Mathew Dwyer – Summer Camp USA extraordinaire – is back for another blog post, sharing the infinite wisdom of someone who is bonkers enough to go back to Summer Camp 5 times. Read on if you want to learn some top tips for how to be the best camp counsellor you can be.

If you’re anything like me before my first year of  summer camp, you’re really excited, but not quite sure about what working at a camp entails. In order to help you out a bit, I’ve put together a list of some of the things that I wish I had known before my first summer, and also some tips so that you can be the best counsellor possible!

Make the kids your priority

This is my golden rule for being a great camp counsellor. As long as you make sure the kids come first in whatever you’re doing while at camp, you’ll be fine! This can be something as simple as having a chat or playing a game of ping pong during rest hour instead of taking a nap. Trust me, you won’t regret being a little bit more tired if it means spending more time with the kids, and the kids remember the counsellors that spent time with them forever!

Don’t be afraid to look a bit ridiculous

Everyone at  summer camp is there to have fun, and sometimes the best way to do that is to embrace your sense of the ridiculous! This can be dressing up for activities, singing on the way around camp, or getting up in front of camp to perform. Pretty much everything at camp will be out of your comfort zone, so make sure you do everything! It feels a bit weird to stand on chairs and sing during dinner, but pretty soon you’ll be belting out the chants as loud as possible!

Be prepared to get a bit dirty

While at camp, you’re probably going to be doing outdoor activities pretty much all day every day, running around after kids. Because you’ll be outside most of the time, be prepared to get a bit covered in dust and dirt. You’ll also spend a bit of time being sweaty over there, as it does get pretty hot at Summer Camp! While you should definitely shower regularly, don’t be too concerned about showering between every activity, you’re just going to end up dirty and sweaty again!

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Camp is an amazing experience, and probably the most fun you’ll ever have in your life, but it can definitely get tough at times. If you need a break, or it gets a bit full on, don’t be afraid to let your co-counsellors know, and they will help you out. On the other hand, if you notice that another counsellor is doing it a bit tough, reach out and help them. You and the other counsellors are all in it together!

Expect the unexpected

I can’t think of a single day at camp were everything went as planned. Things as simple as the equipment or area you need not being available, more or less kids showing up than you planned for, or the specialist counsellor not being there have the potential to ruin an activity period. If you’ve got a plan B for all of those sorts of things, then you won’t be caught out. If you are, then just improvise! Remember that the kids are there to have fun, so as long as they’re doing an activity, they usually won’t care if it’s not the activity that they though they’d be doing!

Listen to the Camp Leaders and returning staff

Every camp runs differently, so the advice of people who have worked at your camp before is invaluable. During your first week at camp you will go through a lot of training, and you should listen to everything during that week. This training is usually run by the senior staff of camp, who have probably been working there for years, if not decades. If you take everything they say on board, then you’ve gone a long way towards making sure you know how to be a great counsellor!  It’s also a great idea to ask any questions to the returning international staff at your camp, as they’ve been where you are now. For questions about things like phones, money and even what to pack they’ll be able to give the most accurate advice about your camp!

There are obviously a lot of other things that go into being a great camp counsellor, but hopefully this list helps you get off on the right foot!