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Summer camp is a time for games! Indoor games, outdoor activities, and hopefully lots of active games learned from neighborhood kids or camp counselors.

I remember the days when I would wake up late, eat sugary cereal, and immediately go outside and play games and invent crazy activities with my neighborhood friends for hours on end, not going home until well after dark.We did this every day we could all summer long. Rain or shine, 1 friend or 20.Eventually, my parents realized it would be good if I learned something other than which neighbor hated their begonias being trampled and who gave out cans of Coke after 5:00.So I was sent to summer camp. Various camps. Several times a summer.I learned a lot! We played new games, sang songs, did outside activities like horseback riding or swimming. It was definitely worthwhile. 

Learning games at summer camp helped with many lifelong skills like:

  • Cooperation
  • Coordination
  • Teamwork
  • Losing gracefully
  • Winning without being a snob
  • Remembering the details of complicated game rules
Skills at camp mean skills for life.  So those kiddos have a lot to learn and a lot at stake when you send them off for a few days or weeks.And what if you are there running the camp activities? Or you suddenly have a pack of preteen girls show up at your door one summer day?  Or you need to teach a class of kids in a large age range?

I’ve got some great games below for an amazing summer camp, especially if you want to be teaching them some yoga skills.

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    First rule: No cell phones, tablets, or video.  Get them off the technology for a couple minutes, if not an hour or a few days.The second rule: Get moving! Find ways to be active and play energizing games.The third rule: Let them have some autonomy.  You are teaching the games, but many of these allow for a leader to be in charge who isn’t you. Once they’ve practiced the game with an adult as the leader, let them try to be in charge! 

    Here’s my roundup of awesome summer camp yoga games!

     

    Ship’s Captain:

    Best for? Ages 7+

    How many? At least 10, up to 40 would be possible.

    Need? A large space with defined borders.

    This is an excellent group game for all ages of kids. You need a rather open space with some defined borders. Choose where the “front” and “back” of the ship will be.The premise is that you are on a big ship. The crew has to take orders from the “Captain” quickly. Every order the captain gives is shouted out and the crew will comply right away.The last person or group to complete the task will be eliminated. If a group is not the correct number of people, the whole group is out. I usually play a few rounds with just the first 6 or 7 commands, no eliminations, to let everyone get a hang of the rules. Then I add in rules slowly to let them learn and keep track of the orders given. It also really helps to draw a picture of the ship with the 4 directions (bow, stern, port, starboard) so that they can look at it to figure out which side is which for the first few rounds. 

    My rules in addition to the Captain’s are:

    • No screaming (I teach in a classroom in a building)
    • Keep your body to yourself
    • If anything breaks or falls off shelves we stop the game (again I’m in a classroom and I expect them to respect my space)
    • Only the captain is allowed to call others “out”
    • Play fair
    Other than that it’s pretty self-explanatory. We LOVE playing this in my 3rd and 4th-grade classrooms. It really gets their energy out, it helps their communication and cooperation skills and also satisfies their need to be competitive.

    Here are the Captain’s rules!

    Bow: Run to the front of the shipStern: Run to the backPort: Run to the left side of the shipStarboard: Run to the right side of the ship.Row Your Boat: Each player finds a partner, sits face to face, holds hands, and puts feet up in boat pose with feet connected, then sing Row, Row, Row your Boat.Hit the deck: Lay down on your stomach (or if players don’t want to get dirty, they can crouch down).Attention on deck: Kneel on one knee, salute to the captain and yell, “Aye, aye captain!” — players may not move now until the captain gives the order of, “At ease!” (Even if the captain gives a different order such as “starboard” the crew must continue to remain at attention until told “at ease.”)Man the lifeboats: The crew must form groups of three and in a vertical line. The first person has their hands crossed over their chest, the two behind place their hands on the shoulders of the person in front.Clear the deck: Everyone must have their feet up off the floor (works best if you have tables and desks).Scrub the deck: Everyone on their knees scrubbing.Captain’s Quarters: Everyone runs towards the captain.Man-over-board: Players must find a partner as quickly as possible.  One partner must lay on their stomach in shark pose while the other stand over them and gently holds their hands up and back.Submarine: Every player falls on their back and sticks one leg in the air like a periscope.  The last ones are eliminated.SHARK!!!!: Everyone must do dolphin pose to fight off the coming shark.Crow’s nest: All players do tree pose.  Those who fall are eliminated.Sick turtle: Everyone falls onto their backs and does happy baby pose.Walk the Plank: Everyone gets into a group of three. Two do “open heart” pose. (They are standing one in front of the other, the front person has their hands reaching back and is being held by the person behind them. The front person leans forward, stretching their heart open and keeping their feet still and together). A third person does high plank pose in front.Hoist the Sails: Everyone finds one partner to do “rooftops” pose with their hands touching and arms straight up high to create a large triangle shape. 

