Classroom Tips

Camp counselor training | Agenda, activities, ideas, & more

When parents send their children to summer camp, they are entrusting the staff with the health and safety of their children. Whether you are running a day camp or a sleepaway camp, proper camp counselor training is essential to ensuring your campers are having fun while staying safe.

At Sawyer, our goal is make administrative tasks easier for children’s camps and activity businesses so that they can spend more time doing what matters: working with children and sharing their love of learning. Ensuring the health and safety of children is an extremely important matter, so we wanted to outline camp counselor training activities and agenda items to help you prepare for summer. For more information on summer camp safety procedures and best practices, review out our guide. And looking for more support to jumpstart your camp? Check out our ultimate guide to starting and running a kids camp.

Summer camp staff training agenda

As you start thinking about your camp counselor training process, researching best practices is a great way to start. The American Camp Association (ACA) is a community of camp professionals who share knowledge to ensure the quality and safety of camp programs. They have a variety of resources to help make camp a space for growth in both adults and children.

ACA has compiled a manual of evidence-based guidance of summer camp training. In this document, the organization goes through research on camp counselor training including competencies that staff should learn, how characteristics of the staff affect effectiveness, and even summer camp staff training agenda and structure.

When it comes to your summer camp staff training agenda, there are a few important elements to include.

  1. Make it interactive. Training counselors is important work. You don’t want your staff members disengaged when they should be learning about how to keep their campers safe. Include activities that engage your staff so they remember what is being said. Build in review sessions throughout the summer and test counselor knowledge with fun Jeopardy-style competition. 
  2. Encourage open communication. Training is one of the first ways the staff will interact with camp owners and leadership. Use this time for open dialogue so that counselors feel comfortable approaching these higher ups with questions and concerns. Also make sure to establish a feedback loop so counselors know how to share concerns and address issues. 
  3. Make safety the most important factor. The beginning of camp is a fun time for new and returning counselors. However, you need to make sure that your summer camp staff training agenda focuses on safety above all else. Keeping campers safe is the number one job of staff members, so it should be the priority of training. Be sure to bring in subject matter experts to lead more in-depth training and consult your state's safety regulations and requirements.
Photo of summer camp staff training

Counselor in training activities

Counselor in training activities are a great way for young staff members to learn safety procedures while having fun, which helps them remember information more clearly when it matters most. 

  1. Safety procedure fill-in-the-blanks. Print out cards with safety procedures and camp regulations with missing words or sections and have the counselors fill in the blanks. Playing games can enhance learning as it brings out the competitive nature in people, which makes them more apt to remember what they learn.
  2. Role playing scenarios. Write up safety scenarios and have your staff members work together to act them out and come up with the best solutions. For example, you witness bullying in the cabin or a camper hurts themselves in the pool: what should the staff do?
  3. Scavenger hunt. Set up a scavenger hunt where counselors can practice safety procedures around the camp. This will help staff members practice working as a team and remember safety protocols that are necessary for the different areas of the campgrounds.
Photo of counselor in training activities

Summer camp orientation ideas

Orientation is important because it helps staff members get to know one another so they can work better as a team. Icebreaker games and other orientation activities help staff to meet one another, form connections, and practice teamwork. Here are three of our favorite summer camp orientation ideas to get the ball rolling.

  1. The story of your name. Have staff go around and explain the story behind their name, if they have any nicknames, and what they like (or dislike!) about their name. Then, they should say, “please call me…” and fill in the blank with their preferred name. This is a great way for staff members to get to know one another, share some of their story, and share their name and pronoun preferences naturally.
  2. Two truths and a lie. In this game, staff members share 3 statements with one another. Two of them are true and one is false. The rest of the counselors need to guess which is the lie. We love this orientation game because staff members get to learn about one another and form connections.
  3. Circle of connection. This is a great game to play towards the end of orientation. Gather the staff and have one person start saying things that they enjoy about camp. For example, “I love the refreshing water in the lake, the delicious grilled cheese in the dining hall, and the smell of campfires…” with their hands on their hips. Then, if someone also loves one of the items they say, they link arms with the first person, creating a chain. The second counselor starts listing things they love until another person links and so on. 
Photo of summer camp orientation ideas

Ensuring the safety of your campers requires work and preparation, but with the right support and research, you can make this summer fun and safe for everyone. If you are looking to spend less time on administrative tasks and more time on the fun side of running a camp, Sawyer is the best camp registration and management software for both in-person and online camps. 

With our suite of tools, like custom forms to record allergies and t-shirt sizes, flexible payment options like gift cards and installment plans, and seamless registration on any device, Sawyer saves camp owners 28 hours per month. If you are ready to spend less time on admin and more time doing what you love, see how Sawyer can help with a free trial or demo. Interested but not sure how to start a summer camp? Check out our guide!

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