Ask the Expert: Planning a Summer Program
By Adrienne Boyd, R.N., BSN and Lois A. Struck
Help! Our head teacher in charge of summer programming recently left our center. I’ve been asked to fill in and take on this responsibility, but I don’t even know where to begin. Any ideas or suggestions are most appreciated.
Begin preparing for summer programming by holding a meeting with your teaching staff to discuss and review policies and procedures for health and safety. During the summer, children are at greater risk for injury and illness because they are more likely to spend time outdoors and away from the safety of your program. Therefore, everyone should know the proper procedures for skin protection; safety guidelines for your outdoor play areas; first aid procedures for minor scrapes, bee stings, and keeping children hydrated; and plans for conducting safe field trips away from your program. Prepare a safety checklist for field trips and for your playground and play equipment. Now may even be a good time to have everyone brush up on their CPR training, too. Once your safety issues have been addressed, you are ready to explore fresh curriculum ideas for the summer days ahead.
When planning your summer activities and curriculum, be sure to take advantage of the abundance of sunshine, warmth, and nature at its peak. For toddlers and preschoolers, think about creating interesting scavenger hunts. Children will love searching for different types of insects, trees and leaves, rocks, or plants. Create Hot Zone activities by taking your water tables outdoors and turning on the sprinklers so the children can cool off on very hot days.
If you are fortunate to have school-age children with you for the summer, employ their organizational skills to create fun for all of the children in your program or raise money for a pizza party or special event at the end of the summer. Some ideas to consider include hosting a carnival, putting on a talent show, having a beauty shop day, setting up a lemonade and hot dog stand, or having a cookie sale.
If you decide to have a carnival, for example, have the older children prepare signs promoting the event and tickets for the games. In the weeks leading up to the carnival, reward good behavior – picking up toys, saying please and thank you, following directions, etc. – by giving children game tickets. Involve the older children and even your parents in creating booths and games and donating inexpensive prizes such as stickers, small toys, and trinkets. Ideas for simple games to play include “Go Fish” by draping a blanket over two chairs, “Outdoor Bowling” by using a set of plastic bowling pins and rubber playground ball, or “Ring Toss” by stacking juice boxes to toss a ring around. If you have a very creative thespian in your program, ask her to tell fortunes. Face painting and temporary tattoo booths are always a favorite, too.
To complete your summer program, think of a few back-up plans. Rainy days, extremely warm weather, and the need to shift gears quickly can wreak havoc with your activity plans. Always have several boxed activities planned in advance to pull out in a moment’s notice. You might also want to organize a summer reading program in conjunction with your local library. A summer reading program is a great opportunity to get children excited about reading and to keep their literacy skills sharp over the summer vacation. Plan to read several stories or chapters to the children each week. They love stories involving young heroes, and a scheduled reading time is a great way to give them a cool rest in the shade or a relaxing day inside when it’s raining.
I challenge you to think back to your favorite summer days. Many of us spent endless hours exploring and playing with our siblings and friends in our backyards. With this in mind, your meticulous planning and preparation can also provide lasting memories for the children you care for this summer!
Adrienne Boyd, R.N., BSN and Lois A. Struck co-authored School-Age Super Summer Camps Curriculum, which portions of the above article have been excerpted from. To order please contact, Child Development Services, Inc. at 800-969-4301.
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