Whether you’re looking to create a home summer camp or planning to organize a summer camp, here are a bunch of summer camp activities for kids they’re sure to love!
Last year I decided it was time to create our own summer camp to enjoy our summer days together while my kids are out of school.
Most local summer camps were closed or limited. Although I think they’re lovely, they’re also expensive, and I selfishly love experiencing a fun activity with my kids whenever I can! I know not every parent feels this way and knows sending a kid to a day camp or an overnight camp is a fun way to make new friends and experience a formal camp program. So zero parent shame or mom guilt here!
Whether you’re looking for summer camp ideas because you’re putting on your own DIY summer camp, or you’re a parent ready to facilitate a summer camp experience at home, this list of camp-related activities is for you!
Art Projects and Activities
Make friendship bracelets.This is one of those fun activities that is so quintessential summer camp! Grab a kit, or invest in a bunch of the materials yourself. Once you teach kids how to make friendship bracelets they’re usually hooked and will create dozens! I love that little kids enjoy it, but older kids get really creative and have a great time with this activity too!
Try rock painting projects.Everyone collects smooth rocks and thinks of creative ways to paint them. You can also order a rock painting kit to make it even easier! Even younger campers can enjoy trying to create a picture or scene that’s appropriate for their skill level!
Build a birdhouse.This is one of those summer camp projects that is perfect for the summer months! Feel free to grab a kit to make it easy on yourself. Set up a painting station and let kids enjoy one of those summer camp activities for kids that screams childhood!
Do a dot painting art project.It only takes a few different colors of paint, Q-tips, and paper to get creative with pointillism! And it’s a fun project for little kids and more advanced art project enthusiasts alike!
Grab a bunch of pipe cleaners and pom-poms and let kids create their own camp crafts with the materials.Seriously, get the glue and a few different colors of materials (or a kit like this one), and challenge them to create something amazing!
Tie-Dye a shirt.This is one of those camp activities kids love that often results in their favorite souvenir to wear long after summer break is over!
Outdoor Activities: Fun Outside Summer Camp Activities for Kids
Outdoor nature scavenger hunt.Go for a walk or hike and find objects and natural materials in your area. This works great at a campsite, but you could include this as a backyard camp activity or local park adventure too.
Create a pool noodle obstacle course in the backyard.This is one of those fun activities that keeps kids entertained for hours. The best part is it’s quick to set up and takedown! It only takes some pool noodles and pencils to set up, and kids can run through the obstacles you create. You can also use chairs you have on hand to level up the obstacle course obstacles!
Do relay races.Talk about memories and a fun game you’ll want to include in your summer activities! Come up with numerous activities for kids to complete consecutively. Place kids in teams and teach a little teamwork to cheer each other on and complete the task so the next kid can start. Encourage some friendly competition and have them see who can complete the tasks the quickest!
Play outdoor games.Games like cornhole, tag, and hide-and-go-seek are all excellent outdoor games to enjoy nature and get in some activity!
Outdoor Twister.Grab non-toxic, washable spray paint and paint circles in the grass you know will be mowed soon. You can create a giant Twister board or a traditional-sized one!
Practice Archery.It’s really one of those camp outdoor adventures everyone needs to say they’ve tried at least once!
Go Bird Watching.It’s actually a pretty amazing thing to learn about the wildlife in your area. Bird watching is one of those activities kids of all ages can participate in and learn from.
Do a ropes course.This is one of the best ways to learn leadership skills, communication skills, and teamwork! It’s a camp classic and one of those exciting activities kids always remember! If you’re a parent putting on a summer camp at home, see if you can find a local company or nearby camp to visit for a day this summer.
Learn how to start a fire.This is obviously best done at a campground, or in a fire pit in the backyard campsite. But it’s one of those great life skills and a summer camp activity that can help with survival skills. Plus, giving a safe place to learn with camp counselor (or parent) supervision is a great opportunity for learning safely!
Go Stargazing.There’s something magical about identifying constellations. Grab Google Earth if you need extra help! Get more inspiration from our Stargazing date night.
Physical Activity-Based Fun
Go for a hike!Pack up those water bottles and trail mix and explore nature. We shared how to find great hiking trails in our hiking date post.
Play sardines.It’s reverse hide-and-go-seek, where you go find the hiding spot of the person who is it. When you play outside in a big yard or park, kids have a wonderful time being active and hunting for each other.
Play Capture the Flag.Divide kids into two teams. Each needs to guard their flag and prevent the other team from capturing it. This can be simple for young kids with flags in plain sight. Or, you can get more advanced for older kids and let them hide the flag throughout the home/campsite for added levels of fun!
Have potato sack races.You’ll be amazed how fast the heart-rate gets up, and how much fun this simple activity is!
Go rock climbing.This can happen at a local rock gym, recreation center, or outdoors at a designated climbing area. We spent a lot of time rock climbing on a staycation to the Great Wolf Lodge.
Horseback riding.Seriously, do it at least once. Kids love it, and it’s a great way for them to experience nature and learn more appreciation for animals.
Go to a local park and explore the offerings.Parks have come a long way in the past few years! Find a park you’ve never visited before and go explore.
