Picture of Start your own summer camp!
This instructable is the story of the creation of a summer camp called Camp Kaleidoscope, in Cambridge, MA. I created this in 2006 and ran until 2008. It is a program that focused on giving children the opportunity to choose what they did during the day -- even nothing -- and guiding them through creative art and science projects. Our projects varied from taking machines apart to making video games, and our aim was to provide children with opportunities that would ignite and continue to sustain their curiousity. 

The Parts and Crafts community and summer camp has since grown out of Camp Kaleidoscope, starting in 2009. If you are eager to learn more about how to start your own camp, please contact them at partsandcrafts@gmail.com !

Step 1: Overview: Logistics

Here are the key hurdles you need to clear in order to start a camp:

  • Figuring out what's going to happen at your camp
  • Finding a place to have the camp
  • Advertising
  • Licensing
  • Liability and medical insurance
  • Staffing (which is very related to the first step!)
  • Getting a simple business set-up

Let's proceed!
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LuisC94 months ago

Hey guys,

So me and my friends want to make a summer camp but we are not sure if we need licensing since we are only 15 years old. Can someone reply if you have and answer? It would be greatly appreciated. Thank you

nagle (author)  LuisC93 months ago


If you're doing something beyond just you and your friends and kids you already know, you'd need a license. If it's informal and it's just you and younger kids you know getting together for a few weeks then I think you can just work out that with the relevant families.

You should get in touch with your city hall to find the licensing rules, but I can 99% guarantee you'll need to find an 18+-year-old to sponsor your project. Why don't you check it out and check back in here as it develops?

Hello Nagle

I'm going to start a summer program. How do I come up with a name that evolves around children k-5. _______ summer program.
nagle (author)  Lextended 5 days ago

Hey :)

Well, what do you want the kids to do at your summer camp?

Sara in MA1 month ago


So cool to find this instructable written by you! My kids were at Camp K. early on and my son is at P&C this summer. So just a plug that the camps Nagle created were/are great and well received.

Any advice on promoting a new camp? I have a meetup that teaches women technology (front-end development) and I am considering creating a similar camp for girls summer 2016. I have sponsorship from two local high tech firms, one of which may be open to sponsoring the camp/providing a location.

Best, Sara

nagle (author)  Sara in MA5 days ago

Hi Sara!

That's cool that we get a chance to re-connect here.

I'm happy to brainstorm with you or think more about what this would look like. My email is mpnagle atsign gmail dot com. One thought is if you would want to do something on your own or partner with the Cambridge non-profit Science Club for Girls. Maybe check out their web site -- I could make an introduction if helpful.

Rabies21 month ago
Any thoughts about opening a camp kids stay at (sleep)? Specifically in regards to cost. Also what are the laws, for any camp, about running it on your own property? I'm from MA.
WendyW32 months ago
sbarker9223 months ago
Great article. A friend and i have the idea of starting our own inner city sports camp in Brooklyn nyc. We know that we will have access to use a church and we know itll be 8 weeks long, starting july 6th which gives us just under two months to get it off the ground. My question to you is do you think 2 months is enough time to completely create and launch the camp successfully? Was your experience worth it? Or are we in way over our heads... Thanks!
nagle (author)  sbarker9223 months ago

You can do it put your back into it!

Yes, totally possible. I launched Camp K. with less lead time. Finding kids will be tough. You may settle on a low cap like 10. Or trying to do weeks like first / last week of summer when camps often don't run. That will be your main concern, but it's totally doable, and you'll have something to reflect on in the fall for next time. I feel like it's worth getting the ball rolling. You should post here if you do keep going and keep us posted :)

hey guys, I am an Elementary Education Major in my final semester, and my friend and I are thinking of opening up a tiny summer camp in 6 weeks. We want a maximum of 10 children per week. I have a few questions I was hoping you guys could help me with!

1) can I run this camp out of my house? If not, I can rent a space, but would I have to have insurance for this?

2) do I need insurance for the camp? if so how much would it cost?

3) what type of documents do I need to have the parents sign in order to release liability for driving and such?

Please help!

nagle (author)  mariah.mctaggart3 months ago


that's great! i hope you make it happen!

your answers are going to be specific to your state and city. you should get in touch with someone at probably your city hall, and they will be able to answer these questions for you. there should be a safety office that does licensing for educational programs and specifically camps that you can talk to.

why don't you start there and write back as that evolves?

