How to make your summer camp program stand out blog header

How to make your summer camp program stand out

Summer is known for being hot, sunny, relaxing, and the ultimate vacation for children! With their regular school programming on break, they have extra time in their days! For parents, there is a need to fill this time with activities that are both enjoyable and educational. For childcare providers, this is an opportunity to bring in additional revenue and make use of classrooms that would be otherwise empty. Providing a local school-age camp program also creates new opportunities for staff members, increases parent engagement, and provides additional learning opportunities for children while schools are closed.

It’s no wonder summer camps are plentiful, which means there are many, many options for parents to choose from. 

There are over 12,000 summer camp programs in the US alone.”

​​More than 6 million children participate in some form of camp and summer camps employ 1.5 million staff each year. Because of this, it can be difficult to stand out and ensure you fill your program and retain quality educators. 

Small group play

In terms of attracting new summer camp registrations, nothing compares to word-of-mouth referrals. 34% of new campers come from word-of-mouth referrals each year! The higher your parent satisfaction rate, the stronger your enrollment will be. 

Make your center’s program stand out from the rest with the following tips! 

Ensure ease of use in the registration process

You want parents to find your summer camp program easily and then be able to register their children seamlessly. You need to ensure you have a website that highlights your summer camp program, especially leading up to the summer months. Use keywords that parents are searching for (like ‘summer camp programs + the year + your area’) and ensure you have information about activities, daily schedules, rates, and testimonials. 

86% of camps have a website.

Also include a call to action for parents to register directly on your website. Most of your competitors will have this feature, therefore you are at a disadvantage right away if you do not offer it. Allow parents to register multiple children at the same time and ensure that the forms are as user-friendly and succinct as possible. Management apps such as HiMama can help with this as well as processing payments! 

Choose your educators wisely 

According to the 2020 North American Summer Camp Trends Report, 30% of parents love the staff more than anything else at their summer camp. Educators are an integral part of the child’s experience each day. Ensuring they are strong and properly trained is vital to getting those word-of-mouth referrals from parents! Summer camp educators need to be comfortable and excited to work with school-aged children. This involves larger group numbers as well as more off-site activities and transportation/logistics issues than educators see in childcare centers during the school year. 

teacher and children

Ensure your school-age educators: 

  • Have experience and passion for working with school-aged children 
  • Are trained in emergency management and first aid 
  • Are comfortable facilitating off-site trips 
  • Are strong role models for these children to look up to and enjoy spending time with 
  • Have patience. Summer camp days can get hectic, and it is important for them to keep a positive attitude and persevere through the challenges. 
  • Are strong communicators. It is important for them to work well with their teammates in what can be a high-stress situation, especially when off-site. They also must be able to communicate with their center director to bring them up to speed on how each day goes and escalate any issues in real-time. 

Also, always ensure you have on-call staff to cover for educators that get sick or are on vacation. You need to keep your ratios in place each and every day and cannot have field trips jeopardized by staffing shortages. 

Need help with training? HiMama Academy is here for you! 

Have small groups 

In order to stay competitive, it is important to keep your group sizes as small as possible. The more educators you have with the children, the closer they are supervised and the more learning opportunities they get to experience. It is easier to keep track of all children and ensure they are interacting with the activities at hand. It is also easier to get to know the children and learn their cues and interests. 

Provide stimulating learning experiences 

The activities that the children are participating in each day are the core elements of your program. They are what keep the children happy, motivated, and eager to come back each day. Most childcare camp programs will run a mix of on-site and off-site activities. 

daycare craft activity

On-site school-age camp activity suggestions: 

  • Color exploration: Explore color mixing through play and investigation. Using pipettes, children will engage their fine motor muscles while playing and mixing with colored water.
  • Yoga: Through simple physical activity, and the promotion of a healthier lifestyle yoga can help a child release any unnecessary stress or anxiety.
  • Saltwater density experiment: Children are never too young to learn big words! This fun experiment allows children to explore the concept of ‘density’ and how different solutions affect objects differently. 
  • Water balloon scavenger hunt
  • Ice cream in a bag science experiment: This fun activity can be done inside or outside and is super fun to make without any fancy tools or machines. The children can visually see how the salt affects the ice and watch in real-time how the liquid ingredients become more solid inside the bag, creating ice cream! 
  • Pool noodle obstacle course: Beyond just having your children race for the best time, you can easily make the course into a team game or competition. Break the class into two or more teams and have each group come up with team names. You can even consider theming the course by calling it the Pool Noodle Olympics!

Looking for more activity inspiration? HiMama Activities has hundreds of free educational activities for your classroom!  

Off-site school-age camp activity suggestions: 

  • Visit the local aquarium 
  • Check out a farm in the neighborhood – pick apples, strawberries, or whatever is in season
  • Visit your local library or museum 
  • Take a trip to the zoo 
  • Go to the movies 
  • Tour your local fire department 

Prepare for rain 

Know that rain is bound to happen and learn to embrace it! Ensure all children have the proper rain gear (jackets, boots, umbrellas, etc.) and have backup plans for excursions when the weather looks dicey. Indoor venues such as movie theaters are great for a rainy day! 

You can also see rain as an opportunity: teach your children about the water cycle, have fun puddle jumping, filling buckets, etc. Sometimes the simplest of things can spark the most joy, and most children are not phased by rain the way adults are! 

Keep health and safety top of mind

The health and safety of the children in your care is always the number one priority. Ensure your educators:

  • Are properly trained
  • Carry their cell phone and a first aid kit with them on trips for emergencies
  • Ensure all activities planned are age-appropriate
  • Have an incident reporting plan in place so that the Director and caregivers are informed right away if there is an accident 

Summer camp is a very memorable time in a child’s life. It provides them with unique learning experiences, and the ability to explore the outdoors and make new friends! Providing a camp program at your childcare center is a positive endeavor for educators, parents, and children alike. 

Looking for more great ideas for this summer and the coming school year? 

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Christie White

Christie is a Senior Content Marketing Specialist at HiMama. She is passionate about children's development, parenting, and supporting the child care industry. She has been working to support child care centers with their events and marketing for almost a decade. In her personal life, Christie lives in Stouffville, ON with her husband Kyle and dog Tucker. She enjoys going for walks, baking, cooking, and watching reality tv!