Basic Skills Guide: Singing

Singing camp songs is a huge part of our camp, as we’re sure it is at a lot of other camps. But many times, the majority of people have no idea how to sing at camp. You can also have those older campers that feel that they are too old to sing and/or get up and dance and participate in the songs. Sometimes this can make the younger campers not want to participate, because the campers that they look up to aren’t participating.

Here are some tips to help campers sing and to make sing time a fun experience! We love to sing at our camp and it makes it a lot more fun when the whole camp is signing!

When you know the song: Sing loud and proud. If you know the words, belt them! No one cares how you sound, and if they do, then they need to be reminded that camp is a judgment-free zone. Campers and new staff aren’t able learn the words to songs when you’re mumbling them, so make sure you’re audible. Also, you will have a lot more fun if you’re singing loudly than if you’re mumbling miserably.

If you don’t know the song: That’s okay, but make an effort to learn it. We’ve known counselors who still don’t know the songs at the end of the summer, but they still gave it their all, and that made all the difference. Try to learn the words so that you can teach them to your campers, so they can sing along too! If all you know is the chorus, that’s fine; sing the chorus proudly! If all else fails, at least mouth the word “watermelon” and it will look like you’re singing. As long as you’re trying to learn the songs, you’re golden.

Fake it ‘till You Make It: This is a widely known concept among our staff that is relevant for many different things, especially singing. When you’re moving to active songs that require hand movements and such, faking it can go a long way in getting the campers to participate. The crazier you are, and the more you look like you’re having fun, the more the campers will realize will want to participate alongside you. Also, it will be more fun for you and you’ll be more excited for sing!

Singing is a big part of camp culture, at least at our camp. We sing every morning after breakfast, every night after evening activity around a camp fire, and sometimes to sing the younger campers to sleep. Singing is important, and a lot of fun! We hope now you can sing your hearts out this summer!

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Basic Skills Guide: Gaga Ball

Oh, Gaga Ball, you either love it, hate it, or have no idea what we are talking about. In case you fall into the last category, we’re going to lay it out for you.

It’s basically a safer, cooler version of dodgeball. It is played inside a gaga ball pit, which is a 3ft tall fence in the shape of an octagon with grass, dirt, sand, or gravel on the ground. The point of the game is to be the last player in the pit.

Players get “out” when the gaga ball touches them anywhere from the knee down. Players start with one hand on the wall, and one person will throw the ball high into the air so that it lands near the middle of the pit. The players must wait until the third bounce of the ball before they can move, on each bounce chanting “Ga-Ga-Ball.” Once it bounces for the third time and “ball” is chanted, players are free to walk around the pit.

Players are only allowed to use their palms to hit the ball at other players’ legs, but they may only hit the ball once in a row. They may only hit it again once the ball is touched by another player or it touches the wall.  A player who double hits or who hits the ball out of the pit (without the ball touching the wall) is out. When the ball gets hit out of play, the players who are still in, line up on the walls again and the ball is thrown in.

The game continues until one player is left, the winner. Those are the basic rules, although you will find variations of them at different camps. Our camp had to make specific rules to discourage unfair play, including no sitting on the walls and no guarding your legs with your arms (which we call “Fife-ing”).

Here are some alternate ways to play, to shake it up a bit at your camp!

Unlimited Gaga Ball: Players who get out must remember who hit the ball at them to get them out. When that person gets out, the players they got out by that person may go back in. This means that the only way to win the game is to get almost everyone out. Players who hit the ball out of the pit and get out are out of luck, and don’t have a chance to come back in. This means of playing allows the game to go on continuously and lets people play for longer than they may get to in normal play.

Redemption Gaga Ball: Players who get out usually stand around the gaga ball pit to watch the game. In this version, if they catch a ball that has gone over the fence, they get to go back in. This, again, allows for longer play time and a chance for the people who were out to redeem themselves and get back in.

Ghost Gaga Ball: This is a version of the game that my campers made up one day when there were only two of them and myself playing. The player that gets out gets to be a ghost, and aimlessly wander around the pit. They may not purposely touch the ball, but if it hits them that’s okay. They mainly serve to distract the other players. This version works best when there aren’t very many players or when they are younger campers.

Double Gaga Ball: Basically, it’s the same game but with two balls in play at once. A player may hit one ball right after the other, but may not hit the same ball twice in a row. This is fun to play when your campers are getting used to the original way of playing.

Hope these helped, and I hope you have a fun summer playing lots of Gaga Ball!

