Running or helping out with a summer day camp for teens and older kids is a challenge. You will need to balance having enough fun activities and enough down time that the kids will enjoy what they are doing and have enough time to socialize – which is what all teens and older kids really enjoy about summer camp.
Find a ThemeThemes for summer camps simply make things more fun and easier for those putting together the camp by giving you more ideas to incorporate into the camp. They help everyone have a picture of generally what is going to happen and gear up for the fun of it. It also helps the teens and kids think of things that they can do to add to the theme and participate in planing a day camp in an independent way. For example, at one camp the theme was Survivor. The boys in the one unit tied headbands around their heads like Rambo without any prompting from the unit leaders. Themes help. Themes work. Themes are a camp director/leader’s best friend.
Develop Your BudgetHow much is what going to cost and how much do you have? You’ll need to know all of these things before you plan out any of the activities or programs. One rule of thumb I lived by when doing the day camp budget is always estimating high for craft items. This kept me from being in a hole if camp crafts were pricier than we first thought, which always tends to happen.
Send Out Fliers and InformationWhen putting together fliers for your summer day camp, remember the more information you share, the less questions parents will have. Theme the day camp flier, put some of the ideas that you have come up with for activities and really let the parents know that their teen or older child will enjoy and be safe this week at your summer day camp.
Train and Pump Up Your Volunteers, Even the TeensNeed to get your volunteers into the theme? Serve them a theme oriented snack, play a game and/or do a fun craft with them. Adults like to have fun too and training often give us the opportunity to act like kids. Of course, while you’re having so much fun, you’ll need to go over the camp rules and day camp schedules.
Are you using older teens as volunteers? If so, training is important for them too. The more you train your teen volunteers, the less you will have teens standing around doing nothing. Be sure there is at least a two year difference in age from your teen volunteers and the older kids they are helping. This will help squabbles from popping up.
Have All Necessary PermissionsDon’t skimp on the paperwork. You will need to have all permissions for each teen and older kid or their parents will need to come to camp to fill it out or take their kid home. Be very firm here. You are providing a service to many kids and you need to cover your back legally. If a child does not have all of their paperwork in, have blank ones ready for when they are dropped off.
Look for Free and Low-Cost ProgramsThere are many adult clubs and organizations that love to share what they do with kids. Take out your local phone book, ask around – the more you do the more good ideas you will find. You don’t need a professional to come in and teach belly dancing or talk about scuba trips, but maybe someone who takes a class or goes on these trips would be willing to talk at your camp.
This type of program is especially important for teens and older kids. It gives an experience that would not have had otherwise that opens up a new world to them. Piquing the interest of teens in this way should be one of your camp’s goals.