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
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 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.
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.
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.
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