In this article we are going to look at how to design a programme for your camp and hopefully provide some inspiration on the different type of activities to try with your campers. When organising a camp, the most important factor is to create a programme that excites and inspires young people.
Many hours of planning and work go into creating a successful summer camp, with the benefits that children and young people gain from a camp being endless. Children build fond memories that will last a lifetime, they will develop friendships and gain a sense of independence whilst developing essential life skills in a fun, safe and secure environment.
Writing a Summer Camp Programme
When writing your programme, remember to create a programme specific to each age group. This ensures everyone is getting a quality programme and they are mixing with the campers of a similar age.
As well as your usual mix of activities, you may want to include some structured activities to help break up the day and create variety, try adding some theme days, trips to places of interests, workshops by external providers and visits from organisations such as the fire service or police.
You should also look to develop specialists camps. Start with a basic camp such as multi-sports, filmmaking, photography and get more creative each year after an evaluation and review. Try to develop specialist camps that can run without the need of hiring in external staff. The bigger your camp gets the more activities you will need to accommodate all your campers.
When writing your programme, don’t forget to schedule in some chill-out time each day when the children can just relax and do their own thing. Also remember the principle of ‘challenge by choice’ or ‘free play’ and allow your campers to opt out of any activity if they don’t want to give it a try.
External Providers Tip
A good way to get business when starting out is to contact local sports clubs (dance, netball, martial arts, soccer, gymnastics, tennis, boxing etc) and ask them to provide a specialist camp for you.
Explain that you will oversee and organise the camp and provide the afternoon’s activity programme if they provide the morning specialist programme for 3hrs. You will pay them a fixed fee per hour for their work and their club will receive 10% back from every camper that signs up of through them.
This means you reduce your staff costs, you increase your activity provision, you build your profile and you are guaranteed campers for your first holiday camp.
If they are unavailable to provide the specialist camp due to work commitments, try to organise a 20% kickback to the club for anyone that signs up through them for your multi-activity programme instead (or you can hire another coach to provide the specialist camp).
Once you have the campers booked in, you won’t need to offer the club any further kickbacks in the future (you have a campers details on record), instead you can either keep the 10% or use it as discount to get parents to book their child into camp early. The most important factor when starting out is to get your camp full – the more campers you have the more your profile will build through word of mouth. Just make sure you provide a quality camp!
Buying in External Activities
Buying in specialist activities from external providers is a great way to increase the level of activity provision at camp and will help to give focus to the week and prevent campers from having repetitive weeks. If you have the budget, here are some specialist activities that you might like to consider:
- Climbing wall and instructor
- Laser quest
- Inflatables such sumo wrestling, whacky races
- Drumming workshop
- Drama workshop
- Filmmaking workshop
- Archery and instructor
- Owl or birds of prey sanctuary
- Circus skills
Theme Days and End of Week Reviews
With some campers potentially attending your holiday camp for weeks at a time (or the whole camp), introducing a weekly theme day will help keep everyone engaged and excited. Here are just a few themes to try:
- Harry Potter
- Camping trip
The best day for theme days is a Friday. Typically, everyone has been together for a week and it allows you celebrate the week in style. Book a special activity from an external company (as mentioned above) plus some awards and certificates for campers and you have a full day setup (acting as a runner).
(Click to enlarge)
Download Example Camp Programme – Full Week (PDF)
Run sports games during arrivals with all campers being supervised by a couple of leaders. Any other leaders available should be helping out with the arrivals process or working between the two.
After arrivals organise campers into their groups for the day:
- Under 8’s – 8:1 Ratio
- Over 8’s – 12:1 Ratio
Provide each group with a leader (GL) for the day (this can be an activity leader dual role). The group leader is required to look after campers, problem solve and keep everyone happy. After all campers has been grouped, organise for GL’s to play a few games and ice breakers with them. This will help build group relationships and develop rapport before starting the main programme.
During the end of day review, group leaders will discuss the day with campers, finding out what they enjoyed, what they didn’t enjoy and what they learnt. Here are a few example questions:
- What did you enjoy most and why?
- What will you remember most about the day?
- Is there anything you would like to try again?
- What did you discover about yourself?
These type of reflective questions get campers thinking about the day and what they’ve achieved. Camps should essentially be safe, educational and FUN!
It is important that during programme breaks, campers are provided with juice, water and biscuits and are allowed time to relax. Group leaders should also spend time with campers and make sure everyone is happy and deal with any issues (whether behavioural or otherwise).
I recommend that you have one of two floating staff to work between the groups to allow the group and activity leaders breaks during the day (this all depends on the size of your camp though).
Activity Idea Links
Click one of the links below to be taken to the relevant section of this site:
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Evaluating your Camp Programme
It is essential that you run an evaluation after each camp and use this information to develop your programme for your next camp. If your camp is not doing some sort of evaluation process, you need to. It’s a simple as providing an online or paper questionnaire for parents and a quick paper ratings sheet for campers. This lets you know how to improve in future and keep developing your business.
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