Some General Camp Counselor Tips

Here are a couple tips I came up with. Just keep in mind that I worked with 7-year-old boys at a day camp so these may not apply to everyone.

  • Participation is key. The more you participate, the friendlier you become with your kids. Even if it means running around a playground, do it. If they ask you to join in, you should join in. Don’t think about how stupid you’ll look. Do it for the kids, and not for yourself.
  • If you see a kid’s really bad at an activity, encourage them. Don’t make fun of them. I know it may be tempting to do, but don’t do it. Because if you do, you may have a crying kid on your hands, and that’s never fun to deal with.
  • A good rule of thumb is to spend at least 5 minutes with each kid every day. Obviously you’ll be spending more, but be sure you get at least that much time in.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you’re in a difficult situation, don’t be afraid to ask your senior counselor for advice. They may get annoyed but it’ll benefit both of you. You’ll learn something new and they’ll learn what areas of camp counseling you need to improve on.
  • A very important tip is to make sacrifices, no matter how small. What I mean is, for example, let’s say it’s lunch. There’s one pizza bagel left at your table before you have to go up to get more. You grab it and one of your kids starts whining and says he/she wants it. Give it to him/her. It’s little things like this that will make your kids like you more. If you decide not to give it to him/her, that kid will remember and they’ll hold a grudge (silent treatment, guilt, etc.).
  • If one of your kids is crying or is having a bad day, talk with them. Make them feel better. If the kid is crying because he/she got out in a game or something like that, remind them that it’s just a game and that there will always be another game. Obviously if the kid is crying because he/she is hurt, take them to the nurse. If the kid is having a bad day and isn’t enthusiastic or happy, talk with him/her. Tell them how much fun you’ll be having and that when you’re at camp you’re supposed to have fun and be happy. Make sure your kids are having a good time, all the time.
  • Have patience! These kids aren’t stupid. They know that if they want something, all they have to do is keep annoying you until they get it. Most of the time, the first time you tell a kid to do something, odds are they won’t do it. Don’t get mad at them though. Remember that they’re a lot younger than you. Ask them again.
  • Don’t raise your voice. Only do this in an emergency. This may scare your campers, or if you do this a lot they may just ignore it.
  • Campers hear everything, and I mean everything. So if you want to tell your friend something, first think about if you want a little kid to hear it. The bad part about kids hearing what you say is that they never remember it accurately. They’ll tell their parents and often exaggerate what you said (which usually has a negative effect) .
  • Find a positive trait for each of your campers, and emphasize on that. Don’t emphasize on the negative. If one of your campers is good at kickball, every time you head to kickball, tell that camper how excited you are to see him/her kick the ball really far or run the bases really fast. And be sure to tell the other campers that he/she is good at kickball so everyone will want him/her on their team. This will make that camper feel wanted and part of the group. This works especially well with shy/quiet campers.
  • Leave all negativity at home! If you come in to camp with a bad mood, this will hurt your campers’ days. Even if you had a horrible night, come in with a smile. If you feel you might feel below par, talk to your division head or a superior prior to camp.
  • Take breaks! If your camp offers you breaks, use them. Otherwise you may get worn out.
  • If you notice two campers conflict often, don’t wait until a fist fight breaks out to do something about it. As soon as you notice some questionable behavior, work it out with the campers as well as your superiors. The sooner you work things out, the easier your job will be.
  • Respect your campers and they’ll respect you. They’ll behave better if you respect them. Just because you’re in charge doesn’t mean you can yell at them and boss them around. If a camper doesn’t want to participate in an activity, don’t force them. Instead, respect their feelings and talk it out. Ask them why they don’t want to participate. Be fair. Some other easy examples of respect include: smiling, greeting your campers when they first see you in the morning, treating everyone fairly, and giving them appropriate pats and touches (such as a pat on the back, or placing your hands on their shoulders when talking to them).
  • Show the kids you have fun with them! Don’t sit out of every activity. Participate with them. Let your inner kid come loose in camp (to an extent). This will show the campers that you really care about them, and this will make them feel better.
  • Let your campers know when they do something good. If a camper doesn’t want to participate in an activity but decides to anyway, tell them when the activity is over that they did really well.
  • Teach your campers good behavior. An good example of this was what our cooking instructor did this past summer. She’d tell the kids that before we could make anything or eat anything that everyone had to wash their hands. She’d tell them to put soap on their hands and scrub while singing Happy Birthday to themselves. Then rinse and dry. When they came back to the table, they’d have to keep their hands in the air and couldn’t touch any parts of their bodies.

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