Starting a kids' club

Copyright National Lilac Publishing, LLC

Thinking of starting a kids' club? Both Amy Rose and Barb Adams have started and facilitated many. We've merged our information, and here’s a template for how to start a club for kids.

Starting a kids’ club:

Perhaps you want to start a kids' folk art club, a kids' poetry writing club, or a kids' drawing club. Or maybe you’re wondering how to start a kids' club based on nature, such as one set up to visit a new natural area once a month, or to meet weekly for a backyard nature safari and to write and draw in a nature journal. Maybe you want to start a kids' book club, fishing club, kids' chess or knitting club.

A kids' club based on a foreign country such as France or Egypt could include learning to speak the language, cooking the foods, writing their language and making traditional costumes of the country's ancient citizens.

Starting a kids' club based on sports, such as a girls' softball club, might take kids to local softball and baseball games, write letters to top female softball players, and raise money to support women's Olympic softball, gather together to watch televised national tournaments, and read baseball and softball fiction together.

Perhaps your reason for searching information on starting a kids' club is for church or spiritual reasons, or something very, very casual such as a summer fort-building club. Whatever your reasons, here's an initial outline for starting a kids' club.

Starting a kids' club step one: Determine a solid theme. The whole idea and appeal of a club is that it revolves around a specified shared interest which acts as a kind of grounding rod. Programs that just allow free play are also important and have their place, but shouldn't be called "clubs." A real club offers a sense of belonging because of its theme that everyone adheres to. Whether the theme is nature exploration, an Egypt club, a kids' book club or a kids' sports club… determine the theme and stick with it.

Starting a kids' club step two: Make a name and club code logo. A club will start to come alive and take on a bonding energy of its own once it has a name. And what's a club without a special code that stands for that particular club? You can use an acronym of the club's name, or an image, or both. Royalty-free image sites that don't charge for use (you just can't sell the image as your own), are good places to start for inspiration.

Starting a kids' club step three: Determine if and how the club will be funded. There are sometimes things that need to be funded for clubs: gas money to take kids to events, club T-shirts, materials for art or outdoor cooking. Kids feel more ownership for a club if it isn't one more thing their ATM-machine parents provide for them. Shall members earn their own money and pay membership dues? Shall the club hold a once a year bake sale? Or, can donations by each member's family simply cover any expenses?

For example, a kids' book club where each member trades houses for holding the meeting would mean each member purchases his or her own books, and has to provide the snacks and drinks, but no real money is needed beyond that. But, if a field trip is taken based on the topic of each book once it’s finished, gas money and event expenses may be needed.

Starting a kids' club step four: Create something tangible with the name and logo. Make the club even more real with a few objects that bear the club's name and logo. For example, go to a site such as Zazzle that allows you to upload images for single purchase caps, T-shirts, and mugs. Other examples: make hand-made badges that are worn during meetings, or take the club logo to a copy service that will print it on material that allows it to be transferred onto cloth, and transfer it yourself to T-shirts or aprons for cooking or art clubs, or canvas book bags for book clubs, or backpacks for nature clubs.

Starting a kids' club step five: Start with small numbers. Six to eight kids is a good number to start. The nature of your club could be that you eventually want something larger, but you'll work out many kinks you don't yet know you have if you start smaller and grow gradually. Less than six can work, also, but less than four means there may only be two or three if someone can't show up.

Starting a kids' club step six: Do a service. If it's a short-term club, such as a summer nature club or a winter sports club, plan at least one related service-oriented activity. If it's an ongoing club, plan at least three service oriented activities a year. For example, a summer nature club can raise money at a bake sale to adopt a segment of the rainforest or clean up a local trail. An ongoing cooking club can volunteer at a soup kitchen or collect non-perishables for a food bank. Although some clubs are meant solely for doing service, when you start a kids' club, it may only be for a shared interest such as a hobby, but a few related services build self-esteem, self-empowerment, and give kids a bigger picture understanding of the club's area of interest.

Starting a kids' club step seven: Stick to the theme 75% of the time. Whether the theme is kids' gardening or knitting for good causes, or experience real life farming activities, it's too easy to go off target with a club if no one bothers to make sure the group sticks to the theme. Yet, too much control makes the club unpleasant. As a general rule, plan your club gatherings around adhering to the theme at least 75% of the time, and assess the success of your club after each gathering to see how close it comes to this, then adjust the next time if necessary. For example, for a one hour Egypt club where kids will learn to write Egyptian heliographs, expect about 15 minutes (25%) of that hour to give way to unrelated chatter, spontaneous games, and questions about other subjects. Adhering to the theme is what keeps the kids’ club strong and ongoing.

Too much "freedom" to "do whatever you want" eventually gives way to a club's dissipation. If certain kids lose interest in the club's theme, allow them to quit the club and find new members who are interested. I love the story of the man who came to rescue an unruly boys’ scout club. There were 60 out-of-control kids. An announcement was made that during the next meeting, they were going to learn to tie knots… period. Only 12 showed up. But they really enjoyed it, and as time went on, word-of-mouth attracted others with the same interest.

Starting a kids' club step eight: Take turns leading. Kids' clubs of the past elected leaders such as the president, secretary, treasurer, and event planner. Consider a new approach and have kids take turns at these roles. Even though some kids will already have more leadership skills developed than others, childhood is for discovering what you like and what you don't like and for trying on different roles.

The president officially calls the meeting or gathering to order and makes sure members stick to the theme and general rules. The treasurer keeps track of any dues, fundraising money earned or donated and what it was spent on. The secretary takes notes when necessary, the event planner works with an adult to make sure members know the prices of tickets they may need to buy, the dates and times of events they plan to attend, etc. An event planner isn't needed, of course, if the nature of your kids' club is to have the club members take turns holding the meetings in their own homes and there won't be any outside field trips.

Starting a kids' club step nine: Start with general rules, then evolve. Include how often the kids' club meets, how long it lasts, how to handle members who take the club meetings off course, if and when guests can come to meetings, if and when new members can join, ages or other guidelines for members. Watch out for parents seeking free babysitting who want to just drop their uninterested kids off to the meeting, along with all their siblings and 19 cousins.

After each meeting, allow members to write concerns on a folded piece of paper and put them in an envelope taken care of by an adult. Every one to three months, have the adult type up any concerns without revealing who voiced them, and have the secretary read the concerns to the club members, and allow the current president to reside over ideas on how to solve the issues. Once decided on, have the secretary add these new by-laws to the general rules.

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