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Everybody plays, everybody wins!

Many children feel that the only time that seems too short is the time they get to play. In response, some camps stage a play day, field day, or Olympics to generate more opportunities for play. Large numbers of campers of varied ages gather in one place for a certain time, facilitated by their counselors. A powerful play community can be created in which campers absorb acceptance and respect, experience themselves as full and equal members, and know that if they have had a good time, they have won!

One way to set up a play day is to use teams of 10, with 10 different play stations, and 10-minute intervals at each station. Stations are hosted by a staff person who presents the activity to the groups, referees, and sends campers off to their next station at a horn or a bell. Another staff person shepherds her home team on its rounds and helps the station host.

Create a team name and yell as a first station activity, and don like-colored crepe paper arm bands, bandanas, or face paint.

The following are simple, 10-minute, multi-age activities to be used for a play day ... or anytime.

Blob tag

IT chases other players until she tags someone; these two players join hands and continue to chase other players. Each tagged player joins hands with IT and becomes part of the IT blob. Only the players at the ends of the blob may tag other players. The game continues until everyone is part of the blob. Source: The New Games Book.

People to people

One person is chosen to be the first caller; all other players choose partners. The caller then shouts a connection that all sets of partners should make, e.g., wrist to ankle, knee to nose, elbow to ear. When all participants have connected, the caller shouts, "People to people." All players, including the caller, rush to the center of the circle and pick a new partner. These new partnerships then return together to the outside of the circle to receive a new command. The person without a partner becomes the new caller, remains in the center, and calls out the new connection. Source: More New Games.

Lizard's tail

Each team (lizard) consists of eight or more players, who each hold the waist of the person in front of them. A "tail" (bandanna, sock, handkerchief) is tucked visibly in the back pocket or belt of the last person in line. The object of the game is for the front person in line to snatch the other team's tail. During the chase, no bonds within the lizard may be broken. When a successful snatch is made, the front person goes to the end of the line, generates a new tail, and play resumes.

Variation Note: Form smaller teams of three for more action and less stretch.

Smaug's jewels

One player is chosen to be Smaug, a ferocious dragon guarding jewels of immense value - bandanas, pine cones, or socks. Circling players try to snatch the jewels from Smaug, who can use any part of his fearsome body to tag the thieves. Anyone tagged by Smaug must remain frozen in place until the game ends, either when one snatcher is successful or when all snatchers are frozen. Source: The New Games Book.

Elbow tag

All but two players divide into pairs and link arms. Each person's unlinked arm is then positioned elbow out, hand on the hip - an inviting hook for a passing runner. The partners then form a loose circle. The two remaining players become the chaser and IT. The chaser tries to tag IT, who can run outside, inside, or through the circle to avoid being tagged. Before the players can count loudly to five, IT must link arms with one of the members of a partnership. At this moment, the previous partnership is dissolved and the extra person becomes the new IT. Counting to five begins immediately. When the chaser succeeds in tagging IT, the two players immediately reverse roles and the former chaser takes off in search of a convenient elbow to hook into.


A player (octopus) swims the ocean (space between 20-30 yard boundary lines), ready to devour (tag or hit with a Nerf ball) players (fishes) as they sprint from shore to shore. The octopus shouts to the fishes safely lined up behind the boundary line, "Fishes, fishes, swim in my sea!" Before the fishes may run to the other side, they taunt in unison, "Octopus, octopus, you can't catch me!" Octopus, free to roam, touches the fishes with his hand or by tossing a ball. Once tagged, the fishes remain frozen in place and become a tentacle in the next round. When the octopus again invites the fish to swim in her ocean, she tags them with her hand, the ball, or the outstretched arms of the stationary tentacles. Soon, the ocean is full of tentacles and the last free fish becomes the new octopus. Source: More New Games.

Streets and alleys

Arrange participants in several equal lines. When the players face the front, they join hands and form streets. When they turn to the side, they form alleys. Two players, IT and the runner, remain outside of the grid. IT chases the runner through the aisles formed by the players. Another player calls out either "streets" or "alleys;" at the signal, the players turn to make the designated formation. Changing the aisles may either assist or hinder IT in tagging the runner. When the runner is tagged, a new runner and IT are selected and the original two players take their places in the streets and alleys.

Newspaper sculpture

Divide the group into teams of three to five participants and give each team newspaper and masking tape. Challenge the teams to create a newspaper sculpture within a preset amount of time. When the sculptures are complete, each person can name and explain his sculpture to the others before moving to the next station. At the end of the play day, there will be enough sculptures for a camp museum!

Addition: Create a pile of extras that young artists may choose from: balloons, hoola hoops, colored yarn, Styrofoam pieces, and more.

Rock, paper, scissors

A fist means rock, a hand held flat is paper, and two fingers are scissors. RPS is an old ritual played by two people to decide a winner and a loser. Now it is a game in which the losing symbol merely switches sides and continues to play. Each team decides what symbol all will throw. The two teams line up and face off with a center line between them. The pecking order is: paper covers rock, rock breaks scissors, and scissors cut paper. The chant begins: "Rock, paper, scissors" and everyone throws their predetermined team symbol. The winning symbol team chases the other team, tagging as many players as possible before they cross their back boundary line, 15-20 yards away. The tagged team members join their tagger's team, as both teams make a new decision on the next symbol throw. Source: The New Games Book.

Parachute games


Players stand in a circle holding a parachute with one or more lightweight balls on top. Players try to keep the balls in the air, popping up and down, by moving the parachute. Start with one ball and add more as the group gains expertise.


Players try to keep a ball moving around the outer edge of the parachute by creating a wave.

The great escape

Players stand in a circle, holding a parachute. After the group has practiced raising and lowering the parachute, the leader calls out characteristics that may belong to one or more players, e.g., "everyone wearing jeans" or "everyone with a summer birthday." Call the categories at the height of the parachute's arc. Everyone who fits the description lets go of the parachute and runs under the parachute to find a new place. Players who do not fit the description continue to hold the parachute and bring it down to the ground quickly. Ensure that all players are included in the descriptions.

"How we play the game may turn out to be more important than we imagine, for it signifies nothing less than our way of being in the world."


Fluegelman, A. (Ed.). (1976). The New Games Book. Garden City, NY: Dolphin Books.

Fluegelman, A. (Ed.). (1981). More New Games. Garden City, NY: Dolphin Books.

Faith Evans is the owner of PlayFully, Inc. She has 35 years of camp experience and specializes in experiential training serving camps, schools, and organizations.

Jane Sanborn is a director of Sanborn Western Camps. She has 30 years of camp experience and has written several books, including Bag of Tricks II, available from the ACA Bookstore for $9.95. Call 800-428-CAMP.
COPYRIGHT 1997 American Camping Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:camping activities
Author:Sanborn, Jane
Publication:Camping Magazine
Date:Mar 1, 1997
Previous Article:Integration through programming and a model to provide structure.
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