Skip to main content

NewFolks may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

5 incredible summer camp games perfect for your next endlessly boring summer day

Summer is just around the corner and kids will soon have the long-anticipated stretch of days off from school. Parents usually fill days with vacations, outings, play dates, and sports or activity camps, but inevitably days pop up on the summertime calendar where there isn’t anything planned.

Now, for parents, that’s not always a bad thing, but for the kiddos, a day without a play date or somewhere to go quickly becomes boring. Days at home, even if you have a backyard pool, often seem endless. That’s when it’s time for parents to pull from the go-to bag of summer camp games for kids to play.

Camp games for kids

One of the reasons kids love sleepaway and summer day camps is because they get to spend their time participating in all sorts of fun inside and outside activities. Kids are super busy and the days fly as they spend time doing arts and crafts, cooking, swimming, and playing sports. That camp atmosphere doesn’t have to be just for the local day camp. Parents can bring a bit of that summer camp excitement right into their own backyard with these tried-and-true summer camp games.

Outside camp games

Red flag ready for a game of Capture the Flag
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Capture the flag

The origins of this summer camp staple date all the way back to the Civil War. Protecting a regimental flag was serious business, with color guards assigned the honored duty of protecting the flag. The game capture the flag comes from the battlefield where teams are set up and try to gain possession of the other team’s flag.

Capture the flag is definitely more fun when there are multiple participants. Organizing a neighborhood game of Capture the flag is ideal for a summertime afternoon or evening when there are a lot of kids around. Tweens and teens especially enjoy a game of capture the flag at night. When multiple age groups are involved, be sure to team up little ones with a buddy and spread the younger kids out evenly on both teams.


Another popular summer camp game typically played during camp overnights or stay-lates is manhunt. This game is a bigger version of hide-and-seek. Basically, one group hides and the another seeks. Manhunt, like capture the flag, is best with a group of kids and is another fun game to get the whole neighborhood involved in. Playing manhunt at night is a go-to for tweens and teens. Flashlights are a good idea if playing it at night.


For a twist on hide-and-seek, try sardines. One person hides and the rest of the participants look for that person. When someone finds the hider, the seeker joins in hiding. Each time a hider is found, the seeker becomes a hider until there is only one seeker left. The object of sardines is to not be the last seeker. A group of kids is more fun with this summer camp game, but all the kids really need is three to play.

Gaga ball

Gaga ball is a camp mainstay, and the pits where the game is played are always buzzing with activity at camp. Most parents aren’t going to install a gaga pit in the backyard or get a pricey inflatable one. That doesn’t mean you can’t play gaga ball at home, though. You can create your own gaga pit by using a corner of the backyard and making up the other two walls by stacking mats. If mats are in short supply, use pool rafts stacked on top of each other instead.

The rules to gaga ball are simple. Once the ball is in play, participants can hit the ball back with an open or closed hand. Throwing or kicking the ball isn’t allowed. A player is out if the ball strikes below the knee. Referees are a plus in gaga ball because there will be arguments. Spikeball has become a popular variation of gaga ball, which is played on the beach, but it’s also ideal for the backyard.

Family having fun playing cornhole
Space_Cat / Shutterstock


This backyard classic gets pretty competitive at those family barbecues. A German cabinetmaker gets credit for creating cornhole, which began to grow in popularity in the United States in the late 70s and early 80s. It’s another camp staple you can bring to the kiddos on those summer days when there’s “nothing to do.” You can also improvise with a couple of laundry baskets and some beanbags.

Filled water balloons ready for a summer day
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Fun summer camp activities

Here are some other activities that bring the fun of summer camp to the backyard.

  • Kids of all ages love creating friendship bracelets every summer.
  • Have a water balloon toss.
  • Organize a backyard or neighborhood water gun or Nerf battle.
  • Have egg and spoon races.
  • Make an indoor or outdoor fort.
  • Make s’mores.
  • Find rocks to paint or use a kit.
  • Have a backyard movie night.
  • Tell spooky stories around the fire pit.

It doesn’t take kids long to get bored, even during the summer. Since every day can’t be a vacation, day trip, or a play date, it’s a good idea to have some go-to summer camp game ideas handy for when the kids are having a home day. When children are bored, that’s usually when the crankiness and the arguments start. So, when you’re spending a summer day at home, turn it into a camp day with these easy and super fun summer camp games and activities. They’re perfect for the family or invite to the neighborhood kids.

Editors' Recommendations

Dawn Miller
Dawn Miller began her professional life as an elementary school teacher before returning to her first love, writing. In…
The best party games for your sports-loving kids
These best party games score big with sports lovers
Kids running with each other at a party.

Got a sport-loving kid with a birthday coming up? Hosting a sports themed birthday party for your kiddo is a super easy way to score a touchdown. Whether you've got a kickball fanatic or a budding soccer star on your hands, choosing the birthday party theme for your sports fan is a lot easier than scoring in a shootout. There are tons of sports party games that are a slam dunk.  You don't have to stick to one sport either when choosing the activities for your little one's big day. From soccer-themed games to kickball games to an Olympic theme, there are a ton of options for all your guests whether you are hosting indoors or out. Now, let's hear the starting lineup for the best party games.
Sports party kickoff
Before we get to the best sports party games to knock it out of the park to celebrate your child's special day, let's not forget about the warmup. It's a big part of any sport as all athletes know. So, a fun way to get all the kids excited about a sports-themed birthday party is to kick it off with a warmup.

Have an adult dress up as the coach and lead the kids in some useful and silly stretches. Play upbeat music to pump them up. The theme from Rocky is a timeless choice. Then, have the coach give the partygoers tips for the games ahead before concluding with an introduction with a cheer for the birthday guy or gal.

Read more
No pool toys? No problem! 7 safe, fun games to play in the pool for 8-year-olds
Running low on pool toys? Try these games to play in the pool that only requires the kids
Kids playing games in a pool.

Splish! Splash! Do the kids enjoy the swimming pool in the summer? Will they play in an indoor pool all fall and winter long? Whether you're hosting a pool full of friends of your 8-year-old, a birthday party, or a quiet afternoon of family fun in the pool, having a diverse menu of swimming games for kids is a must. Don't worry if you don't have a stock of pool noodles, beach balls, and floaties on hand in the shed. There are plenty of cool games to play in the pool instead of relying on toys. Many classic swimming games have been doing laps around backyard pools for ages.

Keep these fun swimming games in the repertoire. They're safe, easy to play, and are all games 8-year-olds — as well as kids of all ages — will enjoy when hanging in the pool. Even adults will have a splash playing games they used to when they were kiddos. Another perk to all of these splashin' swimming games? They all let kids work on their swimming strokes while having a blast. Grab your goggles and see what game you want to show your kids how to play.

Read more
What to do on Labor Day with your kids
Celebrate the unofficial end of summer with these fun Labor Day activities
What to do on Labor Day weekedn with your family

School may already be in session or just about ready to begin, but for kids and adults, Labor Day signals the unofficial end to summer. While many families pack up and head out for one final three-day weekend of summer fun, others choose to stay close to home and avoid the people-packed beaches.

Just because you decide to have a laid-back Labor Day doesn't mean you and the kids have to be bored. If you're looking for fun activities for the family on Labor Day, there are plenty of ways to relax and enjoy a day off before September school, sports, and extracurriculars amp up.

Read more