When kids arrive at camp, most of them haven’t got a clue of what it took to get them there. For parents, choosing a camp is nearly a full-time job as a Camp Intelligence Agent. They open 20 tabs on their browsers, scan through the “About Us” blurbs, the camp’s Facebook page is open on screen two, reviews on screen three, and a group chat with other parents on screen four. Once they’ve done sufficient due diligence (a few phone calls with Camp Directors, endless consultations with parental advisory committees, and finally the executive decision has been reached with the Board of Children), they dive into Phase 2: The Registration Process. This phase requires filling out at least two and sometimes six different forms, attaching photocopies of this and scans of that, until they finally receive a confirmation e-mail with the instructions for the next mission, Phase 3: The Send-Off. All the while, camps are going through the same thing: E-mails are pouring in, the printer is over-heating, Staff are highlighting, stapling, filing, and typing at light speed to enter everything into "The Spreadsheet" and, you haven’t seen the office floor in weeks because every inch of it is covered with forms, files, and coffee mugs.
While forms are a necessary means to collect crucial information, is all this chaos really necessary? Many camps ask for too much information without having the means to process it. Remember, your campers are only safe if your records are organized, up-to-date, and easy-to-access. Your forms should cover 3 main fields: General and Contact Info, Health and Safety, and Preferences and Personal Growth.
General and Contact Info
(You know, the basics)
- Date of Birth
- Guardian information
- Guardian’s phone number
- Guardian’s e-mail
Health and Safety
(The important information with which you can assess whether or not you have the resources to look after each and every child)
- Medical conditions
- Medication and dosage
- Dietary restrictions
- If your camp is offering swimming, horseback riding or other extreme activities, you could ask campers to assess their level for each activity on a scale from (0 = no experience to 3 = very experienced)
Preferences and Personal Growth
(The more you know about your campers, the better you can provide a tailored experience where your campers can thrive)
- Provide a field for campers to list their friends so you can put them together for certain activities and ensure that they are apart for others
- If you provide various activities, let campers pick the programs they are the most interested in
- Create field where campers can tell you about their favourite movie, book, or character. This provides fodder for activities your camp can organize.
- Camp Bil-O-Wood in Ontario offers a form where campers write down 3 goals such for their summer and parents also write down 3 goals they have for their children. This is a great way to engage both campers and parents in curating in camper's growth, learning, and leadership journey.
- It's also important for campers and parents to assess camp after the summer is over. Create a form you can e-mail parents to fill out with their kids.
If all hell is still breaking loose during your registration period, you should consider switching to an online registration platform. Ideally, your platform would allow you to create customizable forms (that are also easy to edit and update) and, more importantly, manage all that information.