How To Start A Summer Camp
If you’ve never owned/directed your own camp, how do you know where to begin? I’m going to show you how to start a summer camp and all the preparation it takes months before your first camper walks in the door and what you need once Summer hits and the campers arrive.
What You Need
- FACILITY: You’ll have to adjust your camp depending on the amount of space you have. I will get into that a little later. I have the use of two classrooms, two gymnasiums, grass field approximately 100 X 80 yards, baseball field, outdoor basketball court and playground climbing equipment.
- EQUIPMENT: For the activities you teach. If you can use the equipment in your physical education room, than you shouldn’t need to spend too much in this area. If you’re not so fortunate than you’ll need to spend a little more before the start of your first camp.
- WALKIE-TALKIES: To communicate with your instructors at all times.
- Payment method: Accept checks and cash, but offer a credit card option. You may lose a sale if parents are willing to pay with a credit card.
- WEBSITE: For advertising.
- SIGNS: For Advertising. Most towns will need to approve your signs, but it shouldn’t be an issue. You’ll need to find out the approved locations. Look for busy intersections in your area.
Tip: More is less, when it comes to signs for your camp. All you need on the sign is name of camp, phone number and website. Name and phone number in larger writing than the website.
- WAIVER: This needs to be signed by the parents of the participants. Example waiver: I understand that any camper who does not follow the rules is subject for dismissal without reimbursement. This action can only be applied by the camp owner/director. No camper will be allowed to leave camp grounds without parental consent for any reason other than a medical emergency until the completion of the camp session. The “NAME OF YOUR CAMP” is fully insured however every camper is required to provide proof of insurance and understands that their insurance is primary. If you choose to add weeks we do not make up the difference. Please understand that we are unable to give refunds. Campers must be signed out by a parent/guardian. Signature___________________.
Note: I added the line ” If you choose to add weeks we do not make up the difference”, because my rate goes lower the more weeks a child attends. For example; Let’s say a parent signs up their child for one week at $150. After the first week is over they decide to sign up for two more weeks, totaling 3 weeks. My three week rate is $130 per week. I will give them the three week rate for the two weeks they just added, but not refund them the money they spent on the first week for $150.
Another words, instead of paying me $260 for the extra two weeks, they would assume they only pay $240 since they paid an extra $20 the first week. This problem doesn’t occur too often but when it does, I always bring up how low my prices already are.
- INSURANCE: I use www.kandkinsurance.com. It’s about $4 per camper depending on the activity. Football & Soccer are a little more expensive. The insurance of the parents will be primary and they must give you a copy of their health insurance card.
- GOOD COUNSELORS: You must hire someone with a happy/friendly personality. You could have the greatest camp, but if the kids don’t like your counselors it won’t matter. My counselors range in age from 16-21, not including myself. High School and College Students that I taught, and wrestled or played soccer for me. Another words people you’re familiar with. Remember kids change as they get older, so if never hurts to perform an interview.
- INCENTIVES: Lower price if you sign up for more weeks. Free T-shirt if you sign up early. Free ball if you come every week. $15 off weekly price for referring someone from out of town. Prizes for competitions. Bag of candy, free slice of pizza or drink, happy meal, small toy etc….
- HOSE/SPRINKLERS: Option for kids to run thru before a game or half way thru a game. Never right before they come inside. Hopefully the inside of the building is air conditioned, so you don’t want the kids coming inside wet. I let them get a little wet when we first head outside for an activity.
- PIZZA/DRINKS: Look to make a small profit from the sale of food/drink. Very possible to make $1,000 for 6 weeks of camp from simply selling pizza and drinks.
Summer Camp Daily Schedule
This is an example of summer camp schedule activities with two gyms, two classrooms and a field 100 X 100 yards, including a baseball field and out door basketball court. The campers will be broken up into 3 groups based on age and ability. It could be more groups depending on the size of your camp. Let’s say 20 kids in each group. One counselor per group, yourself and one person to be the runner. What’s the runner? Someone who takes care of everything and anything, crying or hurt child, phone call from parent, lunch pick up, forgotten equip for activity, lunch set up, etc….
- SIGN-UP TIP: (I never set a deadline to register) (walk-ins accepted, because there’s always parents that wait until the last minute. If a parent walks in on a Monday morning in late July or early August and wants to sign up, I won’t turn them away. This will make your camp unique, because it’s a rare quality in a camp.
- Early Registration Date: You Still need an early registration date. Offer a lower price and a free shirt with early registration. Camp shirts promote your camp and kids love to wear them. You can go cheap on your camp shirts the first year or two. They’re free, so no one should complain.
