4 Camp Programming Tips to Meet the Needs of Today’s Kids

posted on Feb 05 2024

by Matt Dorter, Executive Director

Kids are constantly evolving, and the methods in which we - as Camp Programming pros - educate and engage campers should evolve too! That’s why after visiting 1000+ camps in nearly 15 years, we continue to adapt what your mainstages summer entertainment looks like!

Using our summer tour goals as inspiration, here are four camp programming tips that can help you form an inclusive community in 2024!

Emphasize Social Emotional Learning
It always comes down to the values! Make sure they are front and center in your camp’s language, and that specialists are aware of the universal terms your camp uses. Use orientation time to practice how to “drop the mic” and incorporate those values into the day-to-day elements of programming. At mainstages, we have a central theme every year and fully customize every camp show to include your unique value set, judging the success of our performances on that impact.

Focus on Safety and Security
The world is uneasy and it’s all-too-simple in a camp setting to take for granted the needs of comfort that kids require today. Be sure to emphasize consistency and convey expectations to your campers. To strengthen consistency, many camps have moved to a “Performance Series” with us, where we return throughout the summer with consistent performers. Now’s the time to revisit and reconsider safety and security policies, particularly in the scenario of welcoming visitors at your camp. At mainstages, your performers always go through the same detailed background screening as your camp staff.

Meet Shortened Attention Spans
Kids are more discerning than ever, and the culture of Tik-Tok has changed the nature by which children engage with entertainment. When programming, ask yourself how to modify your program in order to engage as many participants as possible. As a visiting company that only has a limited time with your community, we aim to keep the energy HIGH throughout your show. That is why we’ve modified games, challenges, and interactive elements to be more “ALL PLAY” in nature, allowing for more ensemble participation instead of relying on volunteers.

Be Culturally Inclusive
There has never been a “one-size-fits-all” camper. The most successful camps are committed to carving out an inclusive niche for all. Don’t be afraid to hire staff and specialists at your camp that represent different viewpoints and different experiences, with different backgrounds. Those unique personalities and perspectives form the very fabric of culture that resonates throughout your camp. That’s why we’re committed at mainstages to feature a performer base that represents diversity and culture.

Matt Dorter

posted on Feb 05 2024

by Matt Dorter

Matt is a seasoned camp and theater professional with over 20 years staff experience at both day and resident camps. Matt graduated New York University's Tisch School Of The Arts with degrees in Theater and Applied Education and served as Company Manager of the New Acting Company in New York City.

Matt has toured with the National Theater for Children and has written, directed, and produced over 150 shows for children. Matt is a consultant on theatrical services for summer camps and is a presenter for the American Camp Association on theatrical best practices.

Matt is proud to be a founding member of the mainstages team and is passionate about the goal of using creativity to inspire social action and strengthen theatrical arts in the youth movement.