Captivate An Audience

By Katie Coffman

It seems as though camp electronic policies have become almost as important as the Golden Rule these days. You know the rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated. Most of my campers would like to be treated to a day dedicated to video games. I’m not as enthusiastic about that idea as they are. In fact, I don’t know many camp people who are.

The use of iPads, smart phones, video games, hand-held video games, and various social-media outlets have become so widespread that many camps plan entire programs around them, using them to their advantage. How many camps use social media to market programs? And who has seen the high-tech robotics camps or camps that teach kids to make their own movies and music videos, and then edit them, using tablets? These are awesome ideas for those who are willing and able to offer them.

But for those looking for a good, old-fashioned day-camp experience—one full of swimming, high-ropes courses, canoeing, and crafts—what can be done about all of these electronic gadgets that campers are so excited about and so upset to part with?

We should use them! Please don’t tell my campers I said that, at least not until the whole plan is revealed. We can use all of these games, apps, and websites, which hold kids’ attention for hours on end, as inspiration. Because kids can be entertained for hours in front of a screen, and oftentimes beg to spend more hours, we camp people are challenged to be more creative with programming so kids are entertained for hours without any screens. Challenge accepted!

Power Up
One approach is to bring their favorite games and apps to life, making them life-size and interactive! Is Angry Birds their favorite? Use cardboard boxes to build structures and paint deflated balls to look like the angry birds. Add weight to some of the boxes in the higher levels to make it more challenging. Is Mario Kart a big deal? Have campers decorate their own cardboard box kart in arts and crafts, and create an obstacle course to “race” through. To make the race more real, each camper has to protect a kart with balloons tied on it throughout the race. Do campers love Lego Marvel Superheroes? Set up a superhero mission to save the camp, with counselors leading the group through superhero challenges set up around the campsite. Would campers rather play Family Game Night on the Wii than play actual board games? Take the games a step further and make life-size versions—the campers can be their own game pieces.

Whatever video games and apps campers rave about, use them. By utilizing what interests them, signature camp experiences can be created. In the end, we all want to provide campers with new opportunities and give them a positive connection to camp. If their beloved electronics can open new doors for us to do that without forcing us to throw out electronic policies, then we can take camps to new levels.

And if anyone has a good idea to bring Candy Crush to life—I’m open to suggestions!

Game over.

Katie Coffman is the Community Programs Coordinator for Ohio State University’s Department of Recreational Sports. Reach her at 614-292-2115, or