Summer camp 2024: Preparing schedules, curriculum, & marketing

As the owner of a children’s activity business that offers summer camp, you might think of the winter as your off season. However, did you know that most parents start researching and booking summer camp as early as February and March? That means you should plan your summer camp curriculum, build your schedule, publish your listings, and even start marketing in the early winter months!

At Sawyer, our goal is to help children’s activity providers run their businesses smoothly and efficiently. With our expert knowledge, powerful suite of tools, and national marketplace with thousands of families across the country, we have the tips and tricks to help you make summer camp 2024 the best season yet.

When to create summer camp listings

In our 2022 Children’s Activity Industry Trend Report, we found that parents typically book summer camps over 2 months in advance. We also found that they spend 1-2 months on research before booking. Therefore, if your camp starts in June, you can safely assume that many parents in your community will begin researching camps and making booking decisions as early as February and March.

Therefore, at Sawyer we always recommend our providers begin building their summer camp schedules and publishing their listings as early as January. It’s an easy process using Sawyer, you can just copy your schedules and listings from last summer and change the relevant information to update it for 2024. 

Photo of summer camp listings

How to prepare your camp curriculum and lesson plans

Preparing your summer camp curriculum and lesson plans is essential to running a successful program. While you do not need to have everything ready in January when you publish your schedule and listings, it is important to figure out the broad strokes so that you can properly describe what your campers will be doing and learning at your summer camp.

However, we do not recommend leaving your summer camp curriculum and lesson plans to the last minute. Developing a curriculum and writing individual lesson plans is a big project. Working together with your senior staff members, instructors, and camp counselors, you should be able to organize your summer camp experience and create lesson plans that help your campers learn and grow all summer long.

How to build a summer camp curriculum

The first step of building your summer camp curriculum is to zoom out. What does one camp session look like for your program? Is it one day, one week, one month, or more? Each session that campers participate in should have its own curriculum. 

The goal is to create a curriculum that has a beginning, middle, and end. When writing a curriculum, make sure you establish goals that you wish for the campers to accomplish by the end of the session. For example, if your pottery camp sessions last one week, then you can make your curriculum goal that each student produces their own wheel thrown pottery piece by the end of the session. Then, you can work backwards to write your lesson plans and plan your activities accordingly to reach that goal.

If you run a more general enrichment camp, then you can choose curriculum goals that relate to exploration or creativity. For example, if campers participate in all different types of activities at your camp, then split your curriculum up to give the campers space to explore everything. Then, you can specify with your lesson plans so the campers finish the program with an understanding of each topic. 

For more support on creating your summer camp curriculum, check out our full guide.

Photo of summer camp lesson plan

How to write a summer camp lesson plan

Lesson plans are key to running successful programming. If your camp focuses on a topic, like art, music, sports, or STEM, then your activities should be centered around that subject. However, if you are running a general enrichment camp, then you need to have activities that encompass a wide variety of topics.

When writing a lesson plan, keep these elements in mind:

  • Lesson objective(s): What are you hoping to accomplish with this lesson? Every activity that you do with your campers should have a goal, even if it is just to have fun.  
  • Materials needed: What do you need for this lesson? Make sure you take into consideration any items children might need to bring from home or what they may need to wear.
  • Lesson activities: What will you actually be doing during the lesson? Include steps, walkthroughs, and any other information you will need to stay on track. Keep the activities short and interactive so your campers stay engaged and having fun.
  • Timing: How much time is allotted for each activity?
  • Assessment and evaluation: If you are running an academic camp, it’s useful to assess how well your campers understood each lesson so that you know where to pick up the next day. Try to avoid quizzes and tests, it’s camp after all, so just observe and evaluate yourself.

Looking for more guidance on writing summer camp lesson plans? Use our editable template to get started!

Download our free summer camp lesson plan template

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Marketing for your 2024 summer camp

Since you know that parents begin researching and booking summer camp far in advance, you should think about marketing as soon as your activities are published in January. Use these tips to help plan your 2024 summer camp marketing strategy.

  • Start with early bird offers. Encourage parents to book camp as early as possible by providing a small discount. Early bird offers are beneficial for camp owners because you get the income from the camp booking earlier in the year and you can start to learn which programs are more popular. 
  • Utilize email marketing. Reach out to families of past campers to let them know your 2024 schedule has been published and booking is officially open. Highlight the early bird offer and make sure they know the discount is only available for a short period of time. Focus on strong subject lines and calls-to-action (CTAs) within your email to entice customers. Review our guide for more email marketing tips for your camp.
  • Embrace social media. Just because your summer camp only runs in the summer, it does not mean your social media should be silent during the winter. Keep posting great pictures of your campers having fun and engage with families where you can. Stay top of mind for your customers so they remember how much their children loved camp. See more social media tips for camps in our guide.
  • Set up Google Ads. Google Ads follow a Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising model, allowing business owners to bid on search terms, rank higher, and pay for the clicks their ads receive. There is no minimum spending requirement. You can choose where your ad appears, set a budget that works for you, and measure impact with analytics. Use our full guide to learn how to set up Google advertising for your kids camp.

Check out our guide on early bird offers and marketing ideas for camps to kick off your 2024 marketing strategies.

Photo of summer camp marketing

We hope that you have gained useful information to help you get ready for the 2024 summer camp season. If you are looking for guidance on managing and running your children’s education and activity business, the team at Sawyer is here to help.

With our suite of tools, like custom forms to record allergies and t-shirt sizes, flexible payment options like gift cards and installment plans, and seamless scheduling and registration on any device, Sawyer saves business owners 28 hours per month. If you are ready to spend less time on admin and more time doing more of what you love, see how Sawyer can help with a free trial or demo.

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