Feature Article - April 2008
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Come Camping!

14 Tips to Ensure Happy After-School and Day Campers

By Jessica Royer Ocken


Programming Possibilities

6. KEEP KIDS BUSY.

Make sure your day camp or after-school offerings are more than just childcare by planning plenty of activities to keep kids engaged.

"I like to have them always active," Stone said. "Free play is only for pre- and post-camp [when the Y offers optional extended care for children of working parents]. Camp is very structured. Swimming, arts and crafts, and games take up most of the day."

Stone and the other camp directors also note that dividing kids into age groups helps them stay interested. Older children can get bored if all the activities have to be tailored to younger kids too. "One thing we've evolved into this year will be a senior camp that's geared for 9- to 12-year-old kids," Bailey said. "They'll do things that really have nothing to do with the younger age group, and vice versa."

The Summit's S.P.A.R.K. program has a similar activity focus. There's a bit of snacking and game or homework time while they're waiting for all the buses to arrive, but once everyone is there, children are broken into groups based on age, everyone heads to the gym for a group warm-up, and then the activities begin: yoga, swimming lessons, tennis, climbing wall and sports skills in the gym.

"We have five different age groups, so in a week they all will rotate through the different activities," Newman said. Groups also rotate through board games, and kids can sign up for an optional homework group, too.

"Activity time lasts about 45 minutes, then all the groups gather back in the gym and we play a large group game—this is the highlight of the day for many," she said.

"What we offer during camp is very similar to after school, just a lot more of it," Newman added. Campers also frequently walk to a nearby park for outdoor activities and enjoy arts and crafts as part of their week.

7. ADAPT TO THE ABILITIES OF YOUR GROUP.

Although over the years Asphalt Green has developed a sports-based day camp formula that works, they've also learned to be flexible.

"For us [the question is] what level of expertise are we going to present to the kids," Knapp said. "Some years it's more recreational, some years more skills-based." That is determined from year to year "depending on the skill level and age group" of the campers, Bailey explained.