How to Plan a Successful Summer Club

/ / - Games and Activities, Blog

Summer, with its bright sunny mornings and long lazy afternoons, is right around the corner. So are the exclamations of “I’m bored!” and “There’s no one to play with!” Why not fight the summer blues by getting your kids involved in planning a summer backyard club? Not only will a backyard club give them something to look forward to, but it will also provide leadership opportunities, connections with friends and neighbors, and so much more. So, what do you need to do to get ready? Here are ten steps that will
help you get started.

1. Timing
Whether you hold a once-a-week club or an all-out five day experience, timing is everything. For example, if you are holding a club for five- to six-year-olds, consider morning hours. Young children tend to get up early, even in the summer. Whereas, an afternoon book club might be a better option for teens. Also, think about how long your club will last each day. Teens usually prefer a one-hour commitment, while young children enjoy being engaged for a couple of hours. Once you’ve decided on timing, everything else will follow.

2. Theme
Themes give life and inspiration to your club. A book club is fine, but a gardening book club has more focus if you read books related to gardening and engage in some gardening activities together. The same is true of a kids’ club. Add focus by making it a music club. Older children can help teach younger ones how to make paper pianos or caterpillar play-dough balls on the music staff. Whatever title you choose, let your theme drive your club.

3. Stations
Stations keep everyone engaged. Choose at least three different locations in your yard to set up activities for your participants. If you have just a few guests, you can move from station to station together. Larger groups can split into teams and rotate stations. Let your theme inspire you. For example, if you are hosting a bird club, you might choose to have one station devoted to creating journals, another stocked with different kinds of bird-watching tools like binoculars, monoculars, and bird calls, and a third station for creating birdhouses or bird feeders that your guests can take home. Hint: plan how long you will spend at each station and have a signal so the group knows it’s time to move on.

4. Invitations
Sending out an email blast and then showing up with a handmade invitation will go far in helping your guests decide to join you. One summer we printed floral invitations, cut flowers from our garden, and hand delivered both for our summer garden club. People RSVP’d via email, phone, or in person. Again, let your theme help you decide what type of invitation you will send.

5. Leaders
Who is in charge? Adult supervision is important, but don’t be afraid to give your kids a role. Even young children can help lead. One year, during our five- and six-year-old music camp, my eight-year-old became the story director. He did a great job of reading the stories with expression and showing each page to the club members. At that same event, our twelve-year-old took the task of organizing and leading a water balloon game. He filled the balloons and got the garden hose ready before he led this wet and fun game.

6. Event Calendar
Create an event calendar and put it somewhere visible. This will foster a sense of anticipation for your family and keep everyone on track. Write in when invitations go out, when to make shopping trips for supplies, and so on. Make your calendar big so you can add details and reminders for the actual days of the event.

7. Organization
Even if organization is not your forte, these simple ideas will help your club days run smoothly. Gather and label bins and folders for each day. You can label them by the day of the week or the club session. For example, Monday-Friday or Session 1-Session 5. Once each bin and folder are filled, all you have to do is grab the bin for that day and set up your stations.

8. Promotion
So you’ve invited people, and they said yes! How can you ensure they don’t forget or lose interest? Texts leading up to the event day are a great idea. But make sure they are short and fun. A great example would be, “Looking forward to seeing you at our garden book club on (insert date and time). If you’d like to bring your favorite plant to share, we’d love to see it.”

You could also create a t-shirt or hat with a logo for your members to purchase beforehand. If you’d rather not charge for anything, you could suggest everyone wear a specific color or style of clothing. For example, “Please wear a blue or green shirt and a garden hat of your choice for our first day.”

9. Daily Schedule
The day before the event, gather your family and go over the schedule and set up anything that can be done beforehand. For example, we set up our indoor stations the day before and had our A-frame tents, blankets, and books ready by the door to put out on the lawn in the morning.

On the day of the event, give each leader a clipboard with the schedule and their name tag or t-shirt, and be sure each station is set up and ready to go for your guests. Be prepared to welcome guests and give them something to do while they are waiting for others to arrive. We used our music wall, sand discovery, and playdough stations for this. Then just go with the flow and enjoy your time.

10. Evaluation
Gather your “leaders” together after everyone is gone to celebrate victories and troubleshoot any difficulties. Be sure to enlist each station director to clean up and organize their station for the next day.

Joleen Steel is a writer, speaker, and entrepreneur. She is the co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Camping Stick Kids. You can download her backyard campout planning packet at

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"Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6).