Answering FAQ's About Offering Summer Camps As An Indoor Playground Owner

After publishing my Profitable Play Podcast episodes about designing and executing summer camps, I got a lot of questions about offering summer camps as an indoor playground in general and the legalities of it– so I wanted to take some time here to answer some of the most-asked questions.

(And P.S. if you’d prefer to listen instead of read, all of these questions are also answered in a FAQ podcast episode on my Profitable Play podcast here!)

I also have an article here about how to design a profitable and enjoyable summer camp program as well as an article here about promoting and marketing your summer camps and drop off programs for maximum success if you'd like some more foundational information before diving into some frequent questions I get from indoor playground owners!

If you have any additional questions or need anything clarified, please feel free to send me a DM on instagram- I’d love to hear from you.


1) Do I need a daycare license to operate summer camps or an after school program?

This is going to be completely dependent on your state and county’s rules and regulations, which we will talk about as part of the next question, but chances are– NO. You typically will not need any additional licenses to operate a legal summer camp or short-term drop-off care program.


2) How do I know my local laws about offering a drop-off program?

I would highly recommend that your FIRST step in researching your local laws and regulations around drop-off care be to call your local health department. And by local, I mean your COUNTY health department (not State) if you are in the United States.

They will be able to provide you more direction around what exactly you are able to offer in terms of length of care (example: no more than 3 hours per day per child), number of children, any adult to child ratio regulations, and any restrictions on age or toilet training status.

They will also be able to provide you with anything your actual space will need to include in order to offer drop-off care (certain signage, sink and bathroom requirements, etc). Your local health department will also mention if your staff is required to have background checks or any special certifications like CPR training.

In addition to your local health department, there are two more people I would ensure I spoke to before advertising a summer camp program at my indoor playground business. 

First, I could consult my business lawyer to help create a new waiver specifically for drop-off care.

I provide a template of our drop-off waiver for my members, but you will likely need to include additional fields you wouldn’t need to for normal open play– such as any allergy or applicable health information, emergency contact information, and any additional rules or policies caregivers may need to know or agree to before leaving their child in your care.

Next, I would clear a drop-off program with my business liability insurance company to ensure I was completely covered (in terms of premium amounts and coverage type) in the event of an emergency or injury at our summer camp program.


3) How do I handle bathroom breaks and diaper changes?

This is another thing that will likely be dictated by your local health department– so be sure to check with them.

We were technically able to accept children within any age range within our time limit (at the time it was 5 hours of care per child per day at most), but after the first season we made a business decision that children needed to be fully potty trained and independent in the bathroom if they were going to attend camp.

We found it was too difficult for ONE camp leader and ONE camp assistant to be occupied in the bathroom so much assisting children or changing diapers. To comfortably and safely accept children who needed this assistance, we would have needed 3-4 staff members. 

This additional labor cost would have led us to need to increase our prices to an unrealistic level for what people were willing to pay in our area. 

We did still require parents to send in an extra change of clothes with their child, just in case of accidents or spills.


4) How can I keep my open play members happy and continue offering open play while ALSO operating summer camps?

This will be dependent on your space.  For us, we were not safely or comfortably able to offer drop-off care during open play because we did not have a separate classroom. 

We did try offering the two services concurrently, but it was too overwhelming for staff and it made parents more uneasy than if we were closed. It also sent an unclear message to open-play parents, some of whom saw children being supervised and assumed it was an included service for all– which led to them becoming distracted and not monitoring their children properly.

In order to retain our unlimited open play members AND still safely offer summer camps, we decided to offer open play from 9am to 1pm and then summer camp from 1pm to 4pm. Because we primarily served children under the age of 4 during open play, afternoons were already very slow due to nap schedules. 

However, since our camps were more geared towards children 4 and over, which I talk more about here, the afternoon was the perfect time for them to get out of the house or inside from the hot summer sun. This allowed us to easily serve both groups of customers. 

We did not find we needed any turnaround time between open play and camps, since our staff found it easy enough to maintain a clean play area and set up any needed camp activities ahead of time at the end of their shift. Since no new customers typically came in within an hour of closing, this freed them up away from the check-in counter to complete these tasks while open play was still occurring.


5) Should I offer 5-day camp packages or individual days?

This is just my opinion, but we found it much easier to sell 5-day camp passes instead of individual days. This goes along with my overall principle of focusing keenly on BIG TICKET revenue streams– in this case, a pack of 5 camp passes.

If you are able to accept 12 drop-off campers per day, by selling packs of 5 consecutive days– you are only required to make 12 sales per week of camp. If you allow individual passes to be sold, you will now be tasked with making 60 separate sales– which you will find to be as difficult as it sounds.

By requiring a purchase of a 5-pack of camp days (5 consecutive weekdays) you are attracting customers who trust you and respect your space– and know their child will enjoy the type of camps you are offering since they are making a larger investment. 

Plus, by requiring a 5-day commitment, you are able to offer a better, more enriching experience because the camp leader has a longer time with the children. Drop-in summer camps will more resemble (and be used as) a babysitting service– and it’s not likely the camp counselor or other children will have enough time to form a decorum or relationship– thus resulting in little positive impact from the experience for the children attending. 

The only exception for us would be if we had a spot or two in a camp week that did not end up being filled for whatever reason. In that scenario, we would allow people to book individual days (at a higher per diem rate) as a camp trial, which might lead to them booking a full week that season or next.


6) What if parents are late picking their child up from camp?

We included in our camp waiver which I share with my Play Cafe Academy students that parents will be charged a fee (typically between $5 and $20) per minute they are late to pick their child up. We kept a credit card on file should we need to invoke any of these additional charges.

This acted well as a deterrent, but we also understood that things CAN happen. We charged these fees on a case-by-case basis.

If parents are exceptionally late, we call them, then their emergency contact. We were always able to get a hold of someone within a few tries. If we were UN-able to, our staff was instructed to call Child Protective Services, though it never resorted to that.


7) What if there is an emergency at camp?

I talk more about preparing for an emergency here, but typically, you would treat an emergency during drop-off care just as you would during open play hours.

For a minor injury or emergency we would call the parents/ emergency contact and fill out and document an incident report. For anything major, parents had already given us permission (per our drop-off waiver) to call the police or emergency services and accept an ambulance ride for the child on behalf of their legal guardian. 

If you go through the proper steps I recommended and clear your summer camp program and procedures with your lawyer and insurance provider, you should not be exposed to any additional liability unless it was due to staff error or neglect (but more about that here).


8) What if I’m too nervous to have children dropped off at my indoor playground or play cafe business?

That’s OK! Sometimes offering drop-off care or summer camps as a revenue stream is not worth the stress, energy, and mental toll. 

If you are really set on offering a camp service but feel unease, and you are located in a plaza or very close to a local restaurant or coffee shop, you can contact the owner and ask if they’d like to form a partnership in which parents stay there while their children are in your care. While this may not be an ideal situation for parents, it ensures they will be nearby should their child need a diaper change or has any issues.

Alright I hope this cleared up any questions you may have had, but again, my instagram is linked in the show notes should you have any additional questions.


And if you’d like to join Play Cafe Academy and unlock a free MONTH inside my group coaching and resource membership Play Maker Society, just click here or below! We would love to help you create a profitable and enjoyable summer camp program for your indoor playground or play cafe business!


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