I just came back from the YMCA Campfire Conference in Black Mountain and went to a workshop called “Camp For All” lead by Eli Cochran from Camp Ernst. One of the key takeaways I saw was something simple called a GigaTent Portable Pop Up Changing room. In any youth program, as you look to create more safe and inclusive spaces, this is an easy win. These portable pop ups are only $18.69 on Amazon. Kids need privacy, and the more spaces you can have for them to change clothes, the safer your program becomes. This also speeds up your changing time too! Staff will appreciate the efficiency. One of the participants in the room said he had great experience with this. He partnered with his local Bass Pro Shops, and they donated several of these to his camp. This is a great idea! Work closely with your local community, and see who would be willing to help make your programs even more safe and inclusive.
Three of my other favorite things to help build a safe and inclusive environment are Headphones for Assembly, Fidgets, and Picture Schedules. These are all simple and cheap additions you can add to your program.
1.Headphones for Assembly (Large Group Gathering) – When your camp and staff all come together, it can be very loud and overwhelming. Buy some headphones and have available for the kids that need it. You can encourage parents to bring them as well, but sometimes it is easiest for them to grab them right at camp especially during busy transition times from activity to assembly. These headphones are under $10, and are called Dr. Meter.
2. Fidgets – Kids have trouble keeping their hands to themselves. Sometimes new, crowded, or loud places can give kids anxiety or make them nervous. A great way to help is to have fidgets and a quiet space at your program for them. This is a good one that is inexpensive from Fabquality.
3. Picture Schedules – Sometimes moving from space to space can be overwhelming and make the child feel uneasy. A picture schedule is something that you can do to show the child what is next. Having the visual and saying this more than once helps ease that anxiety and nervousness. Find out from the child what their favorite thing is. If the like Pokemon, use their favorite character on the schedule. For example, they can move their Pikachu from the bathroom to the gym or gym to the field. This is a sample picture schedule to give you an idea off of Etsy. You can make your own as well!
There are many ideas to help with creating safe and inclusive environments. These are just a few that I enjoy using and have been effective. Always partner with the parent, talk to the teacher, and anyone else that can be helpful. You are not alone, and need their help. See if you have local community partners that can help guide you and find out how to connect the parent to that resource.
Check out the resource zone on my website for more fun ideas. I will be highlighting some more YMCA Campfire Conference Ideas in the next few posts. I want to share these awesome things with you!