Go kayaking.Most local lakes offer kayak rentals (or paddle boat rentals). It’s not hard to enjoy this quintessential summer camp fun activity even if you’re not at a camp!
Pitch a tent.This is a great skill to learn and the best way to do it is with practice! Even if you’re staying home, pitch a tent for an indoor campout day, or in the backyard. It doesn’t take much time and helps kids learn how to help during the camp season. Don’t forget to teach them to take it down and clean up too! Even little kids can learn and help a lot, see our family camping trip for ideas.
Play tug-of-war.Can you call yourself one of the best summer camps if you don’t own a giant rope and have participants learn this fun camp game? Maybe, but I’d still recommend having this experience and leveling it up with a full-blown competition complete with rewards or extra chores for the losing team.
Fun Indoor Activities for Rainy Days
Bring out the board games!Who doesn’t love classic games and some quality time with your friends or family on a rainy day? Find a bunch of great board games for kids here.
Deep clean an area, and make it fun with some friendly competition!See who can complete chores and tasks first. This is a great time to teach responsibility and maybe add in an incentive prize or reward.
Take a field trip to a museum.Even remote camp areas usually have someplace of interest or history within a few hours. And if you’re doing this from home, chances are you have plenty of great museums to explore! Use a rainy day as an excuse to take a field trip.
Learn some camp songs.These are often silly, and something you’ll find at almost every real camp! Kids have the best time learning funny songs, even if they’re a bit resistant at first. Plus, it’s the ultimate in summer camp activities for kids that makes it feel like an actual summer camp!
Write a letter.Before there was social media or kids had phones, a letter home was how they communicated. Have campers learn how to write a letter to a friend or parent. You could teach them the body of a letter and what the content may look like. A rainy day is a perfect time to practice the classic camp activity!
Play Mafia.This came is great fun and one of those camp games that’s popular with elementary kids and teenagers! Most are happy to spend quality time playing this for hours!
Play A Classic Game of Camping Charades.The National Park Service has a great article on how to play and make it work well for camp!
Play card games.There are literally hundreds of fun card games that only take a deck of cards. Look up several and learn some new ones!
Put on a talent show.Is this cheesy? Yep! Do kids still love it? Indeed they do! This is at the top of the list of summer camp activities all camps love to do! You can create an actual talent show, a silly one with random talents, or have kids make up skits to perform. Leaning into that goofy side of camp is something that makes it memorable! Plus, there are plenty of fun ideas for summer camp skits on Youtube if you need some inspiration!
Beat the Summer Heat Activities
- Have a water balloon fight.
I love this kit that makes filling up many water balloons quick and easy. Everyone loves the spontaneous fun and laughs that come from water balloon fights.
Beach towel volleyball with water balloons.Find a net, and grab a beach towel and partner. You’ll take turns hoisting a water balloon from a towel over the net. The goal is to catch the balloons from the other team without breaking them.
Visit the pool.Is there a more perfect way to have fun on a hot summer day? This is the perfect way to help wear kids out and have some fun!
Play water games in the pool.There are so many water activities including
Try some water play sensory activities.This is a particularly great way to build new skills for younger children! These toys are a great place to start!
Find a body of water to tube in.This can be tubing the river, playing in a lake, or even hitting up a local lazy river. But there’s something about water and a tube that scream summer fun and it’s an easy way to create some water fun for kids on a hot day!
Create a giant slip-n-slide.Get a giant plastic sheet from a home goods store and find a water source to use. It’s easy to create, and you can make one appropriate for teenagers and adults (but of course, kids love it too)! We did this as a youth activity when I was a teenager, and it’s still one of my fondest memories!
Water Balloon Dodge Ball.Fill up oversized water balloons and have fun throwing them at each other with the rule of a traditional dodge ball game.
Summer Camp Food Ideas
Have an ice cream social with friends.Grab a few flavors and toppings, and invite another family (or camp cabin)
Make s’mores.This is fun around the campfire or in a fire pit in your own backyard. But it’s also something you can easily do in the oven, the microwave, or an air-fryer.
Have a picnic lunch.Whether you pack up for a picnic table or bring a blanket for an outdoor adventure, a picnic is one of the best things to enjoy nature peacefully!
Make dinner for a crowd.This is something I learned at girls’ camp that has been a skill I’ve used many times in my life! Help kids learn how to prepare different items to feed a group with some practical culinary skills. It’s a great place to get involved with a chore that benefits everyone.
Roll Ice Cream.You read that right, tin can ice cream is a fun science experiment with a delicious result! Just get large tin cans, smaller cans, ice, salt, and your favorite simple ice cream recipe, and let kids spend some time rolling!
Have a pizza night or pizza lunch.Let each camper make their own personal pan pizza complete with custom toppings. Try our homemade pizza dough recipe that’s so easy and delicious!
Decorate sugar cookies.Campers can make cookies, or you can provide sugar cookie bases. Fill plastic zipper bags with frosting, and cut a small hole in one corner to make a makeshift piping bag. You can make this fun by giving assigned items to create (like a nature scene or a famous painting). Kids also tend to love creating and decorating freestyle.
Like these summer camp activities for kids? Be sure to check out these posts too:
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