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Regrouping For Youth

Just because summer is over doesn’t mean the fun has to end.

Freshen up your day camp or after-school program with these new ideas:

Lego Battles

Legos are making a huge comeback with themes such as Pirates of the Caribbean and Star Wars, and even dolls like Belville. Investing in Lego sets and tables is hardly a minor move--and one that’s not in the budget--so get the kids involved. Ask each child to bring his or her Lego sets to create a Lego battle.

Separate campers into teams, such as boys against girls or the older against the younger, or mix everyone up for learning to work in groups. A simple table for each group is all that is needed.

Once the teams are set, let them construct their masterpieces in a set amount of time. Then score each project according to creativity, teamwork, and engineering. You can even divide each category into separate “winners” so each team wins a title.

Aside from helping children to read directions, work together, troubleshoot, and create, playing with Legos is also one of the few activities a group of boys will voluntarily sit down for!

Get Outside

While the weather is still warm, take advantage of outdoor activities. If possible, select themes that every child can relate to:

Skate Day. Invite campers to bring Rollerblades, skateboards, scooters, etc., to ride around outside, even in a parking area. Be sure to review safety requirements for the area or the camp with parents so they know what items to send. However, keep it simple, and let parents decide how much safety gear their child requires.

Bike Ride. Map out a route that includes an outdoor picnic. Ask participants to bring backpacks for riding and--of course--all of their safety equipment. Go over bike safety in advance, and make sure parents are on board with the idea. Make the bike ride long enough to get exercise, but short enough that it doesn’t tire out the younger campers. At the picnic location, allow the children time to ride their bikes, have lunch, relax, and then head back. This is a great half-day activity.

Nature Walk. This activity never goes out of style. Pick a location with plenty of interesting trees, leaves, insects, and other nature items, and have the children choose five things they really like. Those staff members with computers available on-site can ask campers to research what they found or ask them to do research at home. Those who do research get a special treat, like candy or even bike-leader priority.

Swimming. Most local recreation centers will allow a group to swim for free or a nominal fee. This fee can usually be incorporated into the registration fee. Avoid lakes and ponds as the wildlife may be a hazard.

Indoor Fun

Finding indoor fun has become much easier with local businesses looking to tap into the summer-camp market. Try some of these ideas:

Movies. While most local theaters have an inexpensive matinee, some even have a free morning movie for kids. The venue aims to make money from concessions, so be sure to advise parents to send money. Most places sell hot dogs and chips, which parents are sometimes willing to allow as the day’s lunch.

Bowling. This is an activity kids really enjoy, and most bowling alleys give a reduced rate for children.

Dance Competition. Those with a Wii can create a dance competition using the game “Just Dance.” It gets kids moving, whether they are competing or not. Those who don’t have the game console can always bring in music and play “Freeze Dance,” in which anyone who is still dancing when the music is turned off is eliminated, until there is only person left. Hula-hoop competitions are also a good addition to dance competitions for those looking for variety.

Driving Range. If there is a golf course nearby, a good trip by bike or in a nature walk will work. Both boys and girls enjoy the driving range, and moms and dads are usually willing to send a golf club in for the child to use for the day.

Books. Set aside an hour of reading time at least three days per week. Include a library trip when possible. Ask children to bring books if library access is not possible. Have students track their reading progress on a chart. See if the local schools have a “battle of the books” list for the campers to pursue.

Pottery Painting. Painting pottery is incredibly enjoyable for kids, especially with the variety of items they can make. If there is a pottery-painting location nearby, add it to your schedule. Ask in advance for a list of items the company has to offer to allow parents to send for the items their child wants to paint. Mini footballs, dinosaur stencils, paper weights, and even fridge magnets are a reasonable selection. Keep the list simple and low cost. You don’t want some kids to bring home large statues, while others are toting magnets.

Many ideas can be generated just by getting to know businesses in the community. Drive around and think about how your program and local businesses can benefit by offering a free activity.

While parents typically do not like extra fees, most are willing to pay for a day’s food or for a field trip to the zoo or a local attraction. Try to include the fees in registration costs to avoid any complaints later.

Remember that the more memorable the activity, the more likely kids will want to return!

Kati Trammel is an advertising and public-relations specialist in Lakeland, Fla. She can be reached at katitram@yahoo.com.

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