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Basic Skills Guide: Tie Dying

No matter what anyone else says, all camp people will agree that tie dying is a true art form. As Tie Dye is a big part of camp, knowing some easy techniques can make you look like an expert! Happy tie dying!

Assuming the dye is already made for you (if it is not, it is easily purchased at almost any store as a powder or a liquid. It usually requires you to just add water.) There are a few other things you’ll need:
– Trash Bags
– Rubber Bands
– White or near-white Clothing
– Large tub of cold water
– Smaller tub of hot water

  1. Dip the shirt quickly into the warm water and wring it out well. This will help the colors set in the shirt.
  2. You should lay your shirt down on a flat garbage bag covering a table. The garbage bag does a great job of catching the excess dye. And there will be tons of extra dye no matter how careful the campers are!
  3. You’re going to rubber band your shirt. There are a few ways to do this:

-To produce a spiral pattern: Pinch a bit of the shirt in the very center. Slowly rotate this piece until the whole shirt is swirled like a giant cinnamon roll. Use 3 rubber bands to secure its shape, dividing it into 6 slices.

-To produce vertical stripes: Scrunch the shirt up from top to bottom, so that the shirt is in a horizontal bunch in front of you. Use as many rubber bands as necessary to section off pieces of the shirt, which are going to be separate lines.

-To produce horizontal stripes: Scrunch the shirt sideways into the middle, so that the shirt is in a vertical bunch in front of you. Use as many rubber bands as necessary to section off pieces of the shirt, which are going to be separate lines.

-To create small circles: Pinch small sections of the shirt and put a rubber band around that pinch. This will make for a small white circle shapes and some fold lines in the dye. Make as many of these pinches as you want to make the design interesting.

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4. Now you’re ready to dye it.

-For the spiral shirt, it’s best to use 3 colors, making 2 diagonal slices of each color. Make sure you open up the folds a little bit when pouring the dye to make sure it covers a good amount of the shirt.

– For the striped shirts, it looks coolest when you make each section (and therefore stripe) a different color, but of course there’s plenty of room for creativity.

– In general, try not to mix the dyes too much, because it can create an ugly green/brown color.

5. Okay, now that your shirt’s all covered in color, dip it into the cold water and wring it out (either over a sink or over the ground outside). Continue this until the water you squeeze out is clear or nearly clear.

6. Now you can un-rubber band it to see your creation! Hang it to dry and be careful the first time you wash it. Throw away the trash bags (carefully) and then you’re done!

We hope you’ve gotten some ideas and are now ready for Tie Dye at camp this summer.

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*WARNING: Do not let these suggestions limit you! These are just examples of specific strategies that work well, that we’ve discovered over the years. Rubber band however you want! Use any colors you want! Don’t rubber band at all and freestyle it! The world (this t-shirt) is your oyster! Let campers show off their own creativity. My friends and I once even splattered dye onto a shirt and then let it bleed downward, and it turned out really cool. Don’t be afraid to try any cool ideas you think of.

The Camp “Magic”

Anyone who has ever been at camp, whether it be for a week or for many summers, knows this indescribable feeling or thing. It is known as the “magic” of camp. No one really knows how to explain it, and everyone attempts but no one has really ever succeeded. We all know that when we try to explain it to non-camp people they definitely can’t wrap their mind around this concept. The exact opposite happens when you try to explain it to a camp person. They automatically know what you are talking about and understand what you are trying to say when you can’t put it into words. It’s that feeling of you’re not really sure what emotion you’re feeling but it’s most likely pure happiness and excitement!

When trying to explain it to non-camp people it sometimes goes along the lines of, “It’s hard to explain, but once you have experienced it you know exactly what it is.” A person might ask when do you feel/experience this so called “magic”. You can promptly answer with many different times. These are just a few we’ve come up with but there are many more out there that each person might individually feel.

You feel the “magic” of camp…

… as soon as you enter the driveway of your camp. We all know that awesome and excited feeling we get when we enter into camp for the first time during the summer (or really anytime during the summer). It’s that feeling of knowing you’re back home and ready for a fun filled summer! All the past memories start to come back and you get a huge smile on your faceScreen Shot 2015-02-22 at 9.01.36 PM

… when you are greeted by your co-counselors by running, “let me tackle you to the ground” hugs. I’m sure we call all admit we look forward to these hugs each summer, especially if we aren’t able to see our friends through out the year. Seeing them running at you brings about this unexplainable emotion of happiness and excitement, otherwise known as that “magic” of camp.