    Ninja

    Best for? Ages 7+

    How many? 8-25 kids

    Need? Enough space to make a large circle

    The object of the game is to avoid having your hand touched or slapped. If both hands or arms are struck by another player you are out. The last Ninja in circle wins!To begin the game, everyone gets in a tight circle, shoulder-to-shoulder, with their hands in the middle. On the count of three, they jump back into a “Ninja” pose, arms up and feet apart.One at a time every player takes a turn being the attacking Ninja and tries to strike another player’s hand or arm in a SINGLE “Ninja” move (one arm movement or one step or jump).The attacked player, to avoid being touched, reacts with a SINGLE Ninja move ( a jump back, a step back or moving their arm out of the way). Only the attacker and attacked may move; all others stay completely frozen.

    Rules:

    • No matter what, if the strike missed or hit the other person, each attacker only has one chance to try to strike another player each turn.
    • After the attempt, they both stay frozen in their new positions.
    • If a person’s hand is touched, they must first lose one arm by putting it behind their back.
    • If they lose the next arm they leave the circle.
    • Whether missing, successfully hitting or avoiding, only one Ninja move is permitted and one must stay in that pose.
    • The player to the right automatically goes next and may choose to attack any other player
    The person who is aimed for doesn’t always go next; the next person is always to the right of the person who just went. When only one person remains they are the winner.Instead of going clockwise in this game, I call out the names of my students to make it random and less predictable. It makes certain that they will pay attention.  If you have too large a group though, or if you don’t want to run the game, you can teach them the counter-clockwise version from above.

    Arm Hockey

    Best for? Ages 5+

    How many? 10-30 kids

    Need?

    • Space to make a large circle
    • A ball (or two) to push around
    This one is a game I learned from our P.E. teacher because it’s faster paced and is higher energy.  It’s great for older elementary kids, but I have played with kids as young as 5.Prep for the game by teaching kids wide-legged forward fold. Feet are glued to the ground wider than hip distance apart, toes facing forward.  Bend at the hips to lean forward and reach the ground.  You may bend your knees slightly.Once they all know that pose, get them into a circle with their feet touching the person next to them.  This is the hardest part. I have them sit in a circle first, then stand up one at a time and place their feet apart.  The next person to stand up matches one foot to the other person’s and stands with their feet far apart as well.Once in the circle with all the kids standing in a wide stance and their feet touching their neighbors, each student will effectively have made a “goal” that is between their legs.A ball is in the middle and gets rolled across the circle by the kids to try to score a goal by getting it between someone else’s legs. They also have to protect their own goal by hitting the ball away from their legs as it gets closer. 

    Rules for Arm Hockey

    • Push the ball with a flat hand (not your fist)
    • Keep the ball on the floor
    • Glue your feet to the floor (this is really tough, as they automatically want to step into the circle to get closer to the ball to hit it)
    • Keep the ball moving (don’t grab it or stop it)
    When the ball goes between someone’s legs they are “out” and either leave the circle or can sit down in wide-legged forward fold. If they do the latter they can still play as long as they don’t grab the ball.  This is sometimes the better choice because readjusting the size of the circle can be tricky.Add in more balls as they get better at it for added fun and excitement! 

    Sea/Shore/Shells

    Best for? Ages 4+

    How many? Any group size would work!

    Need?

    • A long rope, sticks, or chalk to draw a line dividing an open space.
    • Some yoga cards if you want to show them options for poses
    This yoga game is great for helping their listening skills.  It can get silly pretty fast, but it also uses a lot of energy!Have two people hold a rope (long jump rope works well) a couple inches off the floor. You can also just draw a dividing line or lay a rope or some sticks on the ground.One side is the “sea.” The other side is the “shore.”The caller calls out “sea, or “shore” and everyone has to jump to the correct side.  But if the caller yells “shells” everyone has to get into a yoga pose. The last one to pose or the ones who follow the wrong cue are out.It works best to go quickly and try to trick them by repeating or mixing it up whenever possible.I give my kids 2-4 pose options at first to let them choose from.You can make it harder by giving specific rules for which pose they can do during different “rounds” or making a rule that no one can do the same pose as anyone else. 

    Yoga Obstacle Course

    Best for? All ages!

    How many? Any group size!

    Need?

