When you think of summer camp, you probably envision fun activities, trekking through hiking trails, and water sports. But camp can be so much more than that! Summer camp is a place where kids can make new friends, try new things, and create memories that will last a lifetime.
As a summer camp counselor, you play an important role in shaping and making those experiences unforgettable. Whether you're a first-time counselor or a seasoned pro, learning how to be a good summer camp counselor requires a unique set of skills and qualities.
AmeriCamp works with different camps throughout the United States, matching you with the perfect camp for your skill sets and abilities.
In this article, we'll share some tips and advice on how to be the best summer camp counselor you can be, and how to make this summer a truly special one for your campers. We’ll explore:
- Everything You Should Know About Working as a Summer Camp Counselor
- Summer Camp Counselor Tips and Tricks
- Icebreakers and Getting to Know Your Campers
- 3 Tips to Help Anxious Campers Destress
- How to Become a Camp Counselor
What Makes a Good Camp Counselor?
A good camp counselor plays a huge part in making summer camp a special experience for their campers. Because of this, there are some traits and skills that can make you stand out as a good camp counselor.
Counselors are leaders and helpers, and should be proactive in taking care of and watching out for their campers. Good summer camp counselors have excellent communication skills and can effectively communicate with those around them. They also have a positive attitude, a sense of humor, and a willingness to try new things.
Above all, they genuinely care about the well-being and growth of their campers, and are committed to creating a safe, inclusive, and supportive environment where everyone can thrive.
What Special Skills Should a Good Camp Counselor Have?
Summer camps offer a lot of fun activities, and focus on bringing the best experience possible to their campers. Because of this, they need counselors who possess special skills to help care for campers and improve their experience at camp.
Important skills that can make you a good camp counselor include:
- Excellent communication skills, both with campers and fellow staff members
- Ability to demonstrate patience, empathy, and understanding when working with children
- Enthusiasm to learn about new cultures and backgrounds
- Willingness to lead and serve as a positive role model for campers
- Experience working with children in childcare, tutoring, or mentoring positions
By possessing these skills and experiences, you'll be well-equipped to create the best summer camp experience for you and your campers.
Everything You Should Know About Working as a Summer Camp Counselor
Being a summer camp counselor can be a challenging job, but it is also an enriching experience. You'll have the opportunity to help campers create valuable memories, all while promoting your own personal growth and skills as a leader. Many of the skills and experiences you gain at summer camp can also be applied to other areas of your life, and can be great additions to your resume.
Summer Camp Counselor Roles
When working for a summer camp like AmeriCamp, you’ll be presented with several roles as a counselor. Here are some of the roles you might choose from:
- General camp counselor
- Activity counselor
- Support staff
- Special needs counselor
Depending on your existing skills and experiences, AmeriCamp will help you choose the best role that suits you. For example, suppose you have experience with games like basketball or soccer or outdoor activities. In that case, you may find the role of an activity counselor much more suitable than one as a general camp counselor.
What’s it Like Being a Summer Camp Counselor?
Being a summer camp counselor is an experience like no other. It's a chance to immerse yourself in a fun and energetic environment, surrounded by campers of all ages who are excited to be there. Your days will be filled with helping campers through activities, telling stories by the fire, and exploring nature.
Interested in sports camps? Be prepared for fun activities like swimming and hiking! Have a passion for working with children and young adults with special needs? Check out what you can expect at a Special Needs camp! All of our camps offer different experiences and adventures waiting for you.
Here’s what an average day might be like for a camp counselor:
- Wake up, and get yourself and your campers ready for the day.
