Kids have been crazy for pirates since back in the days when Captain Hook still had both hands, and the continuing popularity of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" series, along with children's TV shows such as "Jake and the Never Land Pirates," show swashbuckling's still a favorite fantasy. These summer camp games will allow kids to have fun playing pirate, while also providing them the opportunity to learn a little history.
Walk the Plank
Place a blue tarp on the ground to represent the ocean. Suspend a wooden plank over several concrete blocks placed on the tarp -- the plank should be just a few inches off the ground. Decorate the tarp with cut-out fish, anchors and other nautical paraphernalia if desired. Designate one child to be the leader, and have him cross the plank in any way he chooses - walking backwards, hopping, twirling, etc. All of the other children must follow in the same fashion, and anyone who falls off the plank is out. Choose another child from among the survivors to be the next leader, and repeat the process until there's only one pirate left standing.
Battling Pirate Ships
Divide the kids into two teams, and have each team construct a pirate ship out of large cardboard boxes or refrigerator cartons. The ship can be decorated with poster paint or markers, or left plain if time is short. Once the ships are done, each team must then arm itself with "cannon balls" made from water balloons. Each crew member hurls as many balloons as possible at the other ship, trying to land them inside the boxes. The team who manages to fill up the other ship first is the winner. While this is obviously an outdoor game, you can also play an indoor version substituting regular air-filled balloons, very soft balls or even rolled-up socks for the water balloons.
Capture the Pirate Flag
This game can also, if you wish, be introduced with a mini-lesson about different pirate flags and/or a craft session where kids design and make their own flags out of cardboard or felt. Alternatively, you may use pirate flags or bandannas you supply yourself. Play the game the same way as a regular game of capture the flag, but in this version, each team's home base will be designated as its "pirate ship" or "pirate island" and team members who are tagged will, instead of being sent to "jail," be marooned on a "desert island."
X Marks the Spot
What pirate theme would be complete without a treasure hunt? This activity is a winner for everyone because kids get to earn cool prizes while learning some basic skills in map reading and following directions. Draw a map for each child or team of children with some of the more prominent landmarks of your area -- picnic tables, ponds, trees, chairs, couch or bathroom. Cut the map into several pieces, each one leading the holder to the next site where he can discover another map piece. The final map piece will be marked with a big "X" where you've hidden a "treasure chest" with small prizes such as pirate toys or gold foil-wrapped chocolate coins, one prize per participant. In order to make sure no one cheats and helps himself to all the booty, you can label each prize with a child's name.