5 Ideas to Give your Summer Camp a Competitive Edge

CampsUSA.org Staff
Written by
for Camps USA
5 Ideas to Give your Summer Camp a Competitive Edge

With thousands of camps opening their doors this summer, you may find it difficult to distinguish your camp from others in the crowded marketplace. In the Internet age, parents can easily compare dozens of camps and select one with a matchless program, unique specialty, or competitive marketing.

Analyze your program and identify your strengths. Do kids talk endlessly about the beautiful scenery? Does your camp attract budding artists? Are most of your campers highly athletic or academically gifted? Once you know where your camp excels, develop distinctive activities in that area.

Here are five ideas to give your camp a competitive edge:

1) Host fitness classes to rival the gym.

Many families acknowledge the importance of an active, healthy lifestyle. Throughout the year, kids and teens often sign up for popular classes at gyms and fitness centers, such as yoga, Pilates, Zumba, karate, cardio workouts, and strength training. Capitalize on this growing trend by offering fitness classes at your camp.

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Parents probably know that their children will get fresh air and exercise at camp, but by tailoring the daily schedule to accommodate a gym-like workout, you'll give them a concrete guarantee that their kids will maintain good health habits.

If a camper practices a certain type of workout, dance, or martial art during the rest of the year, they may want to attend a camp that will reemphasize their training. In addition, fitness classes are a great way to unite campers with a common interest and provide a new experience to families who can't otherwise afford a gym membership.

2) Plan an outdoor adventure.

Many camps have a natural setting, whether it's a mountain retreat or cabins by a lake. You can take this outdoor component to the next level by establishing a wilderness program. Collaborate with experts like park rangers, emergency responders, and others with field experience who will give kids both live-saving knowledge and a fun summer.

A wilderness program should teach young nature enthusiasts how to prepare for an outdoor excursion, what safety precautions to take before setting out, what to do if they are lost or injured on the trail, how to identify both poisonous and edible plants, how to treat drinking water, how to recognize dangerous terrain and animals, and how to seek help.

Once campers are equipped with these survival tools, they could embark on a hike in the deep woods, an overnight backpacking trip on a mountain, or a camping trip in the desert. The program could also include extreme sports like zip lining, rock climbing, and whitewater rafting.

3) Bring arts and crafts into the 21st century.

Arts and crafts are a summer camp staple. The popularity of these activities means that they're sure to please, but if friendship bracelets and tie-dyed T-shirts are all you offer, your camp will have a hard time standing out.

Create a strong arts program that will attract beginners and enthusiasts alike. Kids could try drawing, painting, sculpting, pottery making, glass blowing, bookbinding, knitting, woodworking, and other media. Consider adding unique niches, such as architecture, jewelry making, and interior design.

You can plan free time activities for campers who just want to try their hand at the arts as well as a more comprehensive program for serious students. Bring in some professional artists and art teachers who can introduce campers to different genres and forms of art, lead big collaborative projects, and compile an anthology of each camper's best works to send home to parents.

Modern technology has introduced an array of new art mediums that today's tech-savvy kids are eager to learn. You could host workshops in animation, cinematography, photography, graphic design, web development, or app making. These programs will give campers a one-of-a-kind experience as well as prepare them for a college major.

4) Experiment with science.

Developing minds are often extremely curious about the world, and many children who love science in school would enjoy a fun science program at camp. Kids could study the local flora and fauna, learn about conservation, conduct experiments in a lab or out in the field, or study a specific branch like meteorology, astronomy, or biology. You could even offer classes in robotics, space exploration, and game theory.

Whatever science program you develop, make sure it is engaging and hands on. Don't simply teach science lessons. Plan cool projects like constructing a boat, field trips like the zoo or observatory, and interactions with scientists and professional educators.

5) Stage some creative performing arts programs.

Skits and improvisation games are awesome summer camp activities, but the world of the stage has much more to offer. Look into unique types of performing arts, whether it’s an obscure dramatic form or a new spin on an established program.

If you have a drama course, introduce new genres, such as expressionist, absurdist, modernist, or musical theater. You can supplement the program with workshops in play writing, set design, costume design, and directing. An academically minded camp could teach the history of theater or theatrical forms from around the world.

Branch out into other forms of art that interested beginners can pick up, like puppetry, clowning, choreographed dance, magic shows, creative movement, and amateur film making. You could even host a talent show, singing competition, or poetry slam.

The summer camp industry is thriving. As a camp owner, you have plenty of competition, but you also have plenty of potential customers. Earn their attention by building a unique and exciting program.

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