So camp is slowly creeping closer and closer. For some, you may already be in the States living the dream and eating far too many chocolate chip pancakes and bottomless soda. For some of you, you’ve just finished packing your bag and making sure you have everything you need. Maybe taking a few things out and adding in a few extra treats. For the rest of us, we are on the very last countdown before our American adventure begins. Squeezing in those last minute shopping trips and making sure you see all of your loved ones before departing.
And when the time finally comes, and you get to the States, you are bombarded with new information, a new lifestyle, brand new friendships and more food then you could ever imagine. And this is just the start of your journey. You think you are getting used to everything and got camp down to a tee….and then the kids arrive. And it’s like getting used to everything all over again. From learning about 500 new names, making your bed and bunk feel like home, to chanting at the top of your voice every meal time. But one of the hardest things to do at camp is get to know your campers. Know what they love doing, knowing what makes them angry, knowing how to put a smile on their face, and hearing about the incredible adventures they have experienced at the end of each day. And connecting with each of your children is one of the most important things. (You can get used to calling them ‘your children’ – you are spending every day with them for the next 9 weeks)
The kids you will become closet too is the kids you live with in your bunk. For the majority of you out there, you will be in a bunk with a few other counselors and about 10-12 campers. Making sure these campers are happy and feel safe at all times is what makes camp so enjoyable. But you first have to make that connection with them and learn about them. So here are just a few ways you can do that. They are all so simple…
Quick games, that don’t take a lot of time or effort, are often the most simple. Get your campers in a circle on the floor on your bunk or the area surrounding your bunk. You then go round the circle and everything has to say their name, followed with an action. You then go round the circle and have to repeat everyone name and action. If you complete the circle you can start to add more words, actions, facts etc. This game can go on for as long as you like. The sillier the better. Rose and Thorn This activity is fantastic to do at the end of each day. So much happens in one day at camp and sometimes we lose track of the good and bad things. The point of having a rose (good thing) and thorn (bad thing) for everyday is all about reflection. Everyone in your bunk or group will go round and say what their high and low point of the day was. No one is allowed to mock or laugh during this time. But instead it is a time to celebrate the good things in life and acknowledge the not so good things. It is also a great way to learn some valuable life lessons. Remember – they are kids. They still have things to learn in life and it is our job to help them out.
The Compliment Game
Okay – so the name of this game isn’t the catchiest thing ever but it was one of the most effective things I done at camp. This game is also great if you are having problems in your bunk. Maybe someone in your bunk is feeling left out, or feeling homesick, or maybe one of your campers isn’t being very nice to another camper. If this does happen, then use this exercise. Each camper in the room, and yourself has to go round the room and write 1 sticky note for every person in the room. This needs to be some form of compliments, personal memory, funny story. Once they have written it down they stick it onto the persons back and once everyone is done, you sit down and read all of the lovely things we have to say about each other.
One thing you certainly have plenty of while at camp is TIME! You spend every day with these campers and counselors and you go through an awful lot of adventures and emotions with them. And sometimes, during rest hour, or before its bed time, or during meal time, just sit down and chat to your campers. This could be one on one, or if could be as a group. Make it your aim to learn a new fact about each camper everyday. Learn what their pet dog is called. Know how many sisters and brothers they have. Talk about yourself and where you come from. But just remember – children are very nosey. Only tell them things you are happy for them to openly talk about.
Getting to know your campers is what will make you enjoy your summer so much. You have the most incredible opportunity to change these children’s life and make a positive impact on them. So enjoy yourself and make the most of every opportunity.