Classroom Tips

Summer camp lesson plans | Templates, curriculum, and more

Running a summer camp takes a lot of planning and organization. Keeping children engaged, active, and having fun for full day sessions, or even longer if it is a sleepaway camp, requires a lot of preparation.

If your camp focuses on a topic, like art, music, sports, or STEM, then your activities should be centered around that subject. However, if you are running a general enrichment camp, then you need to have activities that encompass a wide variety of topics.

No matter what you are covering, you will need a well thought out summer camp curriculum and lesson plans to ensure that your campers are having a fun experience and gaining valuable information. In this article, we’ll go over how to make an effective lesson plan for summer camp with some creative ideas for summer camp activities.

How to make a lesson plan for summer camp

Summer is a great time for children to relax, make new friends, and have fun. Even if you are running an academic camp it is important to make your summer camp lesson plans prioritize fun. Focus on hands-on activities and collaborative projects to keep your campers engaged and help them make new friends.

You can use our lesson plan template for summer camp activities to get started.

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Lesson plan template for summer camp

Lesson objective(s)

What are you hoping to accomplish with this lesson? Every activity that you do with your campers should have a goal, even if it is just to have fun. 

An example of an objective for a STEM activity where you collect rocks and sort them would be, “Discover what rocks are on campus and how they are similar and different.” On the other hand, if you are having a water balloon fight with your campers, your lesson objective can be, “Have fun, work as a team, and cool down.”

Materials needed

What do you need for this lesson? Make sure you take into consideration any items children might need to bring from home or what they may need to wear. If you are collecting and sampling rocks, campers need bags to hold the rocks and vinegar to test the type of rock. If you are having a water balloon fight, you need water balloons, a hose, bathing suits, and good sandals so children are safe while having fun.

Lesson activities

This is the main part of your summer camp lesson plan. Use this section to describe what you will actually be doing in the lesson to accomplish your goals. Even if it’s simple, include a step-by-step walkthrough so you stay on track and make your life easier when teaching.

If you are running a STEM camp, check out our guide with science lessons for kids that are fun and engaging. Likewise, if you are looking for guidance on teaching art to children or teaching kids to cook, we have plenty of articles to help.

You should plan a variety of activities for each lesson. Children learn more easily when they are engaged in interactive and unique experiences like playing games, which can enhance learning. You can also consider adding in some Montessori techniques so children can have more agency in the activities.

Timing

Include a time estimate for each activity in your lesson plan. This is important because it keeps you on track. Activities should not be too long because children grow bored easily. Make sure you have buffer time for each activity to allow for transitions.

Assessment

If you are running an academic camp, you might want to have a way to assess your campers’ progress so that you know your lessons are at their ability level. However, we do not recommend tests or quizzes since camp is meant to be fun. Instead, observe your campers as they participate in activities and ask questions to make your assessments.

Evaluation

This section is for your own use to take notes about your students' progress. You can also include space here for self-reflection and evaluate how you are doing as their teacher or counselor. Are your campers learning, having fun, being kind to one another, and enjoying themselves? How can you make improvements moving forward?

Hopefully this summer camp lesson plan format and template will help you prepare for your activities this summer. If you are looking for more support on how to write a lesson plan, see our full guide.

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Creative ideas for summer camp

Now that you have an idea of how to plan your summer camp activities, you need to think about what you will actually be doing with your campers. To give you inspiration, we’ve compiled some of our favorite creative ideas for summer camp fun.

Make camp drop-off memorable

If you are running a day camp or a sleepaway camp, the point of separation for parent and child can be distressing. To combat this, make drop-off a party! Keep the mood light and let the parents meet their child’s counselors. Answer any questions the parents might have and let the child start exploring their cabin or have an activity ready to distract them. For more camp drop-off tips, see our guide.

Start off strong with icebreaker games

You know what they say, camp friends are the best friends. But, at the start of the summer, it is beneficial if you give campers built-in opportunities to form friendships. Get-to-know-you games are a great way for campers to learn about one another and quickly find connections. We’ve outlined some of our favorite icebreaker games and activities for the first day of summer camp in our guide.

Have a theme day

Children love opportunities to dress up and be silly, so try a camp-wide theme day. Our Sawyer providers have done Halloween in summer, superhero day, messy day, and Olympics, but you can choose whatever type of theme works for your camp and campers. Check out our guide on theme days for summer camp to give you inspiration.

Photo of creative ides for summer camp


Running a summer camp might feel like a daunting task, but seeing the smiles on the faces of your campers makes it all worth it. If you are looking for guidance on how to start a summer camp or the administrative side of running a camp, Sawyer is the best camp registration and management software for both in-person and online camps. 

With our suite of tools, like custom forms to record allergies and t-shirt sizes, flexible payment options like gift cards and installment plans, and seamless scheduling and registration on any device, Sawyer saves camp owners 28 hours per month. If you are ready to spend less time on admin and more time doing what you love, see how Sawyer can help with a free trial or demo.

To see Sawyer for Business in action, speak with our team today.
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