The 10 Best Summer Camp Traditions at the YMCA

Theatre group from the YMCA performing for kids.

It sure doesn’t feel like it right now, but camp season will be here before you know it.

There are many things that make summer camp at the YMCA a unique experience. Here’s our top 10 list of our favorite Y camp traditions, as chosen by our camp directors. Not all traditions are a part of every camp, but each of our camps has its own unique traditions, from water balloons to emergency services day.

Color Wars Week

A fun-filled week where campers are divided into four teams to represent the YMCA’s four Core Values - respect, responsibility, honesty and caring - and take part in friendly competitions that include high-energy and “minute to win it” games, trivia, a track meet, a swim meet and much more.

Campers are encouraged to show off their team spirit by dressing in their color, and they develop a skit and a cheer to represent their core value color. Campers also earn awards for good sportsmanship, spirit and demonstrating the core values.

Offered at all YMCA camps

Camp Cheer Wars

Campers come together and let their creativity flow as they create songs, skits or a cheer to perform in front of the camp on Friday morning. The stakes are high, too, with the camp directors choosing the best of the best. The winners get the honor of receiving the camp spirit stick!

Offered at all YMCA camps

Water Balloon Wars

Keep your head on a swivel, because you might be under a water balloon attack! When the temperatures stay high in the summer, there isn’t a more fun way to cool off than to get your arm loose and start firing water balloons. Win or lose, campers are going to get wet!

Offered at Brandywine YMCA Camp 

Emergency Services Day

Firetrucks, ambulances and police vehicles: oh my! Emergency personnel stop by camp to show off their vehicles to campers. Campers get to see how firefighters put fires out and how the “jaws of life” work in taking apart a car. They also catch a glimpse of police crime scene trucks, and they get to compete in an obstacle course with all of their equipment on. K9 units, swift water rescues, doctor and veterinarians also join in on the fun.

Offered at Upper Main Line YMCA and Octorara YMCA Camps 

Camper of the Week

When camp draws to a close, each group selects four different campers who best represented one of the Y’s Core Values. They also nominate another camper for the prestigious Camper of the Week award. Winners are celebrated with great applause by the other campers.

Offered at all YMCA camps

Pie Wars

Throwing pies and raising money at the same time: what a tag team! Led by two counselors, campers raise money for the Y-USA world service fund, and the counselor whose team collects the most money gets to pie the other one in the face!

Offered at Kennett Area YMCA camps 

Camp Talent Show

When the summer winds down, the talent level goes up. Campers work all week to practice for the talent show, and they get a chance to perform their talent in front of the entire camp. Parents are invited to attend.

Offered at all YMCA camps

Scavenger Hunt

Make sure your eyes are peeled for the entire week because this scavenger hunt doesn’t end until camp does. Campers work together to find the things on the list, which helps them learn more about the Y and its staff, and brings them closer to the Y’s mission.

Offered at all YMCA camps

Cardboard Regatta

Staff and campers build boats out of only cardboard and duct tape, then the counselors have a race with their boats where they sit in the boat and use a paddle to race across the pool. Beware: not all of the boats float! It’s a great feeling to see one make it across the pool.

Offered at the Lionville Community YMCA camp 

World Carnival

Campers from all YMCA of Greater Brandywine camps gather together for a day of fun and friendly competition with cheers, games and inflatables! Great opportunity to meet campers from other branches.

Offered for all YMCA camps


Want your kids to make some new traditions and great memories this summer? 

Category: Summer Camp