Camp Counselor Secret Weapons
After attending sleep away summer camp for six years and being a counselor for a couple weeks each summer since, I've racked up some tricks for having a successful week. These are some of my go to tips.
- •Magic blanket/stuffed animalYou will almost always have a homesick camper each week. Homesickness most often occurs at night, as campers try to fall asleep in an unfamiliar environment and are left to their own thoughts. One remedy for this is having a "magic blanket" or stuffed animal. Tell your camper that the magic item will keep them safe at night, and that extra reassurance/thing to cuddle might help them sleep. It sounds silly, but it actually works for the younger campers (who tend to be the ones who get homesick).
- •Spa dayAt the camp I work at, there is time during the day to plan your own activities for your cabin. I always pick a time to have spa day, because it's super easy, gives you a chance to relax, and the girls always love it. If you team up with other cabins, it's even better. I bring a big bag of nail polish, hair ties, a picnic blanket, and a fan favorite, a head massager. We set up camp in the shade on the field and have a serene time painting nails and braiding hair.
- •Fun accessoriesCampers love it when you let them borrow your stuff to play with. I like to pack assorted silly sunglasses and other accessories for them to wear throughout the week. Make sure you have enough for each girl to wear something, and that all headwear is plastic (so as to avoid lice). It makes them feel special and builds trust when you trust them with your things (even if they're sunglasses from the dollar store!)
- •Giant backpackI tend to work with younger campers (11 or younger), who are often the ones to forget their stuff EVERYWHERE. IMO, it's easier to carry a backpack around camp to hold my campers' sunscreen/bug spray/camera than to search through lost and found everyday. It also creates routine when I tell them to dump their stuff in my bag every time we leave the cabin.
- •Silly clothesI always loved it when my counselors weren't afraid to be silly at camp, because it helps you feel free to be yourself. I like packing some ridiculous clothes, so my campers can pick out my outfits and have a fun time dressing me in something crazy. The little fun things that you trust them to do make all the difference.
- •PranksPranks. Are. The. Best. If your camp allows pranks, definitely plan one or two for your cabin. At my camp, it's typical for a cabin to prank a whole other cabin by toilet papering it, hanging up silly signs, or putting a canoe in their cabin. The campers always LOVE this, and it sparks some friendly rivalry among cabins. Be careful with boundaries; don't do anything hurtful and always ask the counselor you're pranking for permission.
- •Cabin nameOn the first day, have your campers pick a cabin name. If you have a fun name, it immediately bonds your group together and makes it easier to find your campers in a large group. You can also head to arts and crafts and make a poster for your cabin!
- •LullabiesThe typical bedtime routine may include stories and/or songs. I like to read to my girls, but I always end with four or five slow lullabies. Rushing through the bedtime routine might allow you to go to bed/your break faster, but it increases the chances of unhappy kiddos who can't fall asleep. Singing and playing a handful of songs on my guitar really helps calm them down and cozy up for the night.