How to Start a Summer Camp

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Summer camps are a lot of fun for kids of all age groups and can be an enriching and memorable part of childhood. There are many different kinds of summer camps, from basic day camps to summer camps specifically designed for children with special needs. Starting a summer camp of your own is a big project. Here are some things to remember if you're starting a summer camp.

  • Decide what sort of camp you want to start. The first question you need to ask yourself is what kind of children your summer camp will be oriented towards. Whether you want to start a summer camp to keep young children occupied with fun activities during the day while their parents are at work or you want to create a camp environment for wheelchair-bound campers or survivors of pediatric cancer, the type of camp you want to start will determine the kind of facilities you need, the staff you will hire and even the funding for which you could be eligible.

  • Find the ideal campground. Your campground will need to be a very large piece of land, preferably with both wooded and cleared areas so there is room for buildings and offices but still plenty of places for nature and activities. If your camp is going to be an overnight camp, the land needs to have pre-existing buildings on it that are suitable to be converted into bunkhouses or have enough space that shelters can be built. A pool will require a large, level piece of land that can be dug and converted properly. Also, don't forget to account for administrative offices, staff quarters, a pool house and a nursing station.

  • Hire the right staff. The staff of counselors, lifeguards, nurses and activities directors can be the difference between an average summer camp and an amazing one. It is not necessary to require that your staff members have previous summer camp experience; even though your camp is new, it can be a great learning experience for the staff as well as the campers. It is more important to make sure that your staff understands the responsibilities that come with the job, that they are fun-loving and enthusiastic, and that they are devoted to making summer camp the best experience possible for each camper. Hiring a diverse staff from a variety of backgrounds will guarantee that your camp will be a fun and interesting place to be.

  • Follow regulations. Depending on what state your summer camp is in, there are several inspections and registrations that your camp will have to undergo before it can legally open its doors to the public. The American Camping Association has strict guidelines regarding basic requirements for summer camp facilities. These will vary depending on whether you have a pool or keep animals on the campgrounds, if your camp is an overnight facility and the age group and type of camper you are admitting. Research these regulations carefully and make sure that you have followed all proper procedures to avoid fines and legal problems.

  • Research available funding. There are many state and government programs that provide funding to public facilities and programs like summer camps, especially if your camp is a specialty camp or admits its campers for free and is registered as a nonprofit organization. There could be money available to help you build facilities, make improvements to the campground and even buy supplies for campers. Contact your local government offices and find out what sort of funding is available for your type of summer camp.

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