by CAP Camp Staff
It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle of everyday life, and summer camp is no different. Existing only in the current moment is difficult, especially if your daily responsibilities include thinking ahead and preparing for any number of wild circumstances. Great counselors understand the importance of being present and how that can result in memorable experiences for campers. Children are marvelous at existing in the present. Often, their thinking is focused solely on what is happening around them—what they see, feel, hear, touch. Being present for campers happens in many ways. Active listening by asking questions, repeating back what is said, and nonverbal gestures affirm for campers that they are heard and understood. Checking up on a camper if they appear bothered, stressed, or upset communicates that they are seen and valued. Being present can also mean doing an activity alongside a camper who might need a friend, a reminder for that camper that they matter. When you are present, you communicate to them that they are worthy of your undivided attention and genuine interest. Summer camp might be the only place that kind of love is shown to a child, so be in the present moment as much as humanly possible.
Take Time to Listen
Everyone can remember a time growing up when we had something important to say and we were ignored, or our opinion wasn’t wanted due to our age. It can be so discouraging to a child when they feel like they aren’t being taken seriously. Sometimes their little hearts just ache to be heard, and this is why it is so important that we take time to listen when they have something they need to say. Granted it may seem like nothing to you, but sometimes it can mean the world to them! You never know what funny story, or life lesson may come from taking time to listen to a child.
Get on their level
One of the simplest ways to make a difference in a child’s life is just to be on their level, physically and emotionally. Most kids deal with some sort of authority figure every day, whether that be a teacher, a parent, or a guardian. As camp staff, we are responsible for the wellbeing of these children, and when we treat them as equals, we let them know that we are a safe space for them to be whoever they want to be. Being on their level can mean a couple things. It could be as easy as crouching down while talking to a 6-year-old, so they feel heard. Or it could be matching the energy of a camper who isn’t in the mood to do an activity- sometimes they just need someone to sit beside them while they rest. When we take a moment to meet campers where they are, we are showing them that they are enough just as they are, and don’t need to change to be accepted by us.
Love Them Unconditionally
Children want to be loved so much and sometimes will do anything and everything they can just to get your attention. We try to make sure we show each child that they are loved that they matter, and they can always feel safe and protected with us at camp. This can be one of the most difficult things to do when you’ve re-tied a shoe for the 87th time in one day, or a camper asks you every 4 minutes, “When is pool time?!”, or your group is rowdy at bedtime and keeps you up late. In those moments when you feel frustration start to creep in, it’s important to remember the positive impact a bit of patience and gentleness can have. Oftentimes, it’s the campers that require the most patience from us who also need the most love.
Never Lose Your Sense of Wonder
We often talk about “camp magic”, and how special of a place summer camp can be for both campers and counselors alike. Unfortunately, this magic doesn’t just create itself. It requires imagination, creativity, a willingness to try new things, and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. A hike through the woods can turn into a quest for hidden treasure. A flower crown bestowed to a camper can declare them royalty for the day. Cleaning your cabin becomes a game show competition, and the grand prize is getting to jump in the pool first. When we learn to turn ordeals into adventures, when we take time to see camp through the eyes of a child, and we choose to spend our summer filled with a sense of wonder, magic can be found in all the seemingly small moments. Your campers will remember you not just as an amazing camp counselor, but as a magician waving your imaginary wand creating memories that will last long after their time at camp comes to an end.
CAP is looking for volunteer camp counselors, arts and crafts leaders, music leaders, lifeguards, kitchen help, general help, and nurses. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or apply today on our website!