… when looking up at the stars. As most of us live in the city we don’t get the luxury of looking up at night and just admiring the stars. That is one luxury that we do get to experience while at camp. Honestly nothing beats just standing there with your friends as you stare up at the sky. This is when you realize how magical that camp is. It’s amazing how when you are looking all you can hear are the sounds of nature and all you can see is the beautifulness of the stars. An even better thing is when you catch a shooting star shooting through the sky. I know personally I’ve been able to make many wishes over the summer on shooting stars.

when you see or hear the kids laughing. I think seeing them laugh or hearing them laugh makes everything worth it. It tells you for a split second that all the trouble and hassle you might go through during the day is all worth it because the kids are having the time of their lives. This instills that little camp “magic” inside of you and keeps you going!

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Types of Campers and How to Deal With Them Part 3

Here is our final part to this advice topic!

Enjoy reading the final four types! We hope you feel a little bit more prepared for when you have to deal with these types of campers! If you have any questions or want more advice, please comment below or feel free to email us, and we will respond as quickly as we can!

The Dependent- 

This is the one camper that hates doing anything on their own, even simple things. They either are too lazy, too insecure about their abilities, or too used to having her parents do it for them. These campers can also fall under “counselor pets” in some situations, because they want you to do everything for them. This camper can be annoying (especially if lasts for days on end), because they demand your extra attention when they don’t actually need it. The best way we’ve found to deal with this situation is to show them how to do it once. Then tell them, “I showed you how to do it. Now you do it, I’ll watch you, and if you need help I’ll help.” Then watch them once. They’ll either discover that they actually can do it by themselves, or you’ll discover that they actually don’t understand and aren’t just lazy. If they start doing something wrong while you’re watching, try to give help verbally; this forces them to do it by themselves. If they get frustrated and give up after extremely minimal effort, remind them of the goal of the activity to motivate them to try harder. “You were making this friendship bracelet for ______, weren’t you? Why don’t you try again, I know _____ is going to love it.” “Remember the whole reason we are doing this is so we can win cleanest cabin at the end of the week. Why don’t you try and make your bed again?” If they still do not respond to this, then they may need to walk away from whatever they are doing (if it’s a craft or something for fun) or they may need a firmer hand to get them to get things done (if it’s a chore or something that must be done.) When dealing with these campers it is also a good idea to let other counselors that interact with this particular camper know what is going on. Sometimes the camper might figure out that they can get away with it with one counselor and not another. Nobody will make progress if people are different pages!

-The One That’s Too Cool For Camp-

This camper, which tends to be one of the older boys, is convinced that they have outgrown camp. They act like they are too old to be attending camp anymore. These campers will act like they couldn’t care less what is going on at camp activities. They break the rules, don’t contribute in an activity, and can be distracting when they’re supposed to be listening. The best way we’ve found to deal with this type of attitude is to, for the most part, ignore it. Sometimes these campers will act out to gain attention, so giving it to them is adding fuel to the fire. When this camper breaks an important rule or is being detrimental to an activity, however, you need to confront them. Talk to them like an adult, and explain why the behavior simply cannot be tolerated. Sometimes, though, you find out this behavior is just an act. With most of these campers they really do want to be there but don’t want to be made fun of by their friends. In this case, all you will probably have to do is ignore the aloof behavior and maybe give one warning, but the camper should behave well beyond that.

-The One That’s Been There Forever-

If you have been a counselor at the same camp for quite a few years, then you know this camper right away. This camper has been there for multiple years and probably has attended multiple weeks each summer. If you are working at your childhood summer camp, there is a chance that you and this camper even attended camp together. If you are new to staff, you will quickly learn who this camper is. This camper knows everything there is to know about camp, all the secret hiding spots, how the schedule works, past experiences and more. They also probably only wear camp shirts because they have enough to last them through the week with extras to spare. If you are ever unsure about something it’s a good chance that you could ask one of these campers and they will know the answer. Sometimes these campers can become a pain because they do tend to know everything, and know how to get around rules. This is when you have to remind them even though they have been coming for forever, they still have to follow the rules like everyone else. Most returning campers, though, are wonderful to be around and can help you out if you’re confused. Typically they just share the love of camp that you do or will soon love!

Types of Campers and How to Deal With Them Part 2

Here is part 2 of our First Advice Topic: Types of Campers and How to Deal With Them! This sections deals with all things romance from the camper having a slight crush on you to full out being obsessed.

Enjoy reading, Part 3 will be up in the coming week!

