Camp Activity Criteria: The Large Group Game

The hunt for your summer activities is on. It matters that those games you are hunting for meet the right criteria for this summer’s program. The right game may seem to show up with ease, but will it pass the criteria of a good activity? I taught my staff what I was looking for in activities so that when applied to the program they became a highlight not a distraction. Just any old activity won’t do.

Welcome to Camp Program Design 101. Solid foundations build good programs. Good programs come from asking basic questions. Starting right means avoiding the negative distractions you will deal with if you don’t.  Here’s some help choosing your program activities.

General Activity Choice Criteria for the General Camp Program: The Large Group Game

Criteria for the Large Group Game

These are often called field games since they encompass a larger territory with a large mass of players.  This could mean a basketball court or a football field. Or it could mean the whole property. Group size could be from 30 to 200 or more depending on camp size. Capture the flag reigns as the all time classic. Some large group games are broken down into smaller segments like an Olympic style competition or relays.

Rule # 1. Does it meet activity criteria for a large group game? Having fun with everyone involved makes up the primary purpose for these games. These questions need to be answered before you even get started in your planning.

A.      Are there any advantages to having played it before? New games level the playing field allowing all skill levels to get involved in a greater capacity. New activities also keep and create new interest.

B.      Does it involve the whole group? Avoid spectators. Get the whole group involved. Meeting this goal creates your greatest challenge. When your participants are reduced to bystanders you create passive energy which really drags life out of the whole camp.

C.      Is it exciting and enjoyable? I don’t need to explain this, do I? But then again, program people tend to be risk takers and produce unbalanced views of fun and need held in check. Good game rules balance unwise and wacky ideas.

D.      Is it unique or even original to your camp? Using the unique makeup of each camp, its staff and traditions, you really can come up with trademark games. Don’t be afraid to create your own. (See my blog post, “Grab Bag Games” to get you started).

E.       Is it tradition, something they expect? Would there be genuine disappointment with an old activity not done? Keeping traditional activities shows a lack of effort toward creativity. There are very few traditions worth keeping.

Rule # 2.  Is it practical? It better be. When you coordinate 200 campers and 50 staff, the game better be simple enough to pull off without complication.

A.      Practical requires a minimum of rules. How easy is it to explain to one person? Try explaining it to four, and then a dozen. If they don’t get it, neither will your mighty horde.

B.      Practical requires a minimum of strategy. Some of the crowd you explain this game to will not know the concept of strategy. Since the explanation time is short, the game plot needs to be delivered like a quick short story not a complicated novel.

C.      Practical requires a minimum of props too. Props can add a lot to game excitement, but when over done they confuse the bunch you are working with. Eliminate any prop that does not contribute to the outcome of the game.

The size of your crowd requires simple planning. Just do not error on the side of simplistic (it’s a tough crowd the older they get) or you will lose them before you ever get started.

Rule # 3. Is it safe? It better be. Your kids and parents trust you to figure this out beforehand. Before putting your game into action it would be good to stop and answer this accident report form question for each element in the game, “What could have been done to prevent this injury?”

A. Safety requires measuring the physical risk. Remove obstacles and props that can inflict harm.  Avoid dangerous natural features, even as simple as ankle twisting ground holes. Running wildly in the dark loses its fun when someone crashes into a tree. Limit the physical stress placed on a body. What might be fun for some, stresses your liability coverage.  Make sure the equipment used matches camper experience level.

B. Safety considers mental and emotional risk. Since you need to level the playing field for total participation, you’ll need to plan for levels of involvement that do not strain sensitive emotions and weaker abilities.

Rule # 4. Plan your communication and supervision. Since you’re teaching and harnessing the energy of a sizable group, your success requires planning.  Now it is time to implement the rules, strategy and safety.

A. Your staff should have advanced training and knowledge of the activity. Staff must completely know and understand the rules and strategy involved to be able assistant communicators.

B. Communicate the activity in stages. This allows for repetition and assimilation.

a.       First have leaders explain the activity to their small group. This naturally fits a cabin counselor structure.  In this familiar team setting, the group grasps explanations more easily.

b.      Then after bringing the whole group together, the activity leader explains the game again to help the whole group understand. Final boundaries, props and leaders are introduced to bring all the game elements together for mass understanding.

Please share your tips or ask a question. I’ll address small group game selection next time.

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About the Ordinary Hiker

A Christian camp director for many years, I enjoy ministry and being outdoors. I refer to God's creative wonder as the testimony of creation, a special place where God brings His word to life. Its where I like to be and where God speaks in His gentle voice in the awe of His creative work.
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