If you’ve ever gone to summer camp you know one of the highlights is sitting around the campfire listening to and telling stories to entertain your fellow campers. A good camp story can scare, surprise, teach, or inspire other campers. At the end of the day, what’s better than bringing everyone together for a good storytelling session?
Even though you’re not at camp, you can try this activity on your next family camping trip or even just at your home. Turn off the TV for a night, and share some camp stories. Grab a flashlight and hit the lights to make it a little spooky.
Here are some tips to help you tell a good camp story
Keep It Age-Appropriate
If you’re the older camper and you’re around your younger siblings or a bunch of little kids, don’t scare them so much that they don’t sleep that night. Try to pick a story that has a happy ending or teaches them something about friendship or camp life. If you’re with older campers who are ok with being scared, you might be able to step it up a notch with a scarier narrative.
Explain The Story’s Origin
A strong opening line is to start off by saying where you heard the story. Is it a legend from your summer camp? Did you hear it from a family member? The best ones always have a local connection. An example is something like this, “Our next door neighbor told me about the legend of the man who haunts our town…”
Use Theater Tricks To Enhance Your Story
Take a note from the camp theater department, and use dramatic pauses as you’re telling a story. A dramatic pause can get campers on the edge of their seats. Example, “The tent slowly started unzipping and when he uncovered his eyes he saw (pause…)”.
Consider teaming up with a friend, who makes actual sound effects during your pauses like a creeking door, a hooting owl, a twig snapping or a scream. You can practice it ahead of time so you’re both on the same page, or just wing it and see what happens.
Use your hands to create gestures, like a bird flying or motions of opening a door. Hand gestures keep people’s attention from wandering. Play around with volume. If you lower your voice to a whisper it causes others to lean in to hear you, and then you can surprise them by raising your voice for dramatic effect at the right moment.
Story Prompt Ideas
You can search online for books full of scary stories to tell at camp. If you don’t have a go-to camp story here are a few prompts you can use yourself or to get others talking. You can do this individually or do a popcorn style storytelling activity where one person starts a story and gives a couple of lines and then the person next to them picks up where the first person left on, and on it goes.
Tell us about a camping adventure in a forest.
Who stole the missing kayak?
Tell us about the curse of the mess hall and how grilled cheese got banned.
Tell us about the time Sasquatch visited camp.
“I woke up floating on a raft in the middle of the lake. How I got there was a long story. It all started when…”
“I was banned from the craft room because I…”
“The legend of the camp ghost started when a camper didn’t…”
Benefits of Sharing Stories
Telling campfire stories helps kids develop public speaking skills, listening skills, and confidence. Storytelling is a craft that can be practiced and improved the more they do it. Storytelling also helps kids think creatively, a skill that can translate to school or future career paths. When someone shares, make sure to thank them for sharing or tell them how much you loved the story.