This section describes 20 common programs you can easily modify for your camp. The descriptions come from personal experience, a review of the current literature, and program evaluations examined for this book. They are not derived from one source, but are a compilation of programs across the United States. The programs described here are the most popular and affordable for facility-based camps. It is important to remember that, although any program can be factored into the cost of camp (what families pay), expensive programs may not be reasonable for certain communities.
Arts and crafts programs address spatial, creative, and cognitive skills for all stages of development. A dedicated, experienced, and creative instructor is the key to an arts and crafts program’s success. It requires a room that can accommodate a number of campers and an investment in arts and crafts supplies. (See CD-ROM form 7.2: Arts and Crafts Program Goals, Objectives, and
All-camp programs engage the entire camp in an activity regardless of age. The purpose is to mix age groups so that campers have a chance to meet other campers who are not in their daily groups. Popular activities include scavenger hunts, counselor hunts (campers have to find counselors hiding around camp while staying together as a group), and relay races. All-camp programs are very inexpensive and can use any space as long as it is large enough to accommodate the number of campers participating. The key to this program is to develop activities that appeal to all age groups and to mix the age groups fairly.
Performance arts programs combine elements of music, drama, and dance and emphasize creativity and exploration. The key to the success of a performance arts program is an interested, passionate, and excited leader who can design a program that allows kids to choose the element of performance they want to try. Equipment costs can be high for this program because costumes, stages, set design, and makeup might be required, depending on the goals of the camp. If your camp takes place on a college campus, consider using the resources of the music, theater, and dance departments. These departments are often willing to provide some equipment, help design the program, or provide the space for a small donation or free of charge for the sake of sharing their knowledge with the next generation. If you do not have access to such departments, simply find an area large enough so that children can express themselves in movement and with starter instruments.
Innovative games are sometimes referred to as New Games. They emphasize fun and movement, encouraging children to move naturally in a noncompetitive environment. Innovative games require large places to play and often use nontraditional, inexpensive equipment such as hula hoops, jump ropes, scooters, and board walkers.
You can combat the obesity epidemic head-on in your community by providing a camper fitness program. If you have access to the larger organization’s fitness equipment, the cost can be minimal. Kids love medicine balls, kickboxing gloves, jump ropes, mini-trampolines, and step boards, so why not incorporate these into your camp program? To do so, you need space, equipment, and a qualified instructor. (See CD-ROM form 7.3: Camp Fitness Program Goals, Objectives, and Standards.)
Organizations with access to natural areas will get the most out of nature programs. Nevertheless, a classroom can be used as a learning place when natural areas or greenhouses are not available. Simple walks to look for birds, insects, and leaves are always popular among campers. Nature programs require minimal equipment, are easily modified for most settings, and require a qualified instructor to make the most of the camp’s surroundings and resources. Geology, natural resources, and environmental science departments may be willing to help campus recreation providers design and implement nature programs. (See CD-ROM form 7.4: Naturally Fun Program Goals, Objectives, and
Every camp program needs a time during the day when kids just play with no direction from adults. A large field with varied equipment or a playground area is ideal for informal play, which should be short and well supervised. Counselors should not interact with campers while they are playing. Their number one responsibility is to supervise and troubleshoot, not to design and implement games.
Team-building programs emphasize teamwork, cooperative learning, and problem solving through short activities that stress communication and respect. Hundreds of web sites offer team-building, ice-breaking, and other cooperative learning activities and publications that require no additional or special equipment, and in most cases, no equipment at all. Team building can be done in a room, hallway, field, or gym depending on the size of the group.
Read more about Day Camp Programming and Administration: Core Skills and Practices by Jill Moffitt.