I was interviewed by a 5th grader earlier this year, and this was one of my favorite things I was able to do in 2019! I loved doing this interview because it is truly exciting to see young leaders passionate about something. She was prepared with questions, learned to pause and listen, and also make eye contact. Podcasts are becoming more and more popular and a great skill to introduce to your older participants/teens. The school setup interviews of former classmates to talk about their experiences at this school in honor of their 60th anniversary. After these interviews were recorded, the school had audio for everyone who toured the school during the reunion to hear the interview. With guidance from the teachers, the students had access to iPads, microphones, and how to edit. So how would this work for Youth Programs or Summer Camps?

I think a great way to introduce podcasts is to have the right staff or counselor that is passionate about this. Then have this as a choice for your participants. One cool idea I thought of would be to record the weekly news of camp or your after school program. The participants could interview their peers, have a topic of the week, find some special guests in the community, and do a word of the week. Make it fun and educational! Then let the parents have access and the kids and parents could listen to the weekly podcast on the drive home! The parents and kid are more connected to your program and a fun way to do an audio newsletter instead of parents having to read something! They get tons of stuff to read. Introduce your participants to new technology, it’s important. We need to catch up and not stay in our same ideas and programming. The kids and your staff will thank you for doing something they may have seen or heard outside of your program. It’s our job to teach skill development and prepare them for the future.

I will share this idea in the Youth Programming section in the Resource Zone on my website.

Elf On The Shelf!

Image result for union county elf on the shelf

Christmas 2019 may be over, but this idea is definitely worth using at your camp this Summer. If you are doing a Christmas in July theme week or a Holiday theme week, you should definitely steal this idea of an actual Elf On The Shelf to make an appearance! There was a principal from Waxhaw, North Carolina that decided to dress up and show up in different locations around the school. He had the kids try to come and find him. He was spotted in the hallway display case, on the roof of the school, and laying on a hallway railing. The kids had a great time trying to find their principal. What a great idea to replicate for your campers in Summer 2020.

You may be wondering what is a Christmas In July theme week or Holiday theme week? A Christmas in July theme week is simply bringing Christmas back during the Summer. Here are some fun ideas that I have used before…

  1. Christmas Tree in the lobby at camp.
  2. Hot Chocolate by the “Fire” at snack.
  3. Snowball fight. You can use paper, or buy fake snow balls.
  4. Utilize scooters and do “sledding” and have some fun places setup.
  5. Skits! Tons of fun ideas! I love doing a Grinch skit!
  6. Show Frozen or Elf. Wear your jammies to camp and have Christmas snacks!
  7. Sing fun Christmas songs, Christmas music playing around camp, just transform the environment you have.

Holiday theme week is a fun way to incorporate tons of holidays. My favorite lineup has been…

Monday: Valentines Day

Tuesday: New Years Eve/New Years

Wednesday: St. Patrick’s Day

Thursday: Thanksgiving

Friday: Christmas

Always communicate to your audience that these themes are just for fun, nothing is forced, just a way to change up the day or week. If you have never done themes for your day camps, definitely do this. Camp is all about FUN, think of different ways to dress up and change the environment for your staff and kids!  I will add Elf on the Shelf to the Youth Programming section in the Resource Zone. Check this out on my website. Tons of fun ideas for you to steal and share.

Camp Counselor, Real Job Skills.

When I first started working as a counselor, people would ask me, “What do you do as a counselor?” I would innocently respond with “I play with kids.” I didn’t know how to articulate what I did each day, especially when I was in high school. This would lead to friends and other employers thinking it is a joke job or easy job. For people that are currently working in youth programs, we all know that this is a very challenging job, and you learn so much about yourself in the process. I have included some professional skills you can highlight so your staff know how to articulate what they do. This is important for young professionals looking for their next job. It is also good for them to see how many skills they can continue to learn if they return back to camp or your program.

Professional Skills Include…

1. Active Listening – You demonstrated empathy and understanding through your attentive presence.

2. Time Management – You prioritized tasks to meet the needs of large groups of children. You are helping them navigate their day from 7:00am to 6:00pm.