The One That Has A Crush On You-

You see them staring blatantly at you from across the dining hall. They are always talking to you and trying to impress you. They talk about you in their cabin and your co-counselors tell you about it. Kid flirting is pretty obvious and it’s hard to miss the fact that this camper is madly in love with you. What do you do? Truth is, there’s not much you can do. You just have to try your best not to lead them on. Act like you don’t know that they like you. Often they tell their cabin counselor, and they would be mortified if they knew you knew they liked you (wow that was confusing.) Try not to initiate conversation unless it’s necessary, but when conversation happens don’t act distant or cold. This would make it too obvious that you don’t agree with how they feel, and it would crush their spirit. Doing these things ensures that no one is feeling heart broken and you don’t have to have any really weird conversations or interactions. Now, it becomes a different story when they profess their love to you (see below, that’s the next step above this type of camper). Just try to break it to them as nicely as you can. Afterwards, you should treat it like the conversation never happened, tell no other campers, and be just as friendly to them as you would be to any other camper.

-The “Shipper”-

This camper is in love with the idea of love. They are whole-heartedly convinced that you and another counselor are destined to be together. They will come up to you and say “[said counselor] likes you.” And when you try to convince them that you’re just friends, you get accused of “friendzoning” the other counselor. This camper may have multiple couples they “ship” as a relationship, heck they might have the whole camp matched up. Needless to say, it can create uncomfortable situations. If this shipper isn’t too intense and doesn’t really bother you about it, let it be. It can be fun for campers to match up their counselors. If it becomes a disruptive behavior, it should be stopped. One of the easiest solutions to this problem is to tell a little white lie. “Oh, [said counselor]? They’re my cousin!” That will nip it right in the bud. This only works, though, if you say it the first time the camper brings it up. Another option is to just say, in a serious (but not mean) tone, “[said counselor] and I are not in a relationship, and [camp director] does not let counselors have or talk about relationships.” And leave it at that. That may be less effective. But, as stated earlier, if it’s a harmless hypothesis, let them have their fun.

The Obsessor-

This kid is one step above the camper that has a slight crush on you or thinks you look pretty or handsome. This camper is full out obsessed with you. They will do everything in their power to talk about you to their cabin counselor, fellow cabin mates, or pretty much anyone who will listen to them. If they spot their counselor talking to you, they will freak out. They have been known to do weird things to show their obsession with you. The other side of the situation with “an obsessor” is having one in your cabin who is obsessed with another counselor. Again, they will try and talk about them every minute they can. They will ask you to talk to them for them, but then will usually freak out that you did, in fact, talk with them.

There really isn’t any particular way to deal with this type of camper. Again, we are in the business of happy campers and not crushing spirits. Yes, it will probably get annoying listening to them talk about your co-counselor all the time but let them do so. Sometimes it can even be funny to hear what they say late at night when they think you can’t hear them! Don’t crush their dreams, just let them obsess over it. It provides a good laugh for you and your co-counselors. Chances are you were even like some of these campers when you were younger!

Types of Campers and How to Deal With Them Part 1

There are a lot of great kids out there who are fun to be around, great in the cabin, and have no trouble making friends with other campers and their counselors. Unfortunately, not all campers are equal and there will be some that you just don’t know how to handle. Here we have provided you with a list of some different types of campers you may run into and how to deal with them. While these are not all the types, you will come across most of these kids as a counselor. Some weeks you might have all of these campers and other weeks you might not have any. Either way, it’s good to prepare yourself for any type of camper you might encounter as each camper is unique. 

We have broken the 9 common “types” of Campers into three different parts to make reading about them all easier for you. The first part consists of: The One Who Refuses To Do Anything, The Stage-5 Clinger a.k.a The Counselor’s Pet, and The Secret Bully. Part Two refers to:  The One That Has A Crush On You, The “Shipper”, and The Obsessor. The third and final part talks about: The Dependent, The One That’s Too Cool For Camp and The One That’s Been There Forever.

Enjoy reading Part 1 and Look for Part 2 to come Next Week!

