It is summer time again! This week, many Maine camps will be opening their doors to campers, and pre-camp and staff orientation is in full swing as everybody prepares for the arrival of campers. However, while camp may be buzzing with administrators and counselors, this is nothing compared to the frenzy that will accompany the campers’ arrival, and in just a few days the pace at camp will pick up tremendously.
Pre-camp is, obviously, all about preparing for the campers. Of course, some of this work is logistic – there are lawns to be mowed, and trees to be trimmed. The tennis courts need new clay, the athletic fields need to be lined, and all equipment must be unpacked to prepare for activities. And, of course, counselors need to be assigned to their cabins so they know which children they will be working with this summer.
This aspect of pre-camp – preparing counselors for the specific challenges that their campers may face – is instrumental to a successful summer. Camps will certainly go over general procedures to create welcome and inclusive cabins, and how to handle issues like homesickness or a reluctance to try certain activities. However, one thing that sets many Maine Camp Experience camps apart is that bunk counselors will also be forewarned of specific challenges a particular camper may face, and will work with experienced staff members or group leaders to develop strategies to deal with these. For example, if a camper is prone to nightmares, their counselor will be alerted and the camper will likely be placed in a bed next to a counselor – this way, if they encounter the issