Your summer camp is an event in itself. All year, campers look forward to attending and participating in fun activities, developing specific skills, spending time with friends, and getting outside. Offering special events outside of your camp’s planned programming helps shake up your schedule and add value to your camp.

Special events give staff and campers a break from more rigid camp activities like archery practice or kayaking, providing an opportunity to do something more lighthearted. It also gives campers a chance to engage with fellow campers and develop deeper friendships. If your events are well-planned and entertaining, they can even enhance your camp’s reputation in your community and attract new attendees the next year.

While fun and engaging, camp events require a lot of time, effort, and resources to be successful. In this guide, we’ll walk through some popular, simple event ideas and how you can leverage camp management software to make event planning easier.

4 Exciting Ideas for Camp Events

When planning a special event for your camp, there are many factors to consider, like your camp’s specific focus. If you run a sports camp, events such as sports tournaments or field days are a more low-stakes way for campers to engage in athletic activities. Be sure to keep other factors like campers’ ages, staff availability, and financial limitations in mind.

These four ideas can be adapted to fit a wide range of ages, interests, and budgets:

Field Day

Field days are typically held outdoors and involve a variety of physical activities and games. Because these events are so flexible, you can choose games that engage all of your campers, no matter their age.

Once you determine a budget, date, time, and how many staff members you’ll need for the event, choosing these minigames is the next step. Some classic options include:

  • Relay races. During a relay race, you’ll need objects to serve as relay batons that runners pass to each other as well as cones or buckets to mark the beginning and end of the course. Adjust the length of the race based on your campers’ preferences. You can allow campers to choose their relay teams ahead of time to streamline the process.
  • Obstacle courses. Design a course with obstacles and challenges that campers will need to complete to reach the finish line, like tossing a certain number of bean bags into a basket or weaving between a row of cones. Make sure to tailor the difficulty of the obstacles to your campers’ age and skill levels. This game can require more supplies and preparation, so make sure to start planning and building the course in advance.
  • Tug-of-war. For this activity, campers form two teams that pull at opposite ends of a rope until one team drags the other over a central line. This game is a great, cost-effective way to end your field day, especially if your campers are highly competitive. To ensure the game is fair, you can have separate games for groups of campers based on age.

If your camp serves many different age levels, you may end up having several games running at one time to accommodate all of your campers. To effectively manage the event, consider asking older campers if they’d like to volunteer to help run the event. This not only takes some tasks off of staff members’ plates but also gives these older campers a chance to demonstrate responsibility and develop leadership skills.

Talent Show

Talent shows allow campers to show off their unique skills. Planning a talent show is simple and can be very affordable, making it a great extra event to host at your summer camp. Here are the basic steps you’ll follow:

  1. Ask campers to sign up. Create a sign-up form to collect all of the information you need, like what talent the camper will show off, how long they will need to perform or demonstrate the talent, and any supplies they’ll require. If they need to bring their own equipment or supplies (like an instrument) with them, make sure to notify parents ahead of time.
  2. Find and decorate a space for the event. You’ll need an open space large enough to hold an audience of campers and a staging area for performers. Depending on staffing and resources, you could keep this simple by hosting it outdoors. Or, you could build an elaborate stage with decorations that you’ll use for years to come.
  3. Form a judging panel. Choose a small group to represent your panel of judges. Ideally, these judges should know and have experience with your campers. Consider choosing a counselor from each age level, cabin, or another relevant category.
  4. Create awards. Plan out a structure for how you will award participants. In addition to awards like “first place,” you might include more prizes like “most unique act.” To accommodate campers of all ages, group awards by age.

This event is a great rainy-day activity. You can complete the planning steps before camp starts and be ready to host the talent show indoors in case of severe weather or intense heat. Consider incorporating the show into a parent-camper event at the end of camp to engage and cultivate relationships with parents.

Crafting Event

During a crafting event, campers can slow down, relax, and create a piece of art they’ll be able to take home with them. Crafting can range widely in difficulty, from making popsicle stick cabins to crocheting a tote bag. Depending on the crafts you choose, you can adjust this event to fit your campers’ skills and interests.

Some camp crafts you can include in this event are:

  • Tie-dying shirts, hats, and bags
  • Making beaded bracelets and necklaces
  • Creating paintings by following tutorials, using leaves to make imprints, or finger painting
  • Customizing water bottles or other items with their names

To ensure you have enough supplies for this event, get an accurate count of how many campers will be participating before making a trip to the craft store. You should also do a trial run of the craft before the event to better understand its difficulty and the supplies campers will need.

Movie Night

Gather all of your staff and campers together to watch a movie on a warm summer night. You can host this event inside or outdoors using a projector to play the movie. Arrange pillows or blankets on the floor so campers can relax comfortably with their friends while watching. To make campers feel like they’re at a theater, prepare popcorn, candy, snacks, and soda for them to enjoy.

The most important aspect of this event is the movie you choose. Make sure to consider campers’ ages and the movie’s rating. For camps with a blend of age groups, you could host an early feature with a kid-friendly movie and a later feature with a movie suited to tweens and teens.

Another strategy is to directly ask campers what movies they would prefer. According to Memberclicks, surveys are crucial to get inside the minds of your attendees. Send out a survey before the event asking campers to suggest movies they’d like to see. Then, have campers vote on the top suggestions.

How Camp Management Software Can Help

Managing all of the moving parts of event planning may require a lot of your time and become an overwhelming process. To streamline event planning, limit confusion, and save time, consider investing in summer camp management software.

According to CIRCUITREE, a robust camp management solution will include the following features:

  • Event management tools that allow you to create events with specific names and descriptions, choose a date, indicate additional fees or charges campers need to pay, specify a location, and more.
  • Registration features that track data for you and allow campers or parents to register online.
  • Staffing and scheduling tools that help you create schedules on the platform and notify staff of scheduling changes.
  • Inventory management features that accurately track how much food and supplies you have and where they are located.
  • Accounting tools that generate reports and display dashboards to assist with creating an accurate and financially responsible budget for your event.

These solutions will also come with features that streamline camp management in general. For example, some tools offer communication and marketing tools that allow you to stay in contact with families year-round. Others have data-tracking and reporting tools that allow you to stay organized and properly allocate staff and resources.

When it comes to planning a fun and creative summer camp event, keep budget restrictions in mind. Your events don’t have to break the bank to be fun—they can be as budget-friendly as a camp-wide game of capture the flag or hide and seek. What’s most important is your campers’ preferences. Ask yourself: what would they most enjoy? Then, plan accordingly to maximize camper satisfaction.