Summer camp is an opportunity for kids to escape their everyday routine — which is what many children and adults alike are craving after a year of learning and working online. In many places, summer camps won’t be fully in person or at full capacity because of COVID-19 restrictions and requirements. Many organizations are continuing with virtual summer camps or taking on a hybrid approach.

A hybrid summer camp may look different depending on local restrictions and the capabilities of the camp organizers. It will likely involve having smaller groups in person while other children attend virtually, staggering the days or times when students are attending in-person. Or it could entail offering one camp with some virtual sessions and some in-person sessions.

Many children have been attending school virtually and are tired of staring at computer screens. To engage kids and attract them to your summer camp in 2021, you’ll want to get creative and provide a captivating experience whether the children are there in person or virtually. Make sure you give parents and kids a good idea of what to expect before the camp begins, and be ready to answer any questions about safety protocols and your activity plans.

Here are some tips and ideas for a summer camp that will keep kids engaged and parents happy.

1. Get started on a high note

Help your campers form relationships on the first day by playing get-to-know-you games and encouraging them to introduce themselves. At the beginning of an online session, play fun music or provide a prompt or game while you’re waiting for everyone to arrive. If you have a hybrid camp with different ways to participate, make sure all online and in-person campers are also introduced to one another.

2. Provide materials lists and add-ons

If your activities require materials, make sure you provide shopping lists to the virtual summer camp attendees upfront so parents can gather what they need. You may want to consider offering kits at registration that include the necessary materials as an add-on. This will appeal to busy parents who don’t have time to go find the materials and will also increase event revenue.

3. Ask for input

A great way to find out what parents or children are expecting from a camp is simply to ask them. Survey parents and campers to see what their interests are, what activities they most enjoy, and what activities they would rather do without. Don’t just reach out for feedback when the camp is over — check in with kids and parents mid-camp to see how they’re feeling about their experience so far.

4. Switch up your activities

Adults struggle to maintain rapt attention when it comes to a full day of activities, so imagine how much harder it is for kids. Keep things interesting by incorporating creative ideas for summer camp. Instead of having campers do everything together, or everything separately, have small group activities interspersed with solo projects. For virtual campers, plan some offline activities that give them a break from the screen. Whether you’re in person or online, remember to factor in breaks for snacks and to revive interest.

5. Encourage movement

Another way to engage kids and keep their energy up is to encourage movement. This might be teaching them some dance moves, encouraging stretches, or just breaking up the time so they have an opportunity to take a break and move around. If your camp is virtual, consider having stretch breaks, and teach kids to look away from their screens and give their eyes a break.

6. Go outside

As long as the weather and your location allow it, alternate between time spent indoors and outdoors. During a virtual summer camp, you can encourage campers to move their devices outside if possible, but keep in mind that things like internet coverage or parental supervision may impact your options.

7. Be realistic

Make sure you know your audience, what they can do, and what most interests them. Design your schedule with specific summer camp theme ideas in mind such as sports, theater, art, and music so you can best tailor your lessons or activities. If your camp is more general or spans a large age group, offer different activities for different ages, interests, or comprehension levels.

8. Use different media

If you’re hosting an online summer camp, it may be helpful to vary the media types you use to keep kids’ attention. Not all children have the same learning styles or enjoy the same activities, so try to incorporate music, video content, and games to appeal to all of your campers. This is an area where your survey may come in handy: Consider asking children what their favorite kinds of music or games are.

9. Allow opportunities for connection

Give kids a safe and fun way to interact with one another and form friendships. For online camps, this might be via an online message board, chat window, or just free time in Zoom breakout rooms. In any case, make sure you provide supervision or moderators as necessary. For in-person campers, allow them to meet the virtual campers and teach them how to safely interact while socially distanced or outdoors.

10. End with a celebration

If possible, considering ending the camp experience with a socially distanced in-person gathering for all participants. The summer is a great time to plan an outdoor cookout or picnic as long as the weather permits. Allow your campers to express themselves, and maybe some new things they learned during camp, by holding a showcase or talent show.

Ready for your campers?

Now that you’re ready to offer a unique, safe, and relational summer experience, learn how to use our platform to plan your virtual summer camp.

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