Themes for activities for kids day camp
June 16, 2011 11:14 AM   Subscribe

I've been asked to brainstorm for themes in which I can run a weekly or twice-weekly activity for an urban day camp for kids. Please help me come up with ideas!

Hi all. I will hopefully be volunteering at a Brooklyn, NY community center (housed in an NYC housing project) by running a weekly (or maybe twice weekly) hour long fun activity for thirty 5th grade kids. The overall theme of the whole program this summer is "Who Am I?" which is left purposely vague by the program director. The director wants the activities to focus on team-building, self-esteem, relationships, and communication.

There are already creative exploration activities (music, art, crafts, writing), sports activities, education activities (tutoring, computers, etc), health and sexuality activities, and career exploration activities. Parents will unlikely be involved in any activities.

I have been asked to just brainstorm ideas for themes that will allow different activities each weekly class. I do not need to come up with a curriculum just yet. Some ideas that I have come up with so far:

1) "No Bull": A weekly skill building session that focuses on expressing anger in a healthy way, communicating well, and having empathy for peers with the goal of preventing bullying as well as what to do if you are being bullied and also learning acceptance/tolerance for people that are different from you. I already have some fun engaging activity ideas in this area, from a friend who does this as their job.

2) "Snack attack": Where kids make their own healthy snacks, learn about healthy foods and alternatives to junk food, maybe take a field trip to a local roof-top farm. Focusing on health=happy, not pretty=happy. Possible obstacle: lack of funds to provide food and working with dietary restrictions.

3) "Giving back": Where kids would spend time learning the value of giving back to the neighborhood while developing pride in their community. Doing activities like working with seniors in the senior center that also resides in the program's building, working in a nearby community garden, finding a project as a group to work on such as a beautification project of some kind, etc, etc.

Any other broad theme ideas? This is still just in the brainstorming process, but I'm having a hard time coming up with other ideas that aren't already being covered in some way. Please keep in mind that there are limited funds. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!
posted by greta simone to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total)
"Snack attack": Where kids make their own healthy snacks, learn about healthy foods ...

I mean this in an utterly sincere way: Worst. Daycamp. Ever. Apologies for the snark - it's my bizarre sense of humor - I tell you from the bottom of my heart - kids are going to hate stuff like that . You will remain in their collective memories for years to come as a story - and not a good one :) .

I'll throw an idea out. The theme is "team-building, self-esteem, relationships, and communication." OK... check this out - what do kids that age love? Video games. SO do this..... beg borrow or steal 2 laptops and a couple video projectors. Divide the kids up into two groups. Run Sim City on both. It's a competition - each move of the game the group has to make a decision collectively as a team on what to do with their city. They have to do it as a team. And set a time limit - maybe two hours. The highest scoring group wins some neat prize.

You got team building, relationships and communications all covered right there and the kids are doing somehting that they really like. (hope my initial snark didn't turn you off to me's hard to resist for me :) )
posted by Poet_Lariat at 11:34 AM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

When you said the theme was "who am I?" my brain went immediately to a couple of party games I've heard (which are really kind of the same game done in two different directions):

1. Make up name tags with names of famous people or characters on them, ones the kids would have heard of. Don't show them to the kids. Instead, right before the game, you will put one name tag on each kid's back, where they can't see it. Then when every kid has a name tag, you start the game.

All that happens is -- the kids ask each other yes-or-no questions about the names on their backs to figure out who they are ("Am I a super hero? Am I an actor? Am I a sports star?....I'm a sports star -- okay, do I play baseball? Do I play football?...Do I play basketball?...Basketball, I play for the Jets? The Celtics?..."). When a kid finally figures out who s/he is, s/he can either sit down (or -- and I just thought of this -- you can move the name tag to their front, to show that they've figured it out). The game ends when everyone's figured out who they are.

2. Second version -- every kid thinks up their own name, and all the other kids ask THEM yes-or-no questions about who they are. Although I'm not sure how you'd end that.

