After leading summer camp for 6 years and participating in camp programs for over 10 years, I have learned a few tips and tricks. Summer camp is an animal of its own and if you treat it just like the regular school year, it will be an epic fail.
Summer is designed to be laid back, fun and full of adventure. We as Directors, Teachers and Staff we have the responsibility of planning and executing a summer that kids won’t forget. No pressure...huh?!
As you begin to plan your centers summer camp, here are 9 tips to help guide you though. These tips are a variety of things from planning, to keeping kids safe, and setting your center apart from others. I hope these will help you as you plan your summer camp this year.
Invest in Waterplay: Having water play at camp makes a huge difference. Invest in a few small pools and some water toys, you won’t regret it! I also recommend scheduling water play every day if you can. It’s a great activity for kids to do outside and it keeps them active! After all, it is summer!
Walkie Talkies are a Lifesaver: The first summer that we had this idea, everything changed. Taking walkie talkies on field trips and to have them in large centers is simply amazing. They allow teachers to split the kids into groups and still stay in communication with each other. When you have a large group of kids, breaking into groups of 10-20 is the best. Make sure your team has a way to communicate with each other without the use of their cell phones.
Provide T-Shirts for Staff and Children for all Field Trips: It is nearly impossible to spot a large group of kids in a public setting unless they are all wearing the same bright colored shirt. Make sure that all children and staff have a shirt to wear whenever they plan to leave the building. At my center we kept the shirts onsite for the week, this helped to make sure no one forgot them.
Do the Planning Ahead of Time: Summer camp days are busy, and scheduling time for planning can be difficult. I would advise to do your camp planning before summer starts. This will help limit the amount of time teachers need to spend outside the classroom as well.
Have Each Child Bring a Water Bottle: Depending on where you live, summer camp days can be long and HOT. A great way to encourage hydration is by having each child bring their own water bottle. Encourage water breaks as well. The last thing you want at your camp is a dehydrated child.
Bring Along Nut Free Treats: If you plan to go on a field trip with tastings, don’t forget an alternative treat for the nut-allergy kids. For example, when we visited the chocolate factory and the grocery store, both places handed out treats for the kids. Always keep your allergy friends in mind by having an alternative for them.
Incorporate Your Staff’s Interest: The key to a great summer camp is a staff that is having fun! The best way to do this is to have each team member plan an activity that they love. When the staff are having fun, the kids will follow. Incorporate things like cooking, art, sports and then have the staff members choose which activity they want to lead. Allow room for creativity, you won’t regret it!
Don’t be afraid to Show a Movie: Camp days/weeks can be long, don’t hesitate to have a movie day. We used to show a movie every Friday after lunch. This was a great way for the children to relax after a long week of camp.
Invite Visitors: Some of my favorite days during camp were the days we had visitors come in. We called these days ‘on-site field trips’. We had an animal bus, a veteran, firefighters, a library bus and more all come to the center and talk with the kids during camp. This was a great way to change it up and give our teachers a break.
I hope that you found these 9 simple tips helpful as you launch summer camps at your center. If you have any other questions on summer camps, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly.