Bring Camp Activities to Your Backyard
Tyler Kearns has been the Program Coordinator for The Clayton School District's Kid Zone Before/After school program in Clayton MO. for eleven years. Tyler is a Genius of Play Ambassador with the National Afterschool Association and sits on the Afterschool Leadership Team with the Missouri Afterschool Network. Along with his out of school time credits, Tyler works to develop youth as a martial arts school owner and instructor. Above all, Tyler is a parent of two children who he enjoys playing together, discovering with, and learning from every day.
Summer camps are being canceled, and kids are now home for the summer. The camp experience is all about kids having the opportunity to be active, learn new skills, have hands on experiences, develop independence, and grow social skills through open play and activities. This summer you have been given an awesome opportunity to bring camp home and PLAY all summer long.
A big part of camp is the outside games, taking advantage of those nice summer days. Outside games will develop kids’ physical skills along with communication and social skills as they work through the experience. Outside games also help build awareness to surroundings and critical thinking skills in strategy.
Taking the fun outside is the best way to get kids up and moving. Playing with chalk is great for kids to create on their own, and water games are the ultimate way to help everyone beat the heat.
Tail Game (ages 3+)
For 2 or more players, as individuals or in teams. Each player needs just a piece of fabric or material that can be tucked into the back of their pants.
Give each player a tail just tucked into the back or side of their shorts or pants. Determine the play field and spread the players out. When play starts the players run in the play field and try to pull each other’s tail. Players must stay in the designated play space. Tails must always be visible and attainable (no sitting on or hiding tails). If your tail gets pulled - you’re eliminated. You can set a time limit and the player(s) that still have their tails hanging out win the game!
Glow Stick Ring Toss (ages 3+)
For 2 or more players. You will need some glow sticks, that can also be turned into rings. Usually these come in packs to make necklaces.
Too hot during the day, here’s a game to play later in the day when the sun sets into the evening. Take a glow stick and place it into the ground sticking straight up and designate a spot for the thrower to stand. Let the kids try to see how many rings they can ring around the standing stick. For extra challenges, make a course setting up multiple sticks around the yard and turn your backyard into a ring toss mini golf course.
Chalk Obstacle Course (ages 5+)
Using chalk that can be washed away with water, have children draw their own obstacle courses in a big outside space, i.e. backyard patio, driveway. Take the opportunity to teach start point and end point.
Create different courses by drawing lines or circles to jump or hop backwards or forwards to. Try making a straight line to walk on like a balance beam. Once everything is set up, you can set a timer and let the kids challenge each other to see how long it takes them to complete the course, which kid can get the best time or even who can set a personal best time.
To modify for younger children, create different lines (straight, curve, wiggly) from point A to point B that they can walk on like a tight rope.
Water Balloon Launch (ages 5+)
At least 2 players; adult assistance may be required.
You will need a towel or blanket, water balloons, and a target on the ground. Create and draw a variety of targets in chalk. Designate a spot a distance away from the target for players to stand. Each player holds an end of the towel and pulls it flat. Place the water balloon in the middle of the towel. The players holding the towel loosen the towel and then pull the towel tight to launch the balloon in the air to see if they can make it land on the target.
Add a Twist of Science: Players will have to make constant adjustments to their approach to hit the target. Questions like” I wonder what happens if…?” Or “What if we try…?” will get their brains thinking and problem solving to meet their goal.
For Those Rainy Camp Days
Rainy days happen, but at camp that doesn’t stop the fun. Don’t let those days be an missed opportunity for play so bring the outdoor play indoors! Indoor play can promote creativity, cognitive thinking, and with the right spaces and games physical play. Games like “Bottle Bowling” and “Laser Maze” are great to use on these inside days but can also be played outside in the backyard too.
Bottle Bowling (ages 3+)
Can’t make it to the bowling alley- so bring the alleys to you. You will need 10 plastic bottles or 10 paper towel rolls, and ball, or rolled up socks. Use this opportunity to teach how bowling pins are set up in a triangle. For younger kids you can practice counting to 10 as you set up the pins. You can even place small strips of tape where the pins should go, so younger kids can reset without your help. Set a distance for the bowler to stand and a line not to cross over. Roll the “ball” and see how many pins you can know down. Can you get them all? For older kids you can apply math and teach how to keep track of your score, bowling scores can be tough to learn.
Laser Maze (ages 5+)
Just like the classic spy shows on tv the kids will have to navigate a maze of “lasers” to get the reward at the other side, but be careful, touch a laser and you will need to start over.
This game will require adult set up. You will need yarn, rope, or string, and some wall safe tape (painters’ tape). String lines going vertical, horizontal, and diagonal across a room or hallway taping to the wall. One at a time, each child will start at one end of the maze and try to navigate the maze going over, under, and around trying to avoid the “lasers”, to get to the set prize on the other side, and then try to make it back through.
This game can be played many ways. For example - Touch a laser and you’ll have to start at the beginning. Or – The player who touches the least number of lasers wins. Or – redesign the maze for a new look. Make it as easy or challenging as you want, your options are endless.
Camp can be fun for the whole family and experiences can happen anywhere. This summer bring the games and activities home to keep children active, learning, and most importantly playing and having fun!