- Head on down to the breakfast hall for a delicious start to a day of activities
- Do some indoor or outdoor group activities with your campers (these could be crafts or musical activities)
- Take a break for some time and then have lunch
- Head back to your cabin for some relaxation time and a brief break
- Get your campers up and ready to head outside for some more activities
- Engage in some fun afternoon activities (these activities will likely be outside, such as sports or camp games)
- Take a break from activities and go to the food hall for dinner
- Hang out with your campers and participate in fun activities for the evening, like s’mores, campfire songs, or even dancing
- Take your campers back to their dorms and go to bed
- Have some quiet time to yourself to relax and rejuvenate after your long day
While being a camp counselor can be demanding and require long hours, it's also an incredibly rewarding experience. You'll have the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of the campers you work with, helping them grow and develop in a supportive and nurturing environment. Plus, you can make lifelong friendships with other counselors, and gain valuable skills and experiences that will serve you well in your future endeavors.
What are a Camp Counselor’s Responsibilities?
A camp counselor’s responsibilities are very important for maintaining the campers’ experience and ensuring everyone has a safe and positive environment. When learning how to be a good counselor, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the responsibilities. Common responsibilities all counselors can expect to have include:
- Creating a safe and inclusive environment for all campers, regardless of their background or abilities
- Leading and participating in activities, from sports and games to arts and crafts and more
- Providing guidance and support to campers as they navigate new experiences and challenges
- Encouraging campers to step outside of their comfort zones and try new things
- Serving as a positive role model and mentor, both in your interactions with campers and with your fellow staff members
- Maintaining a positive attitude and fostering a sense of community among campers and staff alike
Summer Camp Counselor Tips and Tricks
In this section, we will provide you with a range of useful summer camp counselor tips and tricks that will help you excel in your role as a counselor. Want to be the best camp counselor you can be? Check out these great tips!
How to Prepare Yourself for Camp
The best camp counselor is one who’s prepared. Most camps will include training to help prepare you for your time there. But there are some other ways you can prepare yourself for summer camp.
Steps to preparing yourself for camp include::
- Learn more about the camp: Ask for information like maps, rules, and guides that can help you learn more about the camp. Read all guides thoroughly so you don’t miss anything important.
- Create a packing checklist: We often get so excited about the newest adventure that it’s easy to forget something important we need to pack. Be sure to create a full checklist of everything you should bring to camp.
- Familiarize yourself with the activities: Ask about the activities you’ll take part in. If there are any that you’re unfamiliar with, ask the staff or the leader in charge for further information.
- Learn about what to do in emergencies: Find out where all medical stations are located and what you should do in case of an emergency. Don’t forget to brush up on your basic medical training, like CPR!
Camp Counselor Must-Haves: Know What to Bring
Before you’re ready to be the best camp counselor, you need to make sure you bring the right things. While your laptop can get you far in the application process, hiking boots and comfortable tennis shoes will get you much farther out in the wilderness.
Let’s check out a few camp counselor must-haves you should bring with you:
- Clothes: Casual shoes, walking shoes, 6-8 t-shirts, shorts, sports shorts, swim clothes, swimsuits, socks, undergarments, hoodie, raincoat, pants, sweats, and flip-flops
- Toiletries: Toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, feminine products, hairbrush or comb, soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotions, sunscreen, and a towel
- Personal documents: Passport, J-1 visa documents, DS-2019 form, SEVIS receipt, a copy of your camp contract, flight information, flight tickets, insurance cards, necessary medical documents
- Accessories: Mobile phone, charger, sunglasses, adapter for your charger (US outlets are Type A and Type B), hat, reusable water bottle
If you forget something you need, AmeriCamp provides helpful support for counselors, and can even help you get new items by going to the store with other counselors. So if you leave your sunglasses behind, there’s no need to worry!
How to Make it Through the First Day as a Camp Counselor
The first day of summer camp can be exciting and overwhelming. Everything is new, and campers are arriving left and right. You’ve got a new dorm, a new routine, and tons of friendly young faces waiting to meet you!
Here are some tips to help you get your first day at camp off to a great start:
- Be prepared: Make sure you have everything you need for the day.
- Be friendly and approachable: Smile and greet each camper and their family members as they arrive. Introduce yourself and make them feel welcome.
- Learn the camp routines and rules: Familiarize yourself with the daily schedule, meal times, and any camp policies.