Another one that may be vaguely and tangentially connected to communication (but really, for the kids it'll just be an interesting excuse to yell real loud) --

1. Everyone shuts their eyes.
2. Everyone picks their own favorite color.
3. Then, when you say "go," everyone stats shouting out the name of their favorite color real loud, all at the same time, and then -- WHILE KEEPING THEIR EYES SHUT -- tries to find other kids who are shouting out the same color. Everyone keeps shouting out their favorite color and attracting other fellow color-people until everyone's sorted themselves out into all the blue people in one group, the red people in another, etc., and everyone's found their group.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:38 AM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Secret agent or spy training.
Investigate/build devices that help you see around corners, learn how to slide a small mirror in the gap under a closed door to see what's going on in another room. Practice reading body language and see how someone is lying. Basic code cracking. (Lockpicking if you can swing it, but that one might be a dicey sell).
I'll try and think of more to add to the list.
posted by 8dot3 at 11:47 AM on June 16, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the ideas so far. Right now I'm not looking for actual activities, I'm looking for themes, with activity ideas to come later. Because this will be a weekly thing with the same group of kids for the whole summer, I need more over-arching ideas than just individual activities right now, because I'm going to have to come up with something different every week, expanding on whatever the theme of the project is. Which is why I'm trying to start from the top-down, and think of themes.

And yeah, the snack thing might be kind of lame, it's true. I just thought it could be fun to work with produce and such things when the majority of the meals they see might be coming from mcdonalds or from a bodega. But I'm not trying to eliminate ideas yet. Just trying to come up with lots of them. This is truly just supposed to be a brainstorm, not really at the planning stages yet.

Thanks and keep 'em coming!
posted by greta simone at 12:17 PM on June 16, 2011

Here's an interesting exercises that is supposed to give kids an idea of people with different living conditions:

First, start out by explaining "case studies" of children from different parts of the world. By that, I mean give them a some name to identify by and describe their living situation and day-to-day life. Do no just limit this to kids in 3rd world, poverty stricken countries. Have a balance of different cultures and socio-economic statuses.

Then, have different kids act out what it would be like living as one of these "case studies."

Finally, have them discuss how they would feel living like that, whether they feel they have it better or worse, etc.
posted by mungaman at 12:22 PM on June 16, 2011

One theme you could try is the kids' own personal history. It could involve telling a story about something that's happened to them in the past: a happy memory from when they were younger, a story about the funniest/ weirdest thing they've ever seen or an account of their most exciting adventure. There are many directions you could take that theme. You could even give out a booklet at the end with all the kids' stories in it for them to take home.
posted by DeusExMegana at 12:28 PM on June 16, 2011

I think the "Snack Attack" one could be great, depending on how you run it. Sure, showing the kids a diagram of a food pyramid and lecturing them about carbohydrates and proteins would be super dull, but there's so much other fun stuff you could do with it. A few years ago, two teachers at my high school taught a Healthy Living elective for a semester, and the kids loved it. The teachers were very enthusiastic, and the activities were great. If you could expand this theme to something about eating healthy, taking care of ourselves, and taking care of the environment around us, you'd have a wider range of things you could do. (Let me know if you want to hear more about the activities they did!)

What about a theme that's about living in NYC? When I taught high school in Manhattan, my students had very limited knowledge about the city beyond their own neighborhoods. You could do lots of different activities about the history of NYC, the different people who live in NYC, what it means to be a New Yorker, etc etc.
posted by violetish at 12:48 PM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

OK... I'll try again....

The stated them from the director is theme is "Who am I".
And you like the healthy food angle.

You could create a sub theme of "And what Am I Made of" whit a focus on "You Are What You Eat". Find an urban farm accessible by public trans and get the kids out there to see how their food is grown. Bonus if you can arrange to have them plant or harvest some food.

A google maps search for 'urban farm' around New York City brings up some interesting results.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 6:04 PM on June 17, 2011

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