Overview of Kids Camp

Minitab, a global software provider, created a summer kids' camp to educate -- and entertain -- the children of employees, with the ultimate aim of increasing wellness and lowering healthcare costs.

This article accompanies Child's Play.

Monday, February 6, 2012
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Goals: To help keep our families healthy. Minitab wanted to reach out in a meaningful way to our most vulnerable dependents: kids. There is a business case in that we insure family members up to age 26. Developing healthy habits earlier in life could potentially affect our healthcare costs.

Objective: Target our dependents who are 5 to 12 years old with an on-site kids' camp that has a focus on teaching sustainable health and wellness practices. This is not a day care, but an opportunity to teach in a fun and memorable way changes in behavior that could lead to a healthier lifestyle.

Key Thoughts for Best Practices

* What is the primary objective? At Minitab, we looked at wellness as having several key components: physical activity, nutrition, self-care, prevention and stress reduction. We divided our activities into those five categories.

* Sustainability is key. You don't want a program that provides health opportunities for one week and has no carry over into the future.

Top Tips: We provided the food, snacks and lunch as a way of showing the kids what healthy eating can look like. We also asked that parents eat lunch with their kids. In that way, there was a take-home message that would extend to the whole family. Another tip: We continued with some of our programs even after camp was over, such as family swims, family circuit training and family nutrition programs.

* Make it fun! These are kids we're talking about. Kids don't have to like everything; some kids loved the yoga, some didn't. Some kids loved the golf, some didn't, but we wanted to expose the kids to new activities and new foods to see what they liked and would continue doing.

* Stay organized. We divided the kids into three age groups, so we had three different activities going every hour. We used big pieces of paper and sticky notes to show all the different activities for the different age groups. Sticky notes worked well, enabling us to move activities around and make easy visual changes.

* Use both your internal and your community resources. Chances are, you have a lot of talent at your company who can help out. I know we did. One of our employees, a volunteer firefighter, helped with a program called "Make Your Own First-Aid Kit." He also organized other first responders to come to Minitab and do a "day of safety."

We have another employee who is a Boy Scout leader; he created a map and compass program. We incorporated pedometers so the kids could see how many steps they took.

We used our community as well. Our local police department participated in a bike rodeo and safety program and a Penn State University nutrition major presented a kids' nutrition program.

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* Evaluate. We did a pre-test and post-test to find out how much the kids learned (hey, we are a statistics-based company). We also did parent evaluations on what the kids liked and didn't like, and any changes in behavior observed by the parents.

Top Three Pointers for Getting Corporate Buy-in

* Show a business case. Childhood obesity and poor nutrition are expensive to insure. Healthier dependents can affect the bottom line as well as reduce stress for your employees.

* Work to make your programs sustainable.

* Utilize the community. Ask outside instructors, local police and fire departments, universities and your healthcare provider (Highmark donated pedometers) to participate. This brings pride to your company and its leaders. Outreach to the community also demonstrates that you care about your employees and their families.

Publicizing and Organzing the Camp

Please click here to see:

* The initial poster publicizing the summer camp;

* A registration form;

* A letter to parents of campers; and

* An activities list.

Susanne Marder is the fitness wellness coordinator at Minitab, a State College, Pa.-based global software provider.

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