I would argue that having a camper, or campers that you get along with better than some others is an inevitable part of being a camp counselor, along with homesickness and yet another squabble over the latest fad, including Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokémon. This is due to what happens in other social situations: sometimes different people gel better than others, and counseling is no different.
Being inevitable, there is nothing wrong with this; you can have a really good summer if a couple of kids in your bunk are on your wavelength. The issue only arises if this is to the detriment of the other campers. The best way to avoid this is probably to be aware of it. If you are conscious of favoritism, this means that you can take steps to avoid it. You could spend time concentrating on the other campers as well, for example. Or do a group activity where everyone can get involved equally.
The other side of this coin, I think is to realize that you can’t be all things to every child: you can’t have that amazing relationship that completely turns a child’s summer around with every child. Some children won’t connect with you as well as others. The thing to bear in mind, is that you can still have fun with them, and still be a part of their summer, even if you don’t feel you <i>are</i> their summer.
On the first day of camp, we always do an icebreaker with the kids in our bunk so they learn each other’s names and our names as well. Here’s what we do:
- First you have to get all the kids together in a circle, all at a table, etc.
- Then we (the counselors) introduce ourselves and our rank in the bunk (senior counselor, junior counselor, CIT, etc.). We then go around to each of the kids and have them tell us each of our names.
- Now we have each of the kids say their names.
- After each kid has said their name, we have each kid say everyone else’s names. If they get one wrong we have the kid whose name they had to say repeat their name. Then they continue saying the rest of the kids’ names.
- Once everyone knows everyone else’s names, we have each of the kids tell us their favorite activity at camp (the counselors do this too). If this is a camper’s first summer at camp, we ask them what their favorite thing to do is.
- If you really want to challenge your campers, you can repeat step 4, but this time have the campers say everyone else’s name and their favorite activity. Consider offering a prize to anyone who can get everyone’s names and favorite activities correct!
- Finally, we tell the kids to be sure to talk with everyone else in the bunk.
That’s the method we use during the first day of camp to get the kids to know each other a bit better.