The One Who Refuses To Do Anything-

You know this one. They are the camper that seems to be always moping around, doesn’t really talk to anyone, and is always sitting out of group activities. No matter how much fun you make the activity look, or how unrealistically happy you pretend to be while doing the activity, they will want to have no part in it. This is really frustrating. Obviously something else is going on, because no kid is willingly miserable for no reason. The first thing you need to do is take them aside. Ask the camper why they came to camp. Did their parent(s) make come? Did they want to make new friends? Did they want to have fun? Ask them if they have a goal that they want to meet by the end of the week. If they don’t have one, make one with them! If you show you are interested in them as person, then they will hopefully be more willing to interact with you. Whatever their goal might be, you have to show them how they are not currently meeting it. Tell them maybe they’d have more fun if they participated in the activities. They’d make more friends if they asked to play with the others once in a while, or talked to their bunkmates before bed. The key to asking these question though is to not sound like you are accusing them. Make sure you just point out what you’ve seen and that you want to help them. Whatever advice you give them, let them know that you back them one hundred percent. Tell them you’ll help them if they struggle during an activity, or help them ask the other kids if they can join their game. Just let them know you’re there for them in whatever struggle they might be dealing with. If their parent(s) made them come, there’s not as much you can do there. Remind them that their parent(s) wanted them to come so that they could have fun and make friends, and that they haven’t been exactly trying. Tell them that getting as much from this experience as possible will be worth a lot more than a week spent being miserable.

There could also be other reasons why they are not participating. They could be homesick (this is extremely likely), not feeling well, or fighting with a friend. Sometimes it takes a lot of digging to get to the root of the problem of someone who doesn’t want to talk, but you can’t give up. Their shyness is a cry for help that you cannot just ignore. Once you get to the root of the problem, it can usually be easily solved or may be able to be solved with some of my upcoming suggestions. If you cannot get to the root of the problem, ask another counselor or a senior staff member if maybe they can try to talk to them. Pay attention to the counselors they will talk to at activities, they might be more willing to talk to them for whatever reason. In the end, just try and do whatever it takes to make sure that they have a fun filled week!

The Stage 5 Clinger a.ka.The Counselor’s Pet-

This camper follows you everywhere you go. They want to go to all the activities you’re teaching. They want your opinion on everything. They are constantly talking to you about things you couldn’t care less about. If it’s a younger girl, she may even refuse to call you anything but mommy (personal experience talking there.) These types of campers are what you would call a true Counselor’s Pet. Yes, they can make you want to pull your hair out and yell at them to give you just two seconds alone. But think about it from their perspective first. You are years older than they are; you are so smart and you know everything. You are the coolest person in the world. They want you to think they are cool too. They want to be just like you when they grow up. If you snap at them, or yell at them, it would break their little heart. You are their idol, and it seems dumb, but you should take it as a compliment. Now, I’m not saying this is necessarily healthy behavior, but getting angry is definitely not the solution to it. You need to show them all the other cool things in camp they are missing out on when they are talking to only you or going to only your activities. Remind them that camp is a big opportunity to try new things. Ask them if they’ve ever tried archery or gaga ball, or if they’ve ever talked to the camper two bunks away from them. Find out their interests and direct them towards something besides you that they will truly enjoy doing. That’s not to say they won’t come and tell you about it the second it’s over, but, hey, they are branching out and you got a little space. This isn’t a total fix to the problem, but there won’t always be one in this type of situation. Sometimes you just have to see it from their point of view, and draw from your hopefully endless amount of patience (which you have because camp counselors have loads of it). Be honored that they see you as role model!

The Secret Bully-

Your camper has seemed really low and not themselves lately so you ask them why. They say “so and so” is being mean to them. You immediately approach “so and so” and ask them about the situation, but they plead innocent (and they always will). You have no proof of them actually being mean to anyone, so you decide to give them a warning and look out for it in the future. If this situation repeats itself multiple times with the same antagonist, you have a secret bully in your cabin or activity. Secret bullies are smart and know to strike only when the counselors can’t catch them. It’s not your fault; you can’t be watching one kid all day every day. Sadly our “superhero powers” aren’t good enough to keep eyes on every camper.  But you know that it’s happening, it’s upsetting your other campers, and you can’t really do much about it. The best way to start to solve the issue is to have a bully talk. In younger cabins, try to make it fun so that they will be interested in and understand it. Talking to older campers about bullying is a bit harder. The first thing to do is to make it clear in your cabin, or whatever environment you’re in, that bullying will not be tolerated and will be punished. It must also be clear that if you are being bullied or see someone else being bullied, you are expected to tell an adult about it. This way, if you have multiple witnesses, you have grounds to take action against a secret bully. Secondly, you can try and catch on to their strategies. Do they always make snide comments between activities? Do they only do it when a certain camper is present? If you can understand their thinking process, you have a much better chance of catching them. Also, make sure to alert the other counselors in their cabin or at their activities of the behavior. If it gets really out of hand and you still can’t catch them, tell your camp director or another senior staff member. Try your best to catch this secret bully in the act, but if you absolutely can’t, remember that it’s not your fault!