How to Run a Summer Day Camp Program

bizfluent article image

Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images

Running a summer day camp is a big responsibility that includes protecting the safety of campers and maintaining the trust of both parents and campers. For the camp director, it involves careful planning of activities, procedures and staff requirements. A camp program director does not usually start her own program, but rather takes on the responsibility to run an existing summer day camp program that has returning staff, existing traditions and established procedures.


Research the day camp's culture. Many camps have existing philosophies, methodologies and traditions. Either adopt these operational methods, procedures and philosophies, or be able to explain to existing personnel any changes you make.

Write a camp plan for the summer. Outline the regular daily schedule -- sports, food, arts and crafts -- as well as any special activities -- field trips, parents' day -- that may be coming up during the summer.

Review the camp`s funding sources to make sure all costs will be covered. Develop a budget, negotiate salaries and comply with local, state and federal tax requirements. Decide on enrollment fees, pricing strategies and enrollment limits based on camp size, resources and staffing.

Budget for your insurance needs. Day camps typically need insurance for property, comprehensive general liability, health care and worker compensation.

Secure all required permits and licenses. See that all local regulations are followed.

Acquire health center certification. Within federal medical privacy laws, keep medical profiles of campers, in particular highlighting any special concerns such as dietary or medicinal specifications.

Make sure your location and facilities are sufficient to accommodate the activities in your camp plan. Both outdoor and indoor play areas are important to recreational versatility in light of possible weather concerns.

Plan for meals, refreshments and snacks, whether the camp has its own kitchen or uses a food service. Comply with health and sanitation laws, including those related to storage, dish washing, garbage disposal, water purity and handler permits.

Keep school bus laws, liability and transportation issues in mind when arranging field trips.

Coordinate water activities. If the day camp has an on-site pool, the day camp program manager must also ensure sufficient pool maintenance staff and supplies, including certified lifeguards, and should invest in pool floats and toys.

Consider developmental and behavioral training and preparedness for the many unexpected things that can happen when a group of youngsters are away from home. Develop disciplinary policies and child calming skills, and keep all parental contact information readily accessible.

Meet with assistants, counselors and staff to see who is returning and who meets your standards. Make a list of available positions and what credentials are needed. Both new and returning staffers should be subjected to criminal background checks before being hired or rehired.

Oversee marketing of the day camp. Have a parents' meeting with informational handouts detailing policies.

Maintain supplies for and coordinate with staff about all classes. Ensure the staff monitors playtime and enforces rules.