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Summer Camp Activities for Teens

Updated: Oct 25, 2023

For many teenagers, attending summer camp can be a transformational experience – it’s an opportunity to meet lifelong friends, discover more about yourself, and have fun in the sun. Sometimes, though, it can be nerve-wracking. Maybe it’s your first time away from home, maybe you’re unsure of what to expect, and maybe you think that it’s ‘not for you’. The best part about The YES is that there is a summer camp activity for everyone to love. With so much intention in our schedule, we offer a variety of activities from friendship bracelets to camp games or board games, to canoeing on beautiful Lake Cowichan. Read about some of our camp highlights below and be sure to take a peek at our Photo Gallery as well as our how to prepare for summer camp blog.

Getting Outside

Getting outside is an important part of summer camp activities. Taking some time away from our devices and getting our blood flowing, a healthy dose of vitamin D, and enjoying the fresh air can do wonders, especially at our beautiful camp site. Read about our outdoor camp ideas below.

Hiking: What is a summer camp without a hike? At The YES, we’re honoured to be on such a beautiful site at Cowichan Lake, and our hike is often a highlight for participants. With staff encouraging folks to pair up with a partner that they haven’t had a chance to talk to yet, the hike is an accessible and gentle nature walk that lets us enjoy the beautiful Cowichan woods alongside great conversations.

Canoeing: Canoeing on Lake Cowichan is one of the most stunning and fun experiences you can have at camp! Join experienced staff members and other teens on the bright blue waters - no prior experience is required. Our staff will be sure to teach you paddle and safety basics and before you know it you’re off! If you’re lucky, you might get to raft up and switch places, play some canoe games, or jump in the water.

Field and Forest Games: Capture the flag, ultimate frisbee, volleyball, kickball, camouflage and spikeball –– this is the short list of some of our most popular field games at camp. You can also enjoy the camper created ball-over-net. Field games are a great way to connect with other youth during free time, or even as a scheduled activity for everyone to enjoy!

Stargazing: The night sky at Cowichan Lake lights up beautifully during our summer nights. If we have clear skies, some of our staff may take teens out to enjoy some stargazing while having conversations or listening to music and winding down from our long camp days.

Campfire: Campfire is one of our favourite activities in the middle of the week to celebrate the camp community. Led by participants with staff support, we enjoy time together on the beach as we sing our favourite campfire songs, play group games, and enjoy some s'mores.

Swimming: Everyday we’ll have time to take a dip (or two) in our incredible lake. With our certified lifeguard watching closely, going for a swim is a great way to get refreshed. We’re happy to provide life jackets, and our lake has both a shallow and deep end so everyone can enjoy their time. At the end of the week, we pull out our awesome slip and slide for extra fun before jumping into the lake. If you’re not a fan of swimming, feel free to spend time lounging or playing games on our private beach!

Community Bonding

Activities where groups of teenagers get to connect is a win-win. We always want to make sure that youth get to spend time with one another, and intentionally get to know each other, as opposed to sticking with one group of friends. Building a community bond can happen through a range of simple, accessible activities whether it be a conversation, game, or dance party. Explore our community bonding camp ideas below.

Tie Dye: At the start of camp, teenagers can tie-dye a shirt which will be ready for them at the end of the week. Check out our tie-dye process here! Tie-dying is a beloved camp activity - it gets our creative juices flowing, is a lot of fun, and we all get a camp keepsake out of it!

Crews: Everyone at camp gets to join a Crew. Each Crew is responsible for planning part of camp, such as campfire, talent show, or the final banquet, and you get to choose which crew you want to join. Each crew works in their own unique way to develop fun and personalized elements for the week of camp. It’s an awesome way to inspire leadership among youth, while contributing to our greater community.

ZAP Time: Also known as Zero Activity Programming, ZAP is an opportunity for everyone to escape the sun and play a card game, work on crafts like friendship bracelets, play an instrument, hang out with friends, or play volleyball in the shade. Teenagers value this as a time to enjoy the company of others, learn something new, and have a break from our camp schedule.

Dance Parties: We love dancing at The YES! While it might be scary at first, you can always find a dance party starting somewhere, or you can start one yourself during free time! We love to celebrate our end of camp with a giant dance party together to our favourite music. Feel free to recommend your favourite songs to our staff too - we’d love to hear what you love! We even have an awesome Rhythms Workshop in the middle of the week at camp – if you’ve never danced before, or don’t think of yourself as a dancer, this movement workshop will ignite creativity, self-love, confidence, and community.

Theatre Sports: More often referred to as improv, Theatre Sports is an activity we like to do early in the week to push ourselves out of our comfort zone and have a blast through silly games and storytelling. If you’ve ever wanted to get up in front of people, this is your chance! Otherwise, feel free to sit back and enjoy the show as staff and teens get silly with inclusive improv games like bus stop, party quirks, and freeze.

Talent Show: A highlight each week at camp, we love to see performances from our staff and youth. From the most incredible talents, to the silliest of ideas, talent show is great entertainment that allows everyone to take a risk, and get up in front of the crowd to share something with everyone.

Transformational Education

As an organization that focuses on relational leadership and servant leadership, we believe that empowering teenagers through fun, interactive, and thoughtful programming creates belonging, self-worth, accountability and engagement. Our tried and true camp ideas are below.

Session: We have sessions every day, and they range in themes including: self-awareness, co-operation, communication, global awareness, environmental sustainability and leadership. Through staff led games and conversations, participants have the opportunity to engage in these topics both individually and as a community. Sessions are interactive, informative, and a lot of fun.

Thought of the Day: Each morning, a staff member offers a story or experience about their life to participants. It’s a great opportunity for teens to take a moment and reflect on their own lives, as the stories from the staff members often include a larger lesson such as: feeling the fear, recognizing that you are lovable and capable, and that life can have peaks and valleys. These stories often stay with participants and are a deeply valued part of our programming.

Reflections: Reflections is our last activity of the day, and often a favourite of many youth. Participants are split into small staff-led groups and gather to check-in about their days, discuss important issues, share stories from their lives, and reflect on their days at camp.

When you come to The YES Camp, there is a summer camp activity for everyone to enjoy.


About the Author:

Shania Chand (she/her) is the Program Director of The Youth Excellence Society. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communication, a Minor in Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies and a Certificate in Social Justice from Simon Fraser University.

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