5 Tips for Developing Engaging Children's Programs

<span id="hs_cos_wrapper_name" class="hs_cos_wrapper hs_cos_wrapper_meta_field hs_cos_wrapper_type_text" style="" data-hs-cos-general-type="meta_field" data-hs-cos-type="text" >5 Tips for Developing Engaging Children's Programs</span>

From recreational activities to school groups, children’s programs across various settings play an important role in kids’ cognitive development. Whether you lead a summer camp, church group, or school club, your program has the power to encourage critical thinking, spur creativity, and teach practical life skills. But first, you have to capture and hold the attention of the kids in your group.


In this guide, we’ll break down the five most effective steps you can take to develop an engaging children’s program. Let’s get started!


1. Understand Your Audience

Audiences of all ages are more likely to pay attention when your message resonates with them, which is why your program must target children’s specific interests and learning styles. For example, a children’s church should use an age-appropriate curriculum—learning opportunities for fifth graders shouldn’t be the same as those offered to preschoolers.


When getting to know your audience better, consider the following qualities:

  • Age
  • Developmental stage
  • Interests and hobbies
  • Learning styles
  • Family and community context
  • Prior knowledge and skills

You can gather most of this information from your program’s registration forms, or you may get to know the kids in your group through various other opportunities over time. A child who returns to your summer camp each year, for instance, will become well-known by your staff and volunteers. Over time, you’ll gain a better understanding of your audience’s interests and what would engage them most.


2. Incorporate Interactive Activities

For decades, studies have shown that hands-on learning experiences positively influence students’ level of interest in a subject. Kinesthetic, or active, learning engages multiple senses, which reinforces the activity’s ideas and concepts and provides a more memorable experience. Not to mention, interactive activities are just more fun!


Get kids excited by incorporating interactive activities in your program, such as:

  • Games, including team challenges or obstacle courses that reinforce the theme of the children’s program
  • Arts and crafts like drawing, origami, or other creative crafts relevant to the program’s focus
  • Group projects, such as collaborative art, building projects, or presentations
  • Outdoor activities like nature walks or environmental projects

As a plus, these activities can make your program more engaging for staff and volunteers, too! After all, these individuals likely want to help kids have the best experience possible. With fun interactive activities, you’ll easily retain team members with a fulfilling program experience.


3. Use Storytelling Techniques

Whereas hands-on learning activities engage kids’ intellects, storytelling techniques stimulate their imaginations. Compelling plots and intriguing characters naturally capture kids’ attention, making them more engaged and fostering a sense of wonder.


As you incorporate storytelling into your program, be sure to:

  • Use relatable characters
  • Incorporate visual aids
  • Offer time for discussion and reflection

When paired with interactive activities, storytelling can bring lessons to life and help you hold kids’ engagement throughout the entire duration of your program. For example, Wonder Ink’s guide to biblical curriculum recommends presenting the Bible as a story and using games, music, and other materials to reinforce its lessons.


4. Foster a Sense of Community

The key to encouraging kids to engage with your program is making them feel welcomed and included. Children who feel valued by your team will be motivated to participate and take an active part in your program.


To facilitate connections between your program’s children, implement the following ideas:

  • Ice-breaker activities: Help kids get to know each other and feel more comfortable by organizing ice-breaker activities. You might also implement a buddy system, pairing kids together to help them form initial relationships. 
  • Team-building exercises: Team-based challenges, like relay races or scavenger hunts, build camaraderie and encourage kids to work together. 
  • Shared traditions: Regularly established group routines, such as shared meals or a nightly campfire, help the kids in your program feel like they belong to a strong community.

Also, remember to keep an open line of communication among your program’s staff, volunteers, and participants. This is an important element of program management because it dictates how you connect with kids and their parents, setting the tone for your program as a whole.


5. Continuously Evaluate and Improve

Even if you plan your children’s program with the most engaging ideas in mind, there’s room for improvement in any approach. As you learn more about the kids in your program and your most engaging strategies, you’ll be equipped to improve your approach. 

To evaluate and improve your program, take the following steps:

  • Take inventory: Take a look at all the tools, activities, and strategies used in your program and determine whether they were the best choices. For example, evaluate your choice of summer Bible school curriculum or camp management software to consider how these program-specific tools benefit your program and what features you might need in the future.
  • Check-in regularly: Check in with kids to see how they’re doing throughout the program. You might ask about their feelings concerning the day’s activities or what could be changed to help them feel more interested in the program. Also, check in with staff and volunteers to gather their input and plan any necessary adjustments.
  • Gather feedback: Gauge the perspectives of your program’s staff, volunteers, kids, and their parents by gathering feedback through surveys. Tailor the surveys according to age and involvement. For example, you might send a detailed questionnaire to parents and conduct a verbal survey for younger kids who can’t read yet. Also, vary the types of questions you ask to receive a variety of answers. MemberClicks’s post-event survey guide recommends including a mix of open-ended, yes/no, and multiple-choice questions. 

Organize the information you gather using digital platforms dedicated to the type of program you run. For example, school club management software might offer event and member management tools while camp management software can handle registration and digital waivers. Each of these solutions addresses the specific requirements of their respective program types. This way, you can apply the information you gather to improve your program.

No matter the type of children’s program you run, engagement is the key to leaving a lasting impact on the kids you reach. When you effectively capture and hold kids’ attention, you’ll not only engage the kids in your program but also fulfill your program’s mission overall.