STEAL THIS IDEA... It's easy :-)

Whether you're in the camp industry or the child care industry (or some wonderful amalgamation of both), keeping your customers is always a priority (and subsequently getting their younger siblings). Of course you ran a wonderful summer program and they were all screaming for more at the end of the day, but how will your registration fare in four months when our fickle young friends forget all of the wonderful memories of last year?

The solution is simple, cost-effective and beautiful - a calendar.

I know it's not the most novel idea, but sending out (or selling at a small printing fee) a calendar has never been easier or more basic a scheme to revive your campers' interests.

First, you take all of those photos from last summer (and surely there are hundreds because you own a digital camera...) *--BREAK--*

IF YOU WORK WITH KIDS, YOU NEED TO OWN A DIGITAL CAMERA... there's no excuse anymore. I can write a handy dandy buying guide for you, but essentially they have gotten cheap enough that you can literally beg on the street and buy the camera with quarters...

Why digital? Because you have 500 - 1000 kids a summer (or more) and you don't want to be limited by the cost of film. My first summer working at camp, I took about 2 dozen shots with a very limited digital camera. The following year, I took about 200... and then 500... and since then, probably around 1,000 or so shots. I want to capture a good picture of each of my staff doing a great job... each camper having a good time...

ANYWAY, distribution of these pictures is essentially $0, as long as you're free to share them with the world (as most camps have a publicity waver in the contract). If not, there are a few more measures to take, but still the idea is solid.

Once you have a digital camera, you ditch the software that comes with it (because most of the time it's fairly confusing and riddled with ads), and opt for either iPhoto (on a Mac) or Google's Picasa on anything else. Both programs are very similar (in my opinion) and Picasa is FREE (I'm not sure about iPhoto).

From Picasa, you can edit all of your photos so they look fantastic (with a great red-eye tool that works perfectly about 75% of the time) and do all sorts of other fun stuff easily - including automatically posting them online to be shared with the world (free also).


Both Picasa and iPhoto allow you to send the photos of your choice to an online photo-printing service (such as oFoto). If you are using another program to edit your pictures or are completely content with what you've taken, you can upload directly to oFoto or even Target.com or Walmart.com.

SOOOOOO... oFoto, iPhoto and others (of which there is a comprehensive list towards the bottom) allow for some really great printing options, one of which is for a calendar.

NOW, I would suggest shopping around. There are probably some vendors that you already deal with (think t-shirts) that may give you a great deal on calendar printing...

Essential Features:

Full Color Photographs - try for 1 per month instead of a collage... large pretty pictures look nicer than a bunch poorly stitched together.

DATES OF IMPORTANCE - make sure you are able to add your own dates to this calendar (or intercept them before they are sent out and MANUALLY add the dates). Your customers need to be hit with those registration deadlines again AND AGAIN!!!

Fun - the photos shouldn't be boring group shots or serene trees... They should show FUN (whatever that means to your camp). Don't be afraid to hide some characters (if you have any) in the background, either ;-)


Acting like children.

I do not want to preach... nor do I want to get drawn into any long arguments...


If you read this blog, you probably have read about the tragic loss of a teenage girl on the news over the past month or so. Her name was Megan and after a severe bout of depression mixed with some cyber-harassment, she hung herself. The worst part of the story (if it could get worse) is that the cyber-bullying was from the mother of another teenage girl posing as an *interested* teenage boy.

There is another Blogger location where that particular mother attempts to defend herself (I believe it's titled "meganhaditcoming")... but I believe her logic is seriously flawed and it relates to the child-care industry.

You see, teenagers can be cruel and emotionally illogical. Between cliques and romances and pressures to fit in while standing out, the plight of a young adult IS REALLY HARD (just remember your awkward years). Sometimes this means that friends can turn to enemies at the drop of a hat... and apparently this was the case with Megan.

Seeing no other way to save her emotionally fragile and innocent daughter, this mother decided to attack the problem in the exact way that a 13 year-old would. Her blog entry and subsequent comments defends her actions over and over again as the ONLY possible option for saving her daughter... that she was being a "good parent."

Haven't you heard this logic before? Didn't you ever have a staff member who made a horrible decision and couldn't possibly see how they went wrong?

Two things happened:
1. The mother fought negativity with negativity.
Camp people know that this doesn't work... our worst behaved campers thrive on the extra attention they get, regardless of what flavor it comes in. Incentive programs go much farther than constant time-outs. If you haven't learned this yet, then keep a log of every time-out. You may be surprised by the repeats... year after year.
2. The mother didn't act like an adult.
Adults don't go onto MySpace and fake out 13 year-olds... wait... RATIONAL adults don't. It sounds ridiculous now to think of a 30+ woman pretending to be a 16 year-old boy online... and to have her act as if it's normal behavior. No. It's not. NOT AT ALL. If I see a 3 year-old on the playground take a swing at my nephew, I don't automatically run over and hit them back. That's ridiculous, right?

OK. I have a point:
Teenagers, or the bulk of our employees, sometimes have the same troubles as this mother. I've seen some male counselors (and actually experienced this as a camper myself) throwing back insults to some loud-mouthed 8 year-olds...

First of all, don't jokingly insult your campers... second of all, don't act like an 8 year-old.


This problem is easy to identify with the younger campers / counselors, but in teen programs the line blurs even more. A good deal of teen counselors have a problem distinguishing when to be an adult and when to be "cool." I have the answer: ALWAYS BE AN ADULT AND DON'T CARE ABOUT BEING COOL. I know that sounds pretty lame, but the *coolest* counselors do their job and do it well... even the most angry and callous teens can tell.

Don't get me wrong - a lazy, slang-yelling, no-rules kinda person is adored by the teens... but who wants that on their staff? Not me.

Anyway, I only hope that people can learn from this and maybe this mother will realize the folly of her ways... at least I can tell of this tragic event during trainings to illustrate the importance of acting like an adult.