- Advertise Early: You should advertise the camp 4+ months before the start of your first day. If a parent doesn’t sign up for early registration when they’ve been aware of it for 4+ months, they really don’t have a leg to stand on for missing out on the free shirt and lower rates.
11:30-11:50 Sign in. (Classroom available with a tv, so the kids can watch sports videos/movies while they wait)
11:50-12:20 Group 1 outside field Capture the Flag
Group 2 Gym one Soccer outside
Group 3 Gym Kick ball gym two
12:20-12:30 all groups in the classroom for a 10 minute water break (water breaks are crucial)
12:30-1:00 Group 1 Soccer gym one Gym one
Group 2 Kick ball gym two
Group 3 Capture the Flag outside
1:00-1:30 All Groups lunch/movie in the classroom. Sell pizza and drinks. Kids are allowed to bring their own snacks/lunch if they don’t wish to purchase from your camp. I recommend having two classrooms or more for lunch/water breaks. For example: K-3rd in one classroom and 4th-8th in another.
TIP: Allow parents to pay for pizza/drinks ahead of time, so they don’t have to pay each day their child comes to camp. You’ll need to keep track of their credit. There will be parents that prefer to pay daily, offering the head of time payment is convenient for many.
1:30-2:00 Group 1 Volleyball gym one
Group 2 Volleyball gym two
Group 3 Soccer Outside
Tip: If I know a particular activity takes more time to set up, I will make sure that I schedule that for my first activity or after lunch. This gives my counselors more time to set up. Remember you need counselors to supervise the campers and others to set up the next activity.
2:00-2:10 All groups 10 minute water break in classroom. Tip: Use 10 minute breaks to clean up and set up next activity when needed.
2:10-2:40 Group 1 Kick ball gym one
Group 2 Capture the Flag outside
Group 3 Volleyball gym two
2:40-2:50 All Groups water break in the classroom.
2:50-3:20 Group 1 & 2 Dodge Ball Tournament gym one
Group 3 Dodge Ball Tournament gym two
3:20-3:30 Competitions for prizes. (Could be a dodge ball tournament, Soccer shooting competition, Basketball, anything.
3:30 Parents sign-out their children. Tip: You’ll want all of your counselors present at sign out, because things can get hectic and the last thing you need is a lost child.
Tip: Try to avoid having the same group go outside for two activities in a row.
TIP: I HIGHLY RECOMMEND HAVING A DODGE BALL TOURNAMENT EVERY TWO DAYS. GIVE PRIZES TO THE WINNERS. MANY OF MY CAMPERS WOULD PLAY DODGE BALL ALL DAY. I’M CONSIDERING INTRODUCING DODGE BALL FRIDAYS. I KNOW FOR A FACT THAT SOME OF MY OLDER CAMPERS( 7TH & 8TH GRADERS) WOULDN’T COME TO CAMP IF DODGE BALL WASN’T OFFERED.
Volleyball is another game I play every week with my campers. Give them a beach ball, play music during the game and they’ll have a blast.
SUMMER CAMP TIPS
Make sure the kids are having FUN!!! If they’re having fun than they’ll come back and talk about the camp to their friends and the parents will be happy. The first week of my Camp is Soccer only and I will definitely critique the older players more often, but in a constructive way. Sometimes out loud and when necessary one on one. If you critique kids when needed and compliment when earned, they will appreciate your effort. If kids know you truly care, they will not hold a grudge when you are tough on them. This is used more for coaching, but can be used at camp when needed.
- WALKIE-TALKIE : These area must! Many moments during the course of the day a counselor may have a question for you. You might need to contact your runner. A child may be injured and you need assistance. Maybe a counselor forgot the scoreboard for their game. Many issues will arise. You should have one walkie talkie for every counselor.
- If you plan to teach skills, I advise to teach them early in the day. Make the activities more and more fun as the day progresses. If I start my day with skills and finish with a dodge ball tournament, my campers will go home with a smile.
- Remember to teach what you advertise. It doesn’t have to be taught every day. Maybe basketball mon, wed and fri. Baseball on tues and thurs.
- Don’t overload yourself with activities. Make sure you can teach what you put in your registration form, depending on how long your day is and what type of facilities you have. If you can only teach 3 or 4 games a day there is nothing wrong with that. I usually teach 4 or 5 in a 4 hour camp day.
- If you take pictures of the kids for your website, make sure you get permission from the parents in writing on your registration/waiver form. VERY IMPORTANT.
MODIFY your activities for age level. For example: My 4th graders will have more fun using a beach ball in their volleyball games than a real volleyball. Another example of modification would be your rules, meaning let everyone get up in kick ball instead of playing three outs.
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I hope you enjoyed this information. Please feel free to leave a comment or question below.