How to Innovate Your Way to A More Efficient Kids Program

Camp, after school, and education programs are staples of any community. Setting up for a smooth season is key; for staff, for parents, for kids, educators, you name it!

Helene Fleischer
Helene Fleischer
March 4, 2020 5 min read

Camp, after school, and education programs are staples of any community. Whether your peak season is coming up or you’re in the program planning phase, setting yourself up for a smooth activity season is paramount -- for the staff, for the parents, for the kids, educators, camp counselors, you name it!

There aren’t a lot of school curriculums that offer specialized activities or courses like swimming, martial arts, painting, or horseback riding.

But there are camps, afterschool, and education programs that do offer those things, and then some! The American Camp Association noted that there were over 14,000 camps and The Afterschool Alliance estimates there are around 10,000 afterschool programs in North America.

Beyond helping the youth of today explore new passions and possible career paths, these programs help them hone their social skills and self-confidence, better preparing them for a bright future.

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kids programs recreation

On the parent side, 80% of surveyed parents say that kids programs provide them with a sense of peace-of-mind.

I wouldn’t be able to work without [these] programs… It’s a win-win because I know they’re in a safe place and I can keep working.

Pamela Shope, mom of two boys who attend afterschool programs, The Afterschool Alliance: Helping Kids Thrive.

Let’s be real: there are a lot of moving pieces, and staff needs to wear many hats to get things done and keep everyone happy and at ease – parents and kids alike. Running these programs is so important for our communities, present and future. It can’t always be about fun and inspiring the youth, though: first and foremost is keeping kids healthy and safe.

So, how can you ensure that kids are reaching their full potential in a healthy & safe environment?

Health and safety isn’t a necessarily fun topic to cover, but it is a central component of what makes a kids program run efficiently. “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst” – that's the motto, isn’t it!?

In some programs and camps, staff members are often on the younger side and managing both kids and parents can quickly become overwhelming. They need to ensure that they’re providing a healthy and safe environment for the kids every second of the day.

health and safety in kids programs

The bottom line here? Every day your team is working hard to make it through the day without having to fill out an accident report and call a kid’s parents.

Getting ahead of that stress can be as simple as asking the right questions during the registration period.

Here’s a checklist of all of the health, medical, and safety info you should be collecting at signup

Parents/Guardian:

Details regarding each kid’s guardians -- who will be picking them up and dropping them off.

  • What are the names and relationships of the parents or guardians?
  • Who can be expected at pick-ups and drop-offs?

Medical:

A rundown of any applicable allergies, injuries, medication with dosage, emergency contacts, etc. This information can also help staff plan meals and send out guidelines to all parents with restrictions on what can be brought to the activity.

  • Are there any allergies to be made aware of?
  • Has the child been injured or have any injuries?
  • Does the child take any medication? What is the dosage?
  • Who is the contact in case of a medical inquiry? Or in the event of an emergency?

Transportation:

Depending on the resources your program can provide, this info can help you group kids by geographic proximity. This can also help program organizers ensure that the child has sufficient transportation.

  • Does your child require transportation?
  • Do you have any specific pick-up or drop-off times?
  • What is the child’s address? What is the guardian’s address?

Photos/Identification:

Photo IDs are often used in the context of security clearance, which is great for kids programs to keep the kids safe, but they’re also really useful for staff to get to know everyone -- it shows the parents that you care and lets the kid know they can be comfortable with you.

  • Can you provide a photo of the child?
  • Can you provide a description of the child? Height, weight, hair color, eye color?
  • Any other identifying factors? Like braces or marks/scars?

It almost goes without saying, the info that you collect from parents during the registration process should be made readily available for staff to refer to, and for parents to go back and edit. This ensures that you always have the most up-to-date information possible.

Time well-spent is time educating & having fun

The less that your staff sweats over maintaining a safe and healthy environment, the more they can focus on being present and creating an enriching and educational experience.

Decades of research demonstrates the benefits of these programs for kids, like helping them:

  • Practice social skills by expanding their circle of friends. Over 90% of surveyed kids said that camp helped them make new friends and get to know kids from different areas of life.
  • Improve school attendance and academic grades. Kids that attend afterschool programs are 26% more likely to get good grades.
  • Learn what kind of activities they like to do. In these programs, kids have the ability to get out of their comfort zone and try new things, without fear of failure.
  • Improve their physical health. Afterschool and camp programs help kids see the value in engaging in “moderate-to-vigorous physical activity”, which can last a lifetime.
  • Build self-confidence and reach their full potential. In fact, 70% of surveyed parents said that their kids gained a sense of self-assuredness and self-esteem at camp.

To run these valuable educational programs with prowess and have the kids reap the maximum benefits, you need to be mindful of how you spend your time. A common time-suck for camps and afterschool programs can look like this: relying on pen-and-paper methods for your operational and admin processes.

With everything becoming so tech-forward these days, with the likes of Netflix, Facebook, Spotify, and Amazon, parents and staff (and even kids!) have become accustomed to a particular kind of digital experience.

There is definitely no shortage of technologies built specifically for camps, afterschool, and educational programs. But choosing the wrong tool for your needs can waste time, money, and resources -- which can be frustrating because so many of these programs are under-funded.

What might the right technology for you look like?

What you need to look for in a recreation management software for your organization’s kids programs

While you want tech that’s going to help you manage your staff, students, or campers, it’s also important to look for something that will keep the lines of communication open with you and the kids’ parents/guardians. A good software offers a mix of both.

For staff

  • A smooth attendance tracking experience that can be done on-the-go (bonus: with photos!)
  • Random group creation or ability to pair friends & siblings
  • Customizable forms so you can get the info you need and access it anytime, anywhere
  • Centralized, up-to-date info for every family member, every activity
  • Open line of communication with parents through single or mass text messaging and emails

For parents

  • An easy registration experience that matches their other experiences online
  • Multi-shop checkout, so they can buy all their activities, for all their kids, in one transaction
  • Making activities accessible for the whole family with flexible pricing and discounts
  • A parent portal that lets them know what their kids are doing and when
  • Peace-of-mind that your org is asking all the right questions, and that it can be easily filled out online!

Going into these conversations knowing what you are looking for will help guide the conversation, so you can ensure that you’re getting your hands on a software that answers your organization’s needs.

The extra set of hands you need to focus on what really matters

Tackling the day-to-day of running your kids recreation programs can seem almost impossible. After all, there’s only so many hours in the day, and you & your team only have so many hands.

We are constantly evolving our platform with valuable feedback from our customers, to better support you in managing all of it from behind-the-scenes.


Manage the work you love -- like teaching, playing, and protecting the kids and their future. Leave the rest to us.

Meet the extra set of hands you always wished for

Don't let routine tasks be a distraction; make light(er) work of managing your day-to-day.​ Who knew your next teammate would be a software?!​

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