Last summer, I went to camp. More specifically, I helped set up a weeklong horse camp for kids and took pictures of the participants enjoying their summer getaway. For a week, I felt like a kid again, as the youngsters learned to saddle their horses, practiced caring for animals, and built friendships.
Becoming a summer camp volunteer is a fabulous way to give back to your community and participate in an activity with your children—all while enjoying perks like s’mores and DIY crafts! Check with your local schools, churches, community centers, or nonprofit agencies to see if they need some extra helping hands for their summer programming. You’ll likely be welcomed with open arms. With these tips, your summer volunteer opportunities are sure to go smoothly.
As a summer camp volunteer, you may be asked for recommendations to keep the kids on schedule and where they need to be at all times. On the first day, establish a home base. This could be a central meeting room, the entrance of a building, or a shady space under a tree.
Home base is where the kids gather when they arrive for camp, where parents can find them during pickup times, and where group activities take place. If the home base is indoors, it might be located near the public restrooms and tables with supplies for the campers, including paperwork, craft items, and snacks.
Post a Daily Schedule
Grab a large poster board and colorful markers, then channel your inner child. Make a daily schedule, and post it at the home base so everyone knows the plan for the day. This simple feature will eliminate tons of camper questions, including “When is lunch?” and “When do we get to go on the field trip?” Plus, the kids get to practice reading skills—everyone wins!
If the camp lasts multiple days, print a daily schedule to share with parents and guardians that previews the next day’s activities. Include notes about any extras the child should bring, such as sunscreen for an outdoor activity, a bag lunch for an off-site excursion, or personal items to complete a craft project.
Serve Kid-Friendly Snacks
Did you volunteer to help with food for the campers? In addition to prepping meals or making sure the caterer is on time, you can plan to provide ample snacks. Kids love to munch between activities, especially when they’re playing physically demanding games.
Create a snack bar with fresh fruits and portable snacks. Try offering apples, bananas, miniature bottles of water, low-sugar granola bars, cheese sticks, and crisp rice squares at all times throughout the day. Juice boxes, sandwich halves, and baby carrots also typically go over well with hungry kids.
Develop Several Activities
If you’ve been assigned to assist with camp programming, create a mix of physically active and mind-stimulating activities to keep the kids mentally engaged while also burning off extra energy. For example, one afternoon you could schedule a dodgeball game, then practice saying tongue twisters and complete camp-themed word puzzles during a snack break.
To help the kids work on communication and relationship-building skills, plan for both large- and small-group activities, as well as scheduling specific times throughout the day for camp counselors to work one-on-one with kids. For example, a large group could sing songs or go on a tour, small groups can work on a scavenger hunt or build musical instruments, and many craft projects are enhanced with one-on-one guidance.
Are you a summer camp volunteer? Share tips or photos from your camp experience by tweeting to@TomsOfMaine!
This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.
Why It’s Good
Volunteering at a local camp means sharing your skills and wisdom with kids, indulging in feel-good camp activities, and possibly spending extra time with your own children (if they're campers), too! As a bonus, breaking out of your usual routine is both mentally and physically rewarding.