RoseH15 months ago

Summer can not get here soon enough! I've applied to work at a couple camps this summer, but I haven't heard back yet. It's something I always wanted to do though. If I enjoy it enough maybe I'll think about starting my own summer camp someday. I never really thought about that before.


emmae211 year ago
At my summer camp if we get in trouble they just tell your parents
scarrillo3 years ago
 Geez! You are making me get hyped up about summer already! I have 7 weeks left then final exams. 
jboy195 years ago
I would like all of your advice an information for starting a camp. I have the motivation and imagination as to starting a camp. Along with that motivation , i have heart, and i think that is a key element in teaching, and helping kids. From a young teacher, to a more wiser teacher, i am asking for your advice and help to make my dream come true. When you find the time, if you could contact me on my email at johnreynolds42aaron@yahoo.com, I would greatly appreciate it. thank you for your time, and i look forward to hearing from you.
bercht5 years ago
Although it is only pocket change, the fact of having to pay for the information that you are providing in order to help people, is somewhat disheartening. I was quite excited to find that there are people out there with positive ideas and plans to help kids to be able partake in and learn important life building skills that we all need to realize before we can lead a richer fuller more appreciative life. But none the less i do not have a credit card, nor do i want one, but i will not let this stand in my way. I would enjoy to hear from you (the organizer) as i have some questions i qould like to run past u, as i have a few very lucrative propositions to discuss. If you would be so kind as to get a hold of me at anislandkid85@gmail.com that would be great.
Thanx for your time!  
dawdou5 years ago
We would like all ideas for starting a camp for kids. Thank you. Doug and Dawn Stnrddn@yahoo.com
dawdou5 years ago
We need too talk. My wife and I are going to start a opportunities camp for kids and for others. I have a story to tell you about when I was 14 and what to start up a camp. Please contact me at stnrddn@yahoo.com or 503 391-4649 PO Box 1184 Aumsville,Or 97325 Thank you, Doug and Dawn Stenerodden
Juklop7 years ago
Can I use the same concept to start a cult? :D
Juklop ,you could but remember everything has a price and I'm quite sure you dont want to pay for that.
I thought this site was very helpful. However I have a question? What do you do for money during the rest of the year. How do you generate an income to support your living expenses during the year?
nagle (author)  westoverlynette6 years ago
I found that running a camp gives you a tremendous amount of reputation and social capital, making it possible to

  • run afterschool programs (I did some in hands-on science; some in creative math activities)
  • run classes for homeschoolers
  • tutor
and this how I supported myself for the 2 school years after the 1st and 2nd summers.

After the third summer (this past year,) I tried launching The Kaleidoscope Center -- a homeschooling center based off of the same principles. It got going (and is still going!) but I felt like it wasn't the right fit for me. I've taken the past 6 months, living off of the savings I have from camp to fix a major neck problem I'd had for 3 years (I wrote about it at my health blog at michaelnagle.org) and to start a community science center called sprout!

Of particular note there is that while after the first summer we just broke even (I made $2,500 over the summer), the second and third summers were both profitable enough to live for the remainder of the year, frugally (I made about $15 - 20k , closer to $15k, each summer.)
elbel867 years ago
It seems to be a very good instructable for a day care or something, but what was described here does not sound like a summer camp to me. Summercamp is outdoors, and involves actual camping (ya know, in tents). Still quite good, just not what i expected when i clicked the link.
elbel, if I understand correctly, I think this is designed more for a day camp than an overnight or "sleep-away" camp. A lot of kids go to camps where they are dropped of in the morning and picked up when their parents get out of work. So yeah, it is kind of like a really sweet daycare with a lot of fun organized activities and education mixed in. :-) Though you could do something like this with kids in dorms or cabins. There are sleep-away science camps at research facilities and stuff.
applestone6 years ago
public charity/private foundation
this page seems to outline info on public charity vs private foundation
Seriously! As an adult, I would consider a kind of camp like this an awesome holiday. I have no science background and am 52 years old with an artsy kind of history. Does ANYONE know of a camp like this where I could go? I'm not kidding. It would be a dream holiday!
leohead20126 years ago
This site was super helpful I had the idea of starting my own camp and needed some resources, thanks
emuman4evr7 years ago
Very nice instructable, If someone does make a camp I'd like to see a comment on it. What was your average kid turn out?
nagle (author)  emuman4evr7 years ago
Our first year was small: we had 5 - 10 kids each week. The camp has grown really rapidly -- in its second year we had 25 - 35 kids each week, and this year we're looking at roughly 60 kids each week.
liqueta12 nagle6 years ago
How is your summer camp going??
amacon7 years ago
All I can say is "wow!" This instructable has been invaluable. Starting a summer camp has been my dream for the past quarter century. Finding this on the internet tonight seems like kismet. I think it's high time I made my dream a reality. Thank you!
Have you gotten started with your summer camp??
Fantastic instructable! I love that don't hurt anybody sign :)
did you know that they are taking apart a CD drive that has invisible lasers that can be potentially harmful if power is supplied these invisible laser can sometimes blind if looked into directly(when power is supplied)!
I noticed that it would be OK if there is supervision to make sure power is not supplied and all power leads are taken away! sorry for causing any stress from what I said before!
daddy day camp lol. rated pg.
solo.card7 years ago
For someone who's going to be working at a summer camp very soon (5 days! Scary...) I find this very interesting!
That's really cool! I have plans to start a primary school (way) later in life, but starting a camp first would be a great idea. Thanks for the tips/instructions!
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