- Learn some icebreakers and jokes: If you’ve got a moment before campers arrive, take some time to learn a few knock-knock jokes or brush up on some icebreakers to help anxious campers break out of their shells.
- Get to know your campers: Take the time to get to know each of your campers. Learn their names, interests, and any special needs or accommodations they may require.
- Stay flexible: Be prepared to adjust your plans as needed.
- Have fun: Remember, summer camp is supposed to be fun! So don’t put too much pressure on your campers or yourself.
Icebreakers and Getting to Know Your Campers
The best way to break any anxious tension and get your campers to open up is with some fun icebreakers. An important step in learning how to be a cool camp counselor is by helping your campers make new friends.
Some great icebreakers to check out are:
- Duck, Duck, Goose: There’s no better way to get kids laughing and playing along than with a classic game. One way to help kids get to know each other better is that whoever is “it” can say their name and one fun fact about them as they walk around the circle.
- Telephone Game: Another classic game to help campers have fun and open up. You can line your campers up, and whoever is first in line can come up with a silly saying and then tell the next person. Then, have them change a word or part of the phrase and go down the line whispering the phrase to the person next to them. This is a great way to have your campers laughing and having fun.
3 Tips to Help Anxious Campers Destress
No matter the knock-knock jokes or icebreakers, there will always be a camper or two who is nervous about being away from home. Help your anxious campers calm down and feel more comfortable in a new environment with a few useful tips.
Here are three tips to help anxious campers destress and feel better:
- Be understanding and empathetic: When a camper is feeling homesick or anxious, it's important to show understanding and empathy. Listen to their concerns and try to provide reassurance and encouragement.
- Help them create their own space: You can help your anxious camper unpack and settle in to create their own space.
- Provide opportunities for relaxation and self-care: Encourage campers to take breaks when they need them, and provide a quiet space where they can decompress if necessary.
How to Become a Camp Counselor
If you haven’t signed up to be a counselor at a summer camp, you might be wondering where to get started. Let’s walk you through everything you need to know about the process of becoming a camp counselor.
Different Types of Summer Camps
- Themed camps
- Day camps
- Religious camps
- Non-profit camps
- Special needs camps
- Day camps
Requirements for Being a Camp Counselor
The requirements for being a summer camp counselor with AmeriCamp are quite simple. Here are the requirements you’ll need to meet:
- Be 18 years or older
- Speak English proficiently
- Be able to supervise and interact with American youth
- Have experience or interest in working with kids ages 8-15
- Have enthusiasm and passion for learning about different cultures and backgrounds
- Be free of criminal history and able to provide a local background check
Now it’s time to get the ball rolling and start your application process. First, you’ll want to contact AmeriCamp and provide them with an application and any required documents.
Once we have your application, we will review it and then contact you to set up an interview. Be sure to brush up on possible interview questions! Once your application is accepted, we’ll get to work pairing you with the best fit for your interests and skills.
After we’ve found a camp for you, you’ll receive a placement letter, and can begin preparing for the adventure of a lifetime!.
Ready to Be a Great Camp Counselor through AmeriCamp?
AmeriCamp offers you the experience of a lifetime through travel and work as a summer camp counselor. Grow and learn as a leader, learn more about different cultures, and improve your English, all as you enjoy the challenges and adventures of working as a summer camp counselor!.
The AmeriCamp program offers you a valuable opportunity, as well as guidance through the entire process. We sponsor your J-1 visa, and our account manager works directly with you to help manage payments and fees.
While working as an AmeriCamp counselor, you’ll have medical insurance, a salary, and all of your meals and accommodations will be provided. Most programs run for eight weeks, plus one extra week for orientation and camp training.
AmeriCamp works with a variety of summer camps across the United States, and our 99% placement rate proves we work hard to find the best camp for you! We make sure, during your time at camp, you won’t need to worry about a thing; AmeriCamp will provide you with a 24-hour emergency hotline in case you have any problems.
Apply today to start your journey of a lifetime, and become the best camp counselor you can be!