Top Tips to be an Amazing Counselor

April 28th, 2020

Top Tips to be an Amazing Counselor

There is A LOT of information to take in when you arrive at camp. Policies, procedures, camp names, songs, names, activity procedures... the list goes on! We have plenty of time at camp to get everyone orientated for the summer but this year we thought we would give our staff a head start of some tips and advice to get the best out of the children we are going to be working with this summer. Learn on!

  1. Get to know your campers. Each one of your campers is accustomed to being seen as an individual and not as a member of a group or cabin. Unless you take time to get to know some of the interests, talents, and qualities of each of your campers, they won't feel seen and therefore won't be personally connected to you as their counselor. You get to review all of your campers information the night before they arrive and within the first 12 hours all staff should have had conversations with each camper and learned a new fact or two about them. Once a counselor and camper has an emotional connection it makes the overall camp experience more positive for both.

  2. Get into a routine right away. Routines provide security because they are predictable, and they help campers know what is expected of them. Wake up times, chore times, bed times etc are in place to help the campers have a consistent routine so they feel more secure, organized and in control.

  3. Keep directions simple! Children and children with ADD have short attention spans and struggle to process complex instructions. As a caregiver, it is your job to thoughtfully plan out and intentionally provide clear instructions to set the camper up for success. You can ask campers to repeat instructions back. Remember every camper processes instructions differently-if something isn’t working, try a different technique or ask a supervisor for ideas to help that camper.

  4. Phrase instructions in a positive manner. Instead of saying “Don’t run!” say “Please Walk!”.  Children's brains process a positive instruction quicker and are generally more successful in following the positive instruction than a negative instruction.

  5. Sarcasm has no place at camp. Children's brains cannot process sarcasm the same way an adult does, and speaking sarcastically to co-workers in front of campers is confusing and will encourage poor behavioral choices in the campers who will try to (unsuccessfully) imitate the staff.

  6. Try “Triple Play” for a camper who is shy or awkward and not fitting in with the other campers. By playing a fun game with a counselor and one other camper. This is a low-risk scenario for the camper not fitting in, and campers get to know each other through play. 

  7. Teach your campers to share and practice gratitude. Some campers will be very competitive and have never been in an environment where sharing and gratitude are more important than winning or being the best (like sports teams/school is becoming). Be patient and recognize that this is not a skill learned overnight and will take some time, mistakes and practice. Create a cabin culture or ritual where you gather each day and celebrate each other's achievements and improvements.

  8. Use your initiative and look out for co workers. There is no better feeling than when your struggling-it could be something physical or mental to have someone helping beside you. If you see something needs doing, or someone needs help-jump on in. This is the culture of community we foster at Camp Carolina.

Test them out! Most of our staff work with children already. Choose a point or two from above and apply it to the context you are currently working with children. It is incredibly rewarding to improve your youth development skills and be able to see the posiitve effects it is having on the children you are working with. Got any other tips and tricks? Please share with us!

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