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How to Be a Great Camp Counselor

So you've decided to become a counselor? Being a camp counselor is an unforgettable experience. With these tips and a genuine love of what you do, you'll be everyone's favorite counselor in no time!


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    Know what the job entails. Being a counselor is a very draining experience. If you can smile through the trying times and spend your days giving kids one of the greatest summer of their lives, then read on. If not, you really must evaluate why you want to be a counselor. It's a lot of fun, but a lot of work. It is not a week of being a camper, for older kids! You must be responsible, and able to handle any situation that comes up.
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    Prepare. Prepare for each day and whatever it may throw at you. If you prepare yourself and know the schedule, you can prepare the campers. They will have less anxiety about the day and have something to look forward to. Preparing you and your campers make you invaluable in that you will be able to handle anything. Talk to previous counselors and ask the staff for any advice and resources.
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    Pay attention in training. Most camps offer a training period, during which you will learn everything about how the camp is run, and emergency procedure. It's very easy to tune out, DON'T! You never know when you will need it again. When little Jimmy collapses on the playground, you don't want to be thinking to yourself "I wish I had been paying attention to the lecture instead of watching that squirrel."
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    Become friends with the other counselors. You don't all have to be best friends forever, but it is essential that you all get along, at the minimum. If counselors are arguing, even if its done far outside earshot of the campers, because they will pick up on it. Most likely, you will have to work even a little bit with all of the other counselors and everything goes smoother if you are friends. You don't want to find out later in the summer that you are leading an activity with the counselor you do not care for.
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    Memorize the camp schedule and carry it with you ALWAYS. You will want to know what is going on next, and what time the next break is. If you do not have your schedule when the campers ask what is happening next, they will think that you are incompetent and you will lose their respect.
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    Get to know your camper's names. For example, if you run around calling Jane by Brittany's name and vice versa, you will lose their respect and they will feel hurt that they are not important enough to know your name. Likewise, it is difficult to correct a camper's behavior when you don't know their name. Play name games, if it helps you and repeat their names often.
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    Get to know your campers personalities. Certain campers you will love, certain campers you will not really care for (silently, of course). The key is to know what they will do. You have to know who has to be watched constantly, and who always does what they are told. You must anticipate how they will react to each other, and activities. Try to spend at least ten minutes of face time with each camper each day. They will like you more if they feel that they are the center of attention, and it will allow you to understand them better.
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    Team building in order to help your campers get along, do activities throughout the week that help the kids become a unit. Ask them questions, start conversations and play games that help the kids get to know each other, and NEVER play games or do activities that pit the kids against each other competitively until the second or third day. It might create bad blood.
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    Reflect with campers at the end of the day. It's important to know what the campers think of each other and of their day. Just before they leave, make everyone sit in a circle and try one of the following:
    • For General Reflection: "Rose, Bud and Thorn" (What was the best and worse part of your day and what are you looking forward to most for tomorrow) "Random Question" (If you could have any superpower, what would it be? What's your favorite activity and why? If you had one last meal what would it be.)
    • For Team building: "Positive Points" (The campers sit in a circle and say one positive thing about each person beside them) "3 things in common" (Have the kids pair up and find out three things they have in common with their partner and share with the group when they have finished. This is also good for breaking up cliques)
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    Use your breaks wisely. Remember that this is YOUR time, do whatever you feel will make you the happiest and get you re-energized for your next shift. Breaks are a great time to take naps, check your phone (if you are allowed), read a book or hang out with other counselors.
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    Have a great time. It might seem like a lot of work, but you will change lives. It is amazing to see the quiet camper that sat in the corner at the beginning of the session getting along with her other campers, or to see what they have learned. You will get out of the day as much as you put into it. HAVE A GOOD TIME and the kids will! You are a positive role model, give yourself a pat on the back.


  • Be prepared for the DREADED camper. You will have one. The camper that smarts off, sleeps late, and will most likely swear at you. Know how to discipline, and how to keep their foul mood from contaminating the other campers.
  • Break up cliques early. It is unavoidable that there will be cliques. Make sure that you make them mingle as much as possible. Try making them sit with different people at lunch or make them partners with someone that they would not normally talk with. Don't overdo it. They will not all be best friends, accept it; just make sure that the cabin works together.
  • Learn all the camp songs. You will look stupid bobbing along singing the wrong verse.
  • Grin and bear it. You will be tired, you will be hungry, and you will smell questionable sometimes. If you grumble around and complain, your campers will do the same. If you bring down your campers moods, nothing will get done, and they will be miserable. Counselors are some of the best actors in the world. The counselor that we should all emulate is the one that had four hours of sleep, has poison ivy, hasn't worn clean clothes in a week and still bounces out of bed in the morning and starts singing camp songs.
  • Take things like bandanas and glow sticks for the campers. These items make the campers feel as if they are on a team together. They will be closer to one another.
  • If you allow harmless pranks, your campers will like you even more, and you won't get in trouble if they are harmless.
  • Be the campers friend, but do not let them get away with everything. Treat the camper who gets on your nerves like you do your favorite. Basically, don't play favorites!


  • You are a role model, so act like it. The children, especially younger ones, will do what you do. Think of how you want the kids to behave, and act that way. Be professional not only in front of children but around the children too.
  • Don't think it will be just another year of camp. You will now have all the responsibility of planning everything you enjoyed. If you are just doing it to extend your childhood, don't.
  • Don't be lazy! Interact with children. Don't just tell them what and how to do things... do it too! (Play UNO, Go swimming, play in the soccer game, etc.) It makes the day so much more fun for you too! Think of it as a workout you are getting paid to do! ;)
  • NEVER be alone with a camper: Keep the door OPEN and have a witness, especially if the camper is of the opposite sex, they can tell their parents that you did something which you didn't if they feel like it, and you could get in trouble. Also, be very careful with physical contact, even if you're being friendly. Children are taught to shout "don't touch me there" or they'll tell someone. Children can be very sweet but you have to keep boundaries to protect your job and reputation, and the camper.
  • Be PROACTIVE rather than REACTIVE. Anticipate what is going to happen and then plan accordingly.

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Categories: Occupations | Summer Camp