There are many simple games that work as great icebreakers for kids (and adults, too), and help to get everyone smiling and laughing together. You may want to begin your trip with some of the following camp activities:
Have participants partner up and quietly look at one another for about ten minutes. Simply from how their partner looks, they must create an entire life story for them ÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â– where they were born, where their family comes from, what they like best in life, their favorite food, etc. This biography is shared with group, and then the person who's "life story" was being told gets to tell the real story of their life! The roles are then reversed. This is especially effective with groups that don't know each other well, and can be an excellent way to get people to think about how our stereotypes and first impressions can be mistaken.
Fear in a Hat
On scraps of paper, have everyone in the group write down one fear they have about anything at all. Then, place the papers in a hat, pull one out, and read it to the group. Explore how others in the group may have similar fears, how the group can help to overcome that fear, or how faith may help assuage the fear presented.
"What I Admire"
On scraps of paper, have everyone in the group write down one thing they admire about every other person present. Collect these, separate them by the people they're addressed to, and place them in envelopes labeled with the appropriate name. Hand these out at the end of the trip for a memorable keepsake for all.
There are plenty of educational and uplifting ways to incorporate the natural world into your summer camp activities. Some of our favorites include:
Really FEEL It
For our own sanity, our bodies filter out a significant portion of the information our senses give to us on a daily basis. In nature, however, it can be incredibly uplifting to realize just how keen our God-given senses are. Encourage your group members to "open" their senses - first, have them close their eyes. Then, have them listen for the sounds of the forest, their own bodies, and the people around them. Next, move on to the smells of the trees and the dirt, followed by the feel of the breeze against their skin, or the feel of their t-shirts on their backs. Finally, have them open their eyes, and spend a few minutes concentrating on really seeing their surroundings. Afterwards, talk about what they noticed during the exploration that they hadn't noticed before. This activity often works best as a guided exercise.
Once you're out in nature, have everyone in the group find an object that they like the look of - a rock, a particular branch, a leaf, etc. Then, have them deliver a brief "sermon" to the group about why they chose this object and how it represents or relates to their Christian beliefs.
Send everyone out to find something in the forest that can be used as a musical instrument - two rocks to clack together, a blade of grass, sticks of different weight, etc. Then, bring everyone together to create a well-known piece of music, such as "(The Sun Will Come Out) Tomorrow" or your favorite hymn or church camp song. This is often quite funny, and can be a great way to get people loosened up.
Away from the light pollution of the city, stargazing becomes an excellent possibility on any summer night. Bringing out star charts can be a great educational activity (remember the flashlight, though!), as can discussing the stories and myths behind the constellations. For a practical activity, teach your group how to find the North Star, so that they'll always be able to orient themselves on a clear night.
How to Find the North Star
Finding the North Star on a clear night is easy - first, find the Big Dipper. Then, look for the two stars that make up the edge of the cup away from the "handle" and draw a line between them. Extend this line upward and you'll run right into the North Star, which is the last star in the handle of the Little Dipper. If you know the constellation Cassiopeia, this can be used to help orient your group, as well, as the North Star is almost directly between Cassiopeia and the Big Dipper.
Remember, the most important part of camping is having fun - and activities help to keep your group friendly, interested, and interconnected during your trip or retreat. Keep these ideas in mind for a great getaway!