Outside (and Socially Distanced) Summer Programs

Summer is coming, and here in Texas at my library, we’re allowed to have in-person programming again. And while some of my co-workers will be doing inside programs, I’m doing a majority of my programs outside.

I realize as a former camp counselor and camp program director, outside programs are something I’m possibly more comfortable with than the average librarian. So, let me share some of my tips and some of my already-planned programs with you to help spark some ideas for your own outside programs.

The most common complaint to outside programs here in central Texas is that it’s hot. Yes, it’s going to be hot (hello, 105(F) degrees!), so cool everyone down! Make your programs water-centric or bring out the ice cream!

First up is capture the flag, but with water balloon launchers! I like to call this version Pirates’ Battle (supplies and directions here). You can think of this as LARPing, pirate version. If you want to take the STEAM route, the angles and trajectory of the water balloon launcher are great teaching moments.

Camp counselor pro-tip: When you’re making your water balloons, store them in a cooler and add water. This will lessen the likelihood of breakage.

Wet’n’Wild Water Games (supplies and directions here) is like Minute-to-Win-It games, but outside and with water. If your teens have favorite Minute-to-Win-It games, try and figure out how to make them water-friendly. Or Google for more if you don’t like some of these!

(Side note: Yes, my directions include a different capture the flag version than Pirates’ Battle above. Because of this, I won’t be comparing Pirates’ Battle to capture the flag when I talk it up or explain the rules.)

Camp counselor pro-tip: If you haven’t filled water balloons recently, you’ve GOT to try these. It makes it SOOOOO much easier and quicker!

Scavenger Hunt! My library is very lucky to have a park right next door. Scavenger hunts are fun because they allow teens to use their observation skills, teamwork skills, and communication skills to complete a task. And, they get popsicles at time’s up!

I realize that my scavenger hunt won’t really help you create your own, but here are my procedures, which may help you if you have never done one before. But, here it is anyway… you may be able to use some for your version, too.

Camp counselor pro-tip: Include a variety of tasks from silly to educational to  plain ol’ fun to hit the gamut of teens who may come to your program.


If water and ice cream aren’t your (or your teens’) style, try programs that allow them to get messy!

Gravity Art (supplies and directions here) is a program that is wholly un-tested, so grain of salt with this one, but my teens like unique art opportunities, and they won’t follow my step-by-step instructions anyway in favor of their own experiments, so my plan is to just have fun with it!

Messy Mayhem (supplies and directions here) is a program I actively “borrowed” from my time at camp, when we did a whole week of Epic Camp. I did this program several years ago, and I can’t wait to do it again this summer! Make sure you include in your advertising, though, that participants should  wear clothes that are okay to get ruined. I also provided several super large t-shirts for walk-ins.


Whatever your summer programming looks like, I wish you good luck! And please share your outside programming ideas in the comments, below, too!


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