10 Outdoor and Indoor Game Ideas

Hey All -

Here's a very loose version of some games I want to write up in the coming months. I have another 10 all cued up and will be trying to get to 100 by... hm... February. Bryan will be testing these in Harlem (yikes!) so I hope some are winners. These vary from *new* to *modifications* to *old but still fun*. Enjoy!

1. You Spin Me Round
This is a Freeze Tag variation. To unfreeze a player, another player must run around them twice. Simple, right?

2. Square Affair
Think of a criss-cross version of Sharks and Minnows. Create a square and separate two equal teams to stand on adjacent sides of the square. This means that if they run to the other boundary, they will be running perpendicular to one another - right?
The idea is (and this gets chaotic) that on the count of "Go!" players must run to the other side without being tagged by the other team. Tags mean switching teams. The goal is to get everyone onto the same team... Interesting...

3. Something Good Quiz & Physical Challenge
I used to run this game show all the time! Two small teams compete and every question is different, sometimes they are physical challenges, sometimes simple spelling questions (you get the idea). Anyway, once a team member has volunteered and participated in a challenge or question, they may not be used again until the next round. This is fun... you'll frustrate a lot of over enthusiastic brainiacs (like me).

4. Disappear
I will have to write more about this later... It's the game "Points," but instead of minimizing contact with the ground, players must make another player (and then 2, 3, 4...) disappear from the POV of the facilitator. It is a great opportunity to think outside the box. More later.

5. The Boat Addon to CTF
Play Capture the Flag with a neutral area in the center. Players may only cross that area if they are holding a small trashball. Once leaving, regardless of side, they must drop the ball.

6. Chain Challenges
Take a simple challenge and add a timer. This one is where there is a lava pit with some ball in the center. Players must chain together to get the balls out safely. In this scenario, multiple chains would be the fastest way to achieve a good time. Vary the shape and size of the pit for different difficulties!

7. Field Frogger
This is great - I will have the full rules soon. There are Placers, Pickers and Frogs. The Placers put down carpet squares for the Frogs to jump onto. The Pickers pick up the unoccupied squares. The Frogs have to make it to the other side. It's a load of fun (in my head).

8. Tower Defense
There is a path for a team to walk down. The other team has to place themselves along the path with 3 or so trashballs each. Once the round begins, the walking team needs to get at least one player to the end of the path without being hit.

9. Bottlecaps & Frisbees
Put a Frisbee in the center of a large circle. Players must land bottlecaps or quarters inside. Easy, right?

10. 3D Bowling
Play team versus team bowling with blocks instead of pins. The team has a short time to create a structure for the other team to knock down. The structure has to be a certain height to qualify!


Thoughts on Working with Kids (2 of Many)

Campers Are Not Your Friends

Repeat that a couple times out loud.

Again, please...

There are social boundaries that must be maintained if you want to be a successful staff member. Regardless of how close in age you are to the older campers, you are paid to be there and they are paying to be there. You are the staff and they are the customer.

This line is a huge advantage to you! Campers, regardless of age, are coming from a school environment where there is a firm structure in place that separates staff from student. You can use that convention to create a stable and disciplined camp area that will keep surprises low and productivity high. Or you can break that convention and have to do a great deal more work to keep the same results.

Staff members fall into this trap for a number of reasons. One is because there are campers who are in their late teens. One is because there are campers who share similar interests to the staff members. The most common and dangerous, however, is because some staff members confuse being liked with being successful.

What are the fundamental goals of any camp? Safety is always at the top of the list - including physical and emotional. Education is around number two, or else they would not spend so much time and talent developing activities. Somewhere around three we can say customer happiness - including campers and parents.

Safety is always going to be number one. Keeping a camper safe means having to, every now and again, stop them from putting themselves into a dangerous situation. Remember, they are the customer. They are paying you to make sure they do not need to worry about being safe. That's your job. This means that every instant of every day you must be evaluating the risk factors that are taking place and using that information as the base of your decisions.

Ok. Simply, you must always be looking out for your campers. This comes in conflict with friendship because in order to remove risk sometimes you have to tell them to stop. Sometimes you have to spoil the fun. Sometimes you have to be the disciplinarian.

Your friends decide it would be funny to have Mentos and drink Diet Coke. You stand and watch as they do this, laughing especially hard when they vomit all over the place. Funny, right?

When this happened at my camp, the first question from the parents was, "Where was a staff member?" You see, you could have tried to stop your friends - and perhaps they would have listened. More likely, they would brush you off because they are responsible for their personal well being and you are not. At camp, however, you are directly responsible for the well being of campers and allowing something like this to happen is not acceptable.

"But I want the campers to think I'm cool."

Guess what? You are cool. You will not be employed long, though, if you fail to produce positive results.

Sure, being the cool staff member does not mean that you are unsuccessful. But making that your focus is a great way to sabotage your ability to make good choices.

Again, staff members sometimes need to be able to disagree with the will of the campers. Campers want to do something unsafe and someone needs to redirect them.


"Why do you need to impress a bunch of people who are younger than you in the first place?"

