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Making Friends at Summer Camp

Posted in Summer Camps

How the Y Fosters Friendships at Summer Camps

I have never been to a summer camp, but from what I have read it sounds very fun! My mom might be sending me to one this summer, but I'm worried nobody will like me. :( I have a lot of fabulous friends, but a lot of other people think I'm stupid, and weird. ( I love being weird though! :D)
— RandomNinja

Socialization and having fun outdoors with friends are big reasons why many parents send their kids to camp - whether it be Day Camp or a week or two of Overnight Camp. However, many first-time campers are anxious that they won't know anyone and are a little intimidated about making new friends.

At the Y, making friends is viewed as one of the most important aspects of camp and a process that we can help nurture. Here are a few insights into our approach to friending at summer camp.

BYOF (Bring Your Own Friend)

Know a friend of your child's who might also enjoy the camp experience? See if he or she can go to camp too. That way both friends can go to the first day of camp a little more relaxed. But talk with your child about the importance of making other friends too. Sometimes friendships can be tested in new environments with other new kids. So help your child work through those kinds of issues if they arise.


We Get To Know Your Kid

I went to camp as a kid and some of my best friends are people that I met over the years at overnight camp. I was the best man in my friend's wedding — that friend was in my cabin at camp. Camp provides life long memories for young and old and it's still the main reason that I come back every summer. If I can help provide a positive memory for a camper that will help that kid come back summer after summer and make new friends every year...I've done my job. And being a camp counselor is the best job in the world!
— Y Camp Counselor

The first new friend your child makes is likely to be a camp counselor. A small ratio of campers to staff enables each YMCA leader to engage in activities and conversations with each camper every day and learn his or her unique qualities, likes and dislikes. Counselors are trained to monitor the interaction between kids and watch out for the ones who might need a little help with socialization.

We Model Positive Relationships

Positive relationships among campers, staff and parents are critical for each child's healthy development and social growth. We make sure that there are positive relationships among staff. We know that campers look to camp staff as role models, watching and learning as they cooperate, communicate and solve problems with each other.

We Make the Most of Opportunities to Bond

I made two new friends at camp and we have still been able to hang out even though they go to different schools. We first became friends because we were in the same group — Falcons! And we all like to sing the songs so we tried to be louder than all of the other kids. I can't wait for camp this summer so we can all be Falcons again and hang out all summer long.
— Y Camper

Throughout the day, at the Y, we look at every interaction as an opportunity to form bonds, both with counselors and between kids. Whether it's the bus ride to camp, team building challenges and games or assigning buddies for field trips and projects - each activity presents opportunities for developing socialization skills and making friends. And with a wide range of activities and games each day, every child gets a chance to shine at one point or another, helping build the confidence to reach out to others.

Playing Games is the Secret Sauce

Ice-Breaker Games

Have you ever?

Everyone stands or sits in a circle in front of a place marker, such as a backpack. The one person without a chair or a place marker is "it". The "it" will say something about themselves. For example, "Have you ever gone swimming in the Puget Sound?" Anyone in the circle that has that in common must move to a new spot in the circle. Each move has to be at least two place markers or chairs from where they started. Whoever is left without a place marker will be it and will tell something about themselves.

2 Truths and a Lie

Ask each person in the group to think of two true facts about themselves, and one lie. Each person in the group takes a turn telling the group their three items. The group then has to agree on which fact they think is a lie. Once the group announces their decision, the speaker tells the group the correct answer. The group then can talk about any of the interesting things they just learned about the new person.

Kids learn to socialize through play and games are a great tool to aid in that process. Besides learning skills and developing hand-eye coordination, kids learn how to listen, think outside of themselves, respond and strategize. Games force kids to work together collaboratively to achieve a common goal but without the more rigid structure of the classroom or organized sports. Kids get to experience success and failure in a positive and supportive environment.

Games help children communicate with each other and with adults and teach children valuable life lessons, such as "if you break a rule, you have to deal with the consequences" and "if you brag about winning, nobody will want to play against you next time."

Y camps offer a variety of games starting with ice-breakers designed to help kids can find out more about their fellow campers. The daily mix of games usually includes both competitive and cooperative games at all levels of movement and skill, brain games, drama games, relay races and games of tag.

Our inclusive programs allow all campers, regardless of physical, intellectual, developmental and emotional ability, to actively participate in a way that challenges each child and helps foster enduring friendships.

After a summer at Y Camp, your child will gain self-confidence, new skills, life lessons, great memories and valued friendships!



Alumni Stories from YMCA Camp Orkila


Tips from other sources - Making Friends Links

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From Mentor on It's My Life:


When it comes to making friends, if you don't go with a friend, find other people who came alone. It's likely that they're also looking for new camp pals. If you see someone sitting alone, go up to them, introduce yourself, and ask if you can sit with them.

Ask where they're from, what they like to do, and you'll be on your way to having a great camp friend. If you're nervous about going to camp for the first time, remember you're not the only one feeling that way. There are bound to be other first-timers that have the same fears.

Also, don't be afraid to talk to your counselors about how you're feeling: they're there to help and have dealt with fear and homesickness before.


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