campers, they are also teachable moments of the larger world we live in. Take a moment to discuss the unique origins of these activities and the impact they have had on the people that play them.
About Michael Garcia
Michael has been working in camp for 28 years. He runs his own consulting business and is the Camp Director for Camp Centerland of the JCC of Greater Buffalo.