Youth Organizations Struggle to Find Programs That Will Appeal to Teens

November 19, 2007 (PRLEAP.COM) Business News
YMCAs, city recreation departments, and camps are all looking for ways to increase their pre-teen and teen attendance. One way they are doing this is by offering programs that appeal to that age group.
Parents would rather have their middle school children involved with an after school program rather than riding their bike around town or playing video games at home. “Times have changed since I was a teen. I don’t remember there being any after school options other than sports and day care, and if you were in middle school you certainly did not want to be in day care. That was for little kids. Now youth organizations are taking an interest in pre-teens and I think it’s great,” says Curt Jackson, editor and creator of “It’s tough to find the right program that will appeal to the local teens. Most middle school kids would rather be home playing their Playstation or instant messaging their friends rather than doing crafts or watching Disney movies at an after school program.”

Recreation is considered by many to be an important aspect of a child’s life, but not all children are taking advantage of the opportunities in their area. School sports are as popular now as they ever were, but for those children who have interests other than sports there are other alternatives for after school programs. Chess and drama are very popular, and many youth organizations offer these classes.

Once kids reach middle school they are very vocal about what they want to do with their time, and parents are listening. “Programs have to appeal to the kids themselves. In middle school the kids are the ones telling the parents ‘I want to do this or that’. So the programs need to be unique and interesting,” says Curt. “Schools offer the traditional sports programs, but they don’t offer rugby, triathlon, or paintball programs. Schools may offer music, but they probably don’t offer a rock band program. Youth organizations should consider offering other unique programs, for example, Learn to DJ, Learn to Draw Manga, or Radio Theater.”

Summer camps are also struggling to keep their teen numbers up. According to the American Camp Association the number of day camps has increased 90 percent over the last 20 years. “It seems everyone’s running a day camp these days. There’s no question that you have to stand out of the pack to be noticed. Instead of offering a traditional camp of games and crafts, organizations who want to appeal to teens and pre-teens should offer unique camps,” suggests Curt. “Some examples would be to have a camp based on MTV’s Road Rules or CBS’s Amazing Race. At the very least, they should add unique activities to their traditional camps. Drum circles are a great example.”

With technology and interests changing as rapidly as they do, recreation programming for teens is not an exact science. Most people agree, however, that teen programs are needed now more than ever.

About Recreation Pros:

Curt Jackson started Recreation Pros to share his love for youth recreation programming. The site features creative program ideas for camps and after school programs, resource sites, a blog, and an event calendar. For more information visit