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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Summer Camp | Advice for Camp Directors

Last week, I shared summer camp advice for parents when choosing a camp for their child to attend. While writing about ratios and asking questions on the camps policies and procedures for keeping all children accounted for with high ratios, I decided to share advice for the directors of those camps.

However, whether you run a summer camp program or your just a staff member of a summer camp program, these tips and tricks will help you make sure you keep all the children in your staffs care accounted for and it decreases your chances of losing a child (unfortunately it does happen).

1. Always have each staff member keep a roster of the children in their group. I created a roster template that had spots for the staff members name, the date and slots to write the childrens' names. Each staff member would write the children's first and last names on their roster that was in their care for that date. Also, if a kid leaves early have the staff member mark it next to the kid's name.

2. Have the staff member go to each child asking if the child knows their name, if they don't the staff member needs to tell the child their name and make the child repeat it back. This is especially important when you are out on field trips. When I was just a counselor in a camp, I would see confused kids not sure what was going on. The first thing I would ask was who their counselor was and more than half the time the poor kid had no clue so how was I suppose to ensure he got to the right group? Without that information, I had to interrogate the kid making them more scared and confused. So please, PLEASE, make sure every child knows their counselors/teacher (or whatever you call the person in charge of their care) name.

3. Make sure the staff member knows each child's name by going down the line naming each child. (If you have a different group of children constantly and remembering names is nearly impossible, keep children in a line corresponding with the roster that way you can use the roster as a reference instead of saying kid in blue shirt or friend or whatever.) When you put a name to the face of children in your care, you are more likely to notice as soon as they are no longer with you.

4. Before AND after transitions, have the children line up and call roll NAME TO FACE. If you call roll before leaving an area or activity AND upon arriving to the next area and activity, you will know where to start your search if you do happen to lose a child. However, when you are calling roll look up and look at the child's face because there are times when children want you to hurry up so Lil Johnny will say "HERE!" when you call David's name to get things moving and David might not have heard you call to everyone to line up so he is just having the time of his life on the swings.

5. Have a buddy system in place. Pair the children up with each other and tell them they are responsible for themselves and their partner. That way when you call everyone to line up, Jack knows he needs to get David off those swings and in line since David didn't hear the call.

6. Name to Face Roll call AND head counts when loading and unloading the buses. Yes, it seems like a lot of work but its better to be safe than sorry and ensuring you aren't leaving a child behind at the camp or venue by themselves and God forbid leaving them on the bus. Just do it, trust me.

Again, I know this stuff seems excessive but trust me it is necessary. Children are so excited to see everything and play, they aren't always pay attention and will get lost. Staff members have so many children in a crowded place, its hard to keep up BUT by using these procedures and making a habit of them, you are less likely to lose a child. And trust me, after a while these procedures become second nature and take no time at all. If you have any questions, I would be glad to answer and if I don't have the answer I can most definitely find a person who does.

What procedures do you have in place that works for your camp? 

Check out the first part of this series here.
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