source: | 2000 Games, Devotions, Themes, Ideas and more for Youth Work
only for private using

Night time quiet on a holiday camp

Anyone who has been involved with children and youths on a holiday camp can tell a few stories about this. Quiet after lights out is always a subject and can really stress the leaders out.

General considerations

Sleep is important!

It can – but it doesn’t have to!

Night time quiet / Bild Nr. 35106574
Night time quiet | ©: VRD - Fotolia

Sleep is important! Without enough sleep, the kids or young people will become ratty after 2-3 days, which usually has the consequence that they can no longer be bothered to take part in the program. This also affects the other participants who are slightly livelier and general apathy can break out. It can also lead to the kids being more susceptible to becoming ill or feeling ill and might even become homesick.

Sleep is important! For staff too!

Sleep is important for members of staff too. Without sufficient sleep, the members of staff cannot really perform their daily duties correctly. Apart from the time and desire to prepare and accomplish their program points correctly, they must also complete the control duties and adhere to their welfare obligations. Youth leaders who have not had enough sleep miss out on half of what is going on and can annoy other members of staff or the camp leader, because this has a negative effect on the whole camp (program and participants).

After the camp is before the camp!

Think about the period after the camp. If the parents get tired and ratty kids back at home, if the kids have to go back to school the next day and if their attentiveness in school lessons is affected, the parents might decide against sending their children on the next camp.

What should we bear in mind?

  • Age

    Younger children or youths need more sleep than older teenagers and adults. Therefore the rules should be dependent upon age.

  • Size of the group

    Larger camps make more noise than a smaller group. Therefore the rules should also be dependent upon the size of the group.

  • Camp location

    The conditions in the location influence the need for rules. If the camp takes place in a house (e.g. youth hostel, home), on a camp site (with other camp site users), or if the camp site is in the pampa, you will need different rules.

  • Social competence

    The following also relates to the need for rules: Where do my own personal limits lie? I must learn to take responsibility for myself, to take responsibility for others, to learn about sole responsibility and learn to consider others. We do, of course, want the children and teenagers to learn about social behaviour and to learn about responsibility for themselves and for others. The subject „night time quiet“ is also a practical learning experience.

Possible rules and implementing the rules

  • Those who want to go to sleep must have the possibility to do this. This means that at the official end of the day’s program, a “lights out” should be agreed. This might always be from 22.30 onwards, for example.

  • All others who do not/cannot sleep are allowed to stay awake but must behave in a quiet manner so that the others are not disturbed (easier said than done…). This group should also have a specific time when they should go to sleep. For example, 1.00 a.m. is complete silence.

  • Depending on the location, it might be the case that the ones who want to stay awake want to gather around the camp fire or in a reaction room, reaction tent – this should be as far away as possible from the children who want to sleep, so that they are not disturbed by noise or conversations. The same thing counts for members of staff. I always handle it by wishing everyone good night at a certain point, this is the absolute end for everyone (accept for a night watch if required).

  • It is recommended that the camp or room minder spends the end of the day with the kids in the room/tent. This can be a reflection of the day, an (exciting) goodnight story or a quiet card game. This has the positive effect that the tent or room minder gets to know the kids better and encourages the relationship between minder and participants.

The tone makes the music

You might sometimes think that rules and bans are there to be broken. It can even be fun for the kids to try and annoy the staff or the night watch, or they might make a challenge of sneaking past the night watch and into the girls/boys tent. You might want to accept such games and activities, but you do not need to be surprised when the members of staff do not get any sleep – just as little as the children, apart from any other problems which might arise.

For this reason I personally suggest this (seemingly) relaxed solution; those you want to sleep, can sleep and the others who want stay awake can do so in the reaction tent/room or around the camp fire. In doing this, you have a much better overall view of the group and the kids have the possibility to make their own decision when they want to go to bed and you have a better argument when it comes to the point which is absolute finale. I find it important to explain to the kids that there are others who want to sleep and that it is not socially acceptable to stop them doing so. You should also show the kids that if they do not get sufficient sleep for 2-3 nights on the trot, the camp will not be much fun. They will be too tired to take part in the program and they will hang around like a sloth. Then they will go home and say that “the camp was really boring". If you manage to get this through to the kids, they will go to bed after 1-2 requests, especially if they have had the option of staying awake for a while beforehand. I especially look out for the kids who are about to fall over with tiredness and ask "don’t you think you should be going to bed soon?" However I always let the participants decide – they have already noticed (simply by being asked) that I think that it is a better idea that they go to bed. They usually say: "No, I am top fit!" "OK, then stay awake for a while!" They mostly slip off silently to bed after around 10-20 minutes.


It will not always run smoothly and it is possible that you have to put your foot down, threaten consequences and be prepared to enforce them.

  • Putting your foot down

    Putting your foot down will be necessary at some point. The authority of the relative person is the deciding factor. Members of staff with many years of experience and older leaders will find this easier. The younger and very young leaders are sure to find it more difficult.

    However, if you accepted any the kids and if they think a lot about you because you are friendly and ready to help, because you are dedicated to the kids and do something with them, if you talk with them and invest time in them etc., then I think that the kids will know where to draw the line. Leaders who are not so accepted, those who are only leaders to “point out the kid’s mistakes” and those who do not stick to the rules themselves or those who see themselves as one of the kids are not taken so seriously by the kids because they feel these things (they might do something out of fear of the consequences but not out of respect or consideration of the person). Every pushed through, authoritative word is also a piece of „demolition“ in the camp community and burdens the peace in the camp.

  • Taking out disturbers of the peace („isolation“)

    On a camp, it can happen that I let (older) disturbers of the peace sleep under the stars – even if it is raining. (Well I might give them a blanket...) However even isolation in a tent alone (alone in a room), or in the stores tent can be helpful. Obviously you should keep an extra eye out for these kids and check on them 1-2 times in the night to see if they are OK.
    I wouldn’t put the kids in the camp leader’s room/ tent. They might enjoy and try even harder to finally be allowed back into the leader’s room.

  • Penalty service!

    Another possibility is to threaten the kids with work: cleaning shoes, kitchen work, cleaning the toilets etc.

  • Staff discussions

    You must have a serious word with any members of staff who do not believe that they have to stick to the night time quiet rules and hinder other people’s sleep with their noise. If members of staff spend the whole night playing cards and then just hand around during the day, it is better if you send them home. You can, of course, show members of staff that their behaviour is not acceptable, to threaten them with consequences and to ask them to take responsibility. If none of these measures work, it is better for all involved, that these members if staff go home.


Even after 30 years of camp/ youth work, I cannot give you a secret recipe. All solutions must be thought of according to the individual situations involved. I do of course, try to see things relaxed and try to convince and give others their freedom, but I have the whole thing in view and consider that is best for the individuals but also the for the group. In every group, it is important to consider others and to learn to have consideration for others.

[ © | 2000 Games and Ideas for Youth Work ] - 2000 Games and Ideas for Youth Work
picture youth work: leadership, training and know how for youth workers picture youth work: leadership, training and know how for youth workers picture youth work: leadership, training and know how for youth workers picture youth work: leadership, training and know how for youth workers picture youth work: leadership, training and know how for youth workers picture youth work: leadership, training and know how for youth workers