3. Pubic Speaking – You developed and innovative and fun ways to engage an audience of 2 to 300 people.

4. Management Skills – You were responsible for the physical and emotional safety of children and worked to build community each day.

5. Creativity – Youth programs can be unpredictable and you had lots of chances to adapt to unexpected situations, innovated programming, and nurtured the artistic expression of campers.

6. Lesson Planning – You independently planned and lead programs about art, athletics, character development, and more for youth of all ages.

7. Interpersonal Skills – You contributed to a positive youth program culture by interacting with staff, campers, and parents from diverse backgrounds. Keep using those skills to help us recruit more amazing staff for this Summer.

Even as professional staff, it’s good to reflect on what you actually do each day. It may surprise you! I have added this to the youth programming section in the Resource Zone. Check this out for more awesome ideas to make your youth program 1 percent better.

Back Pocket Games!

Image result for backpocket

Sometimes working with kids or teens, things don’t seem to go your way. You have a game that doesn’t work, bus doesn’t arrive on time, you don’t have much space, or the weather is bone chilling or a sweat fest. You may need to go into your back pocket, and try one of these games or contests. Youth Programs are all about fun and small moments that can make or break a child’s experience. Kids like to be engaged! The more they sit around, the more problems you will have. Staff are the same way, give them the resources to be successful. Your staff will even come up with their own games once they see how some of these games or contests are done. No one wants to go to a youth program where the kids are just sitting around.

48 Ideas!
1. I Spy I spy something __, then they guess.
2. Telephone Whisper something in one person’s ear and let that person whisper in the next person’s. Watch as it gets distorted.
3. Indian Chief One person goes away while you pick a “chief.” The chief does an action and everyone follows. They keep changing it up. Bring the person back to guess who the chief is (or who is changing it up).
4. What’s Different Pick one person and let everyone look at them. Then take them away and have them change one thing (untied shoes, no nametag, etc). and let everyone guess.
5. Who’s Missing Pick one person to leave the room (the guesser). Then let everyone re-arrange and take one more person away (to a different spot than the guesser). The guesser must try to figure out who is missing.
6. Seven Up Heads down, thumbs up. Pick seven (# varies) people up front. Let them each touch a thumb. Let everyone pick their head up again and stand if their thumb was touched. They have to guess who.
7. Simon Says Simon Says and everyone follows. If you do something that Simon didn’t say, you sit down for that round.
8. Counselor Hot Seat Let the campers ask a counselor questions.
9. Good Morning, Mr. Judge Pick one person to be the judge. The judge has his back to the group and his eyes closed. Pick other camper’s to go say “Good Morning, Mr. Judge” in funny voices. The judge must guess who said it.
10. Bop diddy bop bop Everyone is in a circle with one person in the middle. They point at someone. If they say “bop diddy bop bop,” then the other person must say “bop” before they finish or they are it. If they say “jello” they also count to 5. The people beside them must form a bowl and the middle person dances. “Elephant” makes two big ears and a trunk.
11. Flu Outbreak Everyone closes their eyes and you pick one person who has the flu. Everyone wakes up and begins walking around the room shaking hands. The flu person shakes hands, but uses their finger to rub the inside of their palm. If your hand gets rubbed, you cannot guess. You shake 2 more hands and then lay down. Everyone is trying to guess the peson who has the flu.
12. Charades Act out short things and let the others guess. Teams work great.
13. Sausage One person stands in front of the group. Pick people to ask question. The answer is ALWAYS ‘sausage.’ If they laugh/smile, they are out and the person who asked is it..
14. 7-11 Buzz You go around in a circle counting, but on the numbers 7 and 11 OR multiples of them, you say buzz. If you say 7, 11, 14, 21, 22, etc. then you are out. Go fast.
15. Continuing Story Start a funny story and point to someone to continue it…
16. Countdown Skits Make up a really short skit (10 seconds). Then count down fast or slow to see how well they can adapt it.
17. Trivia Show off your knowledge.
18. Jokes Show off your sense of humor.
19. Would you rather Make up odd things. Would you rather eat only hotdogs for your entire life or live in a pool? Take a poll with your huddle
20. Make up a new cheer This is always a great idea… share it at flagpole!
21. Chicken in the Coop Everyone holds hands to make a fence/coop. Pick a couple chickens in the middle. They close their eyes. Two people in the fence let their hands go, forming an opening. While squawking, the chickens must find their way out.
22. Honey if you love me “Honey if you love me, you’ll give me a smile.” “Honey, I love you, but I just can’t smile.” Smile? You’re it.
23. Look up, Look down Stand in a circle with everyone looking down. When you say “look up” you must look directly at someone. If you are looking at each other, scream and sit down.
24. Alphabet Relay Form two lines sitting down with your eyes closed. Tell the last two people a letter. They must write on the person in front of them’s back until it gets to the front. See if they still have it right…or let them draw it and see how off it is!
25. Crazy Line Up Line up without talking in height/alphabetical/bday order.
26. Spirit Check We’ve got spirit, yes we do, we’ve got spirit, how ‘bout you? Spirit check someone and make sure you win!!!
27. Who Knows Me Best? If you think I like the beach, make a sun. If you think I like the mountains, make a mountain. Aww, the sun is right!
28. Down by the River Down by the River, by the hanky panky… Where the bullfrog jumps from bank to banky. Singing east side, west side, east side, west side. Diddly ding dong. The person who’s hand gets hit on “dong” is out
29. Never Have I Ever Each camper puts up 3 fingers. Go around the circle saying things you’ve never done. If you have done what they say, put one finger down. Just fun to see. Examples: I’ve never flown. I’ve never been to Disney.
30. Conversation Starters Ask a question and allow the campers to talk to their neighbors. Encourage connections!
31. Everybody’s It! Partner up. One person chases the other until caught. At that point, the chaser becomes the chased. It just never ends!
32. Huddle Time Take time to create a new huddle cheer, silent cheer, dance, huddle prank, song, etc. Challenge another huddle to a spirit war!
33. Pocket Scavenger Hunt Get in teams and call out something. See which group can come up with the most… beads, toothpicks, water bottles, etc.
34. Math Hands Start with pairs. Each person puts out a certain number of fingers. The first person to add up the total correctly wins. Combine into larger groups, continue on.
35. Mingle Call out a number and have kids scramble to get in that group size. If they don’t find a group, they become cheerleaders.
36. People to People Everyone has a partner except the caller. The caller calls out things like “elbow to elbow” or “foot to shoulder” and partners have to get in that formation (adding as you go). When the caller yells, “people to people” everyone finds a new partner and the person without a partner becomes the new caller.
37. Sing a Song Boom Chicka Boom, Mama Wears Army Boots, Singing in the Rain, Boomerang, etc…
38. Captain Midnight Everyone lines up in a row. The caller stands a ways away (50 yards or so). The group yellow “Captain Midnight, what time is it?” The group steps forward for each hour. When CM yells “Midnight,” he runs after them. Everyone tagged becomes a cheerleader.                                                     39. Electricity Two lines sitting down holding hands with their eyes closed. Two people on the end have their eyes open.  Flip a coin… if heads, start squeezing.  If tails, don’t. They squeeze moves down the line and the last person reaches for a ball.  Whoever gets the ball first gets a point.                                  40. Show and Tell Bring stuff from home or found in nature.                                                                                          41. Bob The Weasel  The group forms a circle bobbing up and down singing “Bob, the weasel, Bob, Bob, the weasel” while moving their hands behind their back and out towards their neighbor. They pass a small pebble or coin.  There is someone in the middle trying to figure out who has it!                           42. Pipecleaner Animals Give each person a pipe cleaner and let them go to town. They can free form or you can name an animal and see who’s is the best.                                                                                                             43. Name that tune Play a kid friendly song and see who can guess.                                                                               44. Sidewalk Chalk Just easy and fun.                                                                                                                                              45. Tic Tac Toe Have a tournament where the winner moves to the left and the loser stays.                          46. Hangman Use fun quotes, mission statement of the YMCA, character words, fast food restaurants, fun stuff around your camp or program.                                                                                                                                               47. Madlibs Make up a story on the spot and let them fill in the blanks.                                                                       48. Object Devotions Find an object in nature, or something you have to use as a visual for a devotion.        

I hope you enjoy all 48 ideas! I have included this in the Resource Zone. Check this out for more fun ideas.


Christmas Themed STEM Activities

little bins

I recently came across this awesome website called Little Bins For Little Hands! This is a great resource that will give you some STEM ideas to help strengthen your youth program! STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. STEM is important because it pervades every part of our lives. Science is everywhere in the world around us. Technology is continuously expanding into every aspect of our lives. It is more than just a buzz word or gimmick in youth programs. The team building and confidence this builds is huge for our developing youth. I have included a direct link to their Christmas Challenge Countdown. This will give you some amazing STEM ides for the Christmas season. December STEM Ideas

I have included this awesome website link and attachment in the Resource Zone on my website. Check this out for more fun ideas to add into your youth program!


Image result for rollors

Rollors is a cool game that I came across the other day when I started doing research around Summer 2020. You may have seen Cornhole, Bocce, Washers, etc,,, Rollors is simply a new fun game that is easy to setup and takes some strategy to win. Players roll disks and points are awarded to the player/team closes to the goal. As you can see from the picture, there are different point values on the disks. I also love this game because it is affordable and doesn’t have a ton of rules. If you are playing with kids, I definitely recommend older age groups. This is partly because there is some measuring, and you must constantly keep track of the score . You could play with all ages, just keep those logistics in mind. This game is meant for the outdoors, but could be played indoors. I would avoid playing on concrete or wood floors since the rollors are made out of 100 % New Zealand hardwood.

How did this game come about…

“Minnesota-native Matt Butler is the inventor of Rollors. The concept was first visualized on downtime between deployments overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan supporting combat operations. Upon return, Matt developed a prototype in his garage that was a hit at BBQs, parties, and other outdoor get-togethers. Around the time of the recession; Matt saw many local veterans out of work that had the resident wood working skills that helped spark the light bulb onto a means to help them. He then decided he wanted to employ local veterans to help construct the wooden disks and wooden, cone-shaped targets used in the game in their home workshops.

After countless number of games were handcrafted, packaged and sold through the website, church, craft fairs, and other types of venues it was then distributed in brick and mortar retailers across American and has even started distribution outside of the United States. After helping numerous veterans get themselves back on their feet from the recession he has it developed outside of the United States to be able to get it to a price point so many more people and families can enjoy the fun.

Rollors has turned into an award-winning and unique game which is revolutionizing beach and backyard fun.”

Check their website Rollors out for more information on how to purchase, play, and have fun with this game! We all should be trying and looking for new innovative ways to make our programs stronger. I have included this in the Resource Zone on my website as well! Check my website out for more fun game ideas.

Thought For The Day!


Sometimes the little things like a quote can make a big difference in someones day. Utilizing a “Thought For The Day ” (TFTD) is a great idea to strengthen your program. That is the power of a great idea. In many situations, the best ideas are the smallest ones. It is just a dry erase board and a marker. When you are working with people, you don’t really know what they are going through. Some people come in with smiles, some come in sad, and some come in with no emotion. The use of a “Thought For The Day” may reach that person that needed an extra pick me up. No matter their age, everyone needs a smile. Your quote can be all kinds of things, its good to mix it up between funny, uplifting, and even confusing. When the kids or staff start asking questions or talking around this quote, you have created a new avenue for relationship building and connection.

Another way to utilize a “Thought For The Day” is to get a huge fish bowl and have your participants or staff pick out a folded up quote. You can even have your participants and staff write down their favorites. In an assembly or when you gather your program together, call someone up to pick one out and read it to the group. Then ask three or four people to come up and say what that quote means to them. Taking the time to pause in your program is also very important. Your kids and staff are constantly bombarded with things to do or things coming at them through their phone or TV. You will be surprised at how people see a quote differently than someone else. This also gives your kids or staff a chance to gain confidence as they speak in front of others. Speaking in front of other people is a lost skill as many defer to texting or just not saying anything at all. Your program is the platform to build their confidence and even leaders. How cool is that?! Take time to learn about your staff and kids in your program. With the Holidays approaching, you may need to do more listening than talking. You never know what kind of emotions this season brings for many, it may not always be positive. Give them a smile and make them feel important. I will include this “TFTD” idea into the Resource Zone under Devotions. Check out my website for more fun ideas!