You are not running for Prom royalty. You are not going to get a special prize for popularity. But sometimes staff members start day one like they are afraid of being voted off of the island!

The campers need to respect your authority. Otherwise, they will put you in situations that compromise your safety. They will tell you things that are vastly inappropriate. They will make you choose between being fair and being a friend - and they will exploit your favors. They will chop away at the boundaries that you provided and take as much as they can get.

They will make it very difficult for you.

The campers do not need to fear you. They do not need to hate you. They do not need to like you. While you are at camp, you represent safety and authority, respect and professionalism. Do not sacrifice your chance at success by confusing your role with that of a camper.


What's in Your Rainy Day Bag?

Rainy Day Bag (beta):


Apples to Apples
4 regular card decks
Trivial Pursuit for Kids

Coloring Sheets (my favorite are the geometric ones like this - http://www.coloringcastle.com/geometric_coloring_pages.html)
Word Finder
Rebus Sheets

Construction Paper
Glue Sticks
Craft Sticks


This is off the top of my head... What do you keep in there?


Thoughts on Working with Kids (1 of Many)

Kids are People

 Obvious, right? We are all people. Kids, though, are especially people. People have certain needs. Fulfilling those needs is not always easy, but acknowledging them is. People are routine oriented and desire some level of structure. People want to be treated fairly. People want attention.
Kids should not be treated like children or, to be more precise, the stereotypical pop culture version of children.

You know the plot: kid knows something, kid is not listened to, some form of huge disaster happens, kid saves the day with a little ounce of “I told you so.” From Nancy Drew to Nemo, successful stories aimed at youth all deal with gaining the respect of adults. Most cases resolve amiably, but we would like to skip the whole Hero’s Journey and cut straight to the respect part. 

Yes, respect (cue Aretha Franklin). 

Respect is the fundamental difference between dealing with children and dealing with people. Children can be treated unfairly. Children can be ordered. Children can be scolded. People, however, must be treated with respect – just a little bit. 

Respect is simply defined in our culture as the Golden Rule, “Treat others the way that you wish to be treated.” The concept is simple. Applying it to kids takes a little more work. 

Sometimes respect comes in conflict with discipline. A kid makes bad decisions and you are forced to take some form of corrective action. Remember what is fair and how you would react if the situation was reversed and you will make the correct decision (maybe... more on this later).

The easiest way to be respectful is to be completely transparent about the rules and consistent about enforcing them. If the kids understand the process and feel that justice is served equally then they will feel respected... and, as a pleasant side effect, will behave better.


Question about Fictional Characters...

Hey All -

Here's a question for the educational community: Is there research that refers to the "voice" of the educational materials?

Who writes our textbooks? When I was growing up, the majority were written like encyclopedias - no characterization or personality. Would that help?

Imagine learning about history from several different fictional characters who lived at the time. There would be a small level of editorial leeway (wow, that's how it's spelled?) given, but for the most part the information would be shared from a viewpoint that the students could relate to... such as a colonial soldier during the Revolutionary War or a kid living in England at the time (or both!)

...just thinking out loud.


ACA & iD Tech.

Here is some great news -

Bryan and I will be presenting at the National ACA Conference in February of 2010. That's pretty... um... incredible and exciting!

We have also been rehired to continue building a stellar Activity Curriculum for iD Tech Camps, the largest tech camp group in America (and I believe the world... which, also means our solar system to anyone's immediate knowledge). They have over 60 separate camp locations around the United States and serve several thousand campers between the ages of 7 and 18 years old.

And we have some product that is currently in what I like to call "Beta" mode. One is a book containing our favorite games, written in such a way that even the most timid facilitator could (possibly) be successful. The book also has an appendix with our favorite songs (as you knew it would). We'll have copies available at the conference and have some of the early versions (rather *current* versions) sitting on our shelf awaiting revision.

If you are interested, let me know.

I am going to start posting more games and advice up here immediately. The latest break was to allow for my wedding (thanks) and subsequent honeymoon to New Zealand (best place on Earth).

I am also working with a couple friends on an iPhone app with all of the games on it, so PE & etc can have everything at their fingertips. It's a little breakneck speed to try to get something out by February, but we'll see...

And... a project that has gotten dusty on the shelf *will* be revived soon. A DVD of (better) produced videos of Bryan and I (and a special guest) performing some of our favorite camp songs will hopefully be put together around the holidays. I will likely include it with the final copy of the book and make it all available for some reasonable fee...




This has been the longest I've gone without a post... Sorry about that.

What have I been doing? Well, I've been writing a book... kind of. I was commissioned to put together the Activity Curriculum for 60 camps. Yes, 60. That work, which turned from a smaller-type project into a rather huge undertaking, is almost fully complete and compromises of some of my best camps thoughts intermingled with an excellent array of games and activities - Over 200 to be exact.

So, do not worry. I will start posting very soon - and sharing more relevant teaching about camp and working with youth. My next essay is probably about "Bad Apples," inspired by some research I learned about on "This American Life." Stay tuned - and check out www.kidssite2.com for fun stuff!