Whether it’s a night in a backyard tent under the stars or an annual retreat in the woods, camping is a wonderful way for your family to enjoy time outdoors together. Once the sun sinks below the horizon and you’re warming your toes by the campfire, these eight learning, literacy, and storytelling games will have your family laughing and learning together. Plus, playing these games with your kids is an easy way to prevent the summer slide.
For ages 6 and up
1. Sound Train
Players agree on an initial sound — for example, ‘p’ or ‘sh’ — and take turns saying a new word that begins with the chosen sound. The game continues until a player is unable to think of a new word to add. The last person to provide an answer chooses a new sound for the next round. Add a time challenge for older children by having all players keep a simple, repeated rhythm — for example, patting knees twice and then clapping once. Each player must say his word before the beat is finished.
2. I Went to Market
The first player begins by saying, “I went to market and bought a ___,” adding an item she would buy. For example, “I went to market and bought a bag of potatoes.” The next player in line continues with, “I went to market and bought [insert the name of the first player’s item] and a ___ [adding a new item purchased].” For example, “I went to market and bought a bag of potatoes and a candy bar.”
Each player around the campfire continues to add to the list of shopping items. Any player who makes a mistake is eliminated until only one winner is left.
3. Once Upon a Time
Create a story together — the player chosen to begin shares the first few lines of a make-believe story. Storytelling proceeds around the campfire, with each player adding a few more lines to continue the story. Add an additional challenge when playing with older children by having players pat their knees twice and then clap their hands while sharing their story offering. The next player must start his contribution immediately following the last player's clap.
Players sit around the campfire and the game begins when the first person whispers a message to the next person in line. The whispered message is passed in order from person-to-person, and the last person announces to the group the message he heard. Invariably, the message has changed as it's been passed along, providing a fun laugh for all.
For ages 8 and up
5. The Name Game
As a group, choose a topic: for example, animals, places, or celebrity names. The first player names an item that fits the topic and begins with the letter A. Players then take turns to name another item for the list that begins with the last letter of the item just named. For example, with animals as the topic, the game might go: aardvark, kangaroo, octopus, snake, elephant, etc. Once named, items cannot be repeated. Any player who cannot add an item during her turn is eliminated until only one winner is left.
6. 20 Questions
Select one person to begin as ‘it.’ During each round, ‘it’ chooses a person, place, or thing but does not reveal the identity of the chosen item to the other players. Next, players take turns asking ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions about the item as they attempt to figure out what it might be. A total of only 20 questions may be asked. If at any stage of the game a player guesses correctly, play ceases and the winner becomes ‘it’ for the next round. If no one can guess the answer after all 20 questions are asked, ‘it’ reveals the the item's identity, and a new round can begin.
For ages 11 and up
7. Two Truths and a Lie
The player nominated to go first shares three ‘facts’ about himself – two of which are true, and one which is not. For example, “I have a friend named Bowie; on Tuesday I went to the school library; and this week, I ate a whole bag of goldfish crackers.” The other players try to guess which statement isn't true. The player who guesses correctly is allocated one point. Once each player has had a turn at sharing their ‘facts,’ the player with the most points wins.
The first player begins the story with a fortunate or positive statement. For example, “Fortunately, I won the class prize of lunch with the teacher.” The next player contributes an unfortunate statement to continue the story, such as: “Unfortunately, the teacher was absent and I had to have lunch with the principal!” Player three adds another positive statement, “Fortunately, it was mac and cheese day.” Player four adds another unfortunate statement, and so on. Play continues until the story comes to a logical conclusion…either happily or unhappily!
So, why not make plans to go camping this summer? You can make memories that will last a lifetime — and keep your kids learning! And, when you're not on a campground, another way to keep your happy campers' brains sharp is having them join the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge. They can log minutes, unlock activities and rewards, and discover great new books.