    • A large space
    Optional: This one is great if you have lots of space and plenty of props. I’ve played it with my kids on their last day in school because it’s so fun but takes a lot to set up!Set it all up and let the kids go through as quickly as they can, or with a partner, or as a race. If you have enough tools to make it double sized, I would set up a relay race for added fun and competition 

    Here are some ideas of what you can do at each “station”

    • Walk across yoga blocks like stepping stones.
    • Set up yoga mats with yoga cards on them for kids to do a pose and count to 20 (or turn over a little sand timer).
    • Hold a bell while walking straight across a yoga strap (or rolled up yoga mats) without ringing the bell.
    • Walk across a mat like a: bear, crab, elephant (wide legged forward fold).
    • Frog jumps from mat to mat.
    • Wall sit for 30 seconds (or chair pose).
    • Using a straw and cotton ball, blow the cotton ball from one side of the mat to the other.
    • Pick up cotton balls from a mat with your toes and place them in a bowl or bucket.
    • Bean bag toss to a group of yoga cards on the floor. They must land on 3 different cards and you hold the poses for 20 seconds each.
    • Hula hoop hops (or crawl)
    • Hula hoop toss. Try to get the hoops over a target like a block or small cones.
    • Jump ropes to jump for 5-10 jumps.
    • Hopscotch with chalk, mat circles, or hula hoops
    • Down dog tunnel (the kids who are not going through the relay line up in a down dog tunnel and the racers have to crawl underneath them all).
    • Roll on your tummy or bounce across on an exercise ball from one mat to another.
    • Frog leaps over children lined up doing child’s pose.
    Be creative with this one too! Let the kids help you come up with additional stations. We could do this game every day for two weeks and just change it up a little bit every time. 

    Museum

    Best for? Ages 5+

    How many? Any group size!

    Need? Space to make a circle or to walk from one side to another. Knowledge of poses.

     This is definitely an all-time favorite of my students’.  There are a few ways to play, but I have my students play in a circle, which I have found works best in a classroom. You can also have them move across a large space, from one side to the other towards the “curator.”The premise is that you are in a museum and all of the kids are statues.  They have a secret power of coming to life, though, like in the movie “Night at the Museum.”One person, the curator (or watchman) stands in the middle of the circle and the other students all pose as statues. Once the curator is NOT looking, the statues come to life and are able to morph into different statues.If the curator sees them moving, they are “caught” and have to sit down. The last one standing wins!Give them a challenge of moving a certain way, or only choosing a specific set of poses. Also, make sure that they keep changing poses to keep in interesting.

    Rules for Museum in my classroom:

    (obviously, you can change these based on your space and expectations)
    • No talking or sounds (statues can’t talk)
    • Stay on your mat
    • No one can touch anyone else (curator stays in the middle and turns around, statues stay on their mats)
    • If they get “out” they sit in Yogi Style (sitting up straight with hands in a mudra on their knees), then I will let them try again.  This helps keep them from getting frustrated at getting out and also helps work on core strength.
    If you let them move from one side of the space to the other, definitely let them talk and move across the room. If the curator sees them move they just have to go back to the starting line. The person who reaches the curator first wins and get to be the next curator! 

    What’s My Pose?

    Best for? Ages 4+

    How many? Any group size!

    Need? Yoga cards

    Tape a yoga pose card to each student’s back.  Everyone walks around and finds a partner. They each to get ask their partner ONE yes or no question about their pose.Then, instead of guessing the name of the pose out loud, they have to DO the pose they think they have. Keep going until everyone has guessed their pose!Make sure you pre-teach them the names of lots of different poses. This works best after they have used the cards and practiced the poses a few times first.

    Yoga Statues Race (Red light, Green Light)

    Best for? Ages 3+

    How many? Any group size!

    Need? Yoga cards, open space

    This is similar to Museum, but you tell students which pose to do by holding a pose card up.One student, the Yogi Master, is at one end of the room holding a deck of cards.  They start facing away from the others.  Every time they turn around, they hold up a different yoga pose card that the group of students must do right away and freeze.The other students’ job is to race towards the Yogi Master and get to that person first. When the Yogi Master is not looking (green light) the others can walk or run towards them. As soon as the Yogi Master turns around (red light), the others must freeze in the pose that is being held up.If they don’t freeze right away, or they move or fall out, they go back to the beginning.The Yogi Master (or you as the teacher) can simultaneously say “Red Light” “Green Light” to make it more clear when they can and cannot move if that gets tricky. I usually end up saying the Red and Green light instructions to keep things moving quickly. 

    I hope you enjoyed this crazy conglomeration of yoga games for kids!

    Summer camps are really fun to run and can be so engaging.Having the right frame of mind going into it is important. Teaching new games can be time-consuming, but it always helps if you are modeling the games as much as possible so they can see what to expect.Hold kids to a high expectation for following the rules and being fair.  Also, hold yourself to a high bar for being energizing and excited about everything you teach.They learn from our attitudes and can match the energy of others generally pretty well. It’s so helpful to model a good attitude and respect for the rules from the very start!It’s also important to be prepared with the right equipment.  If you don’t have yoga mats for every kid, you can grab some old use mats and cut them into smaller circles, about a foot in diameter would work great for many of the activities. 

    Again, here are the links for my favorite kid’s yoga tools:

    Enjoy and have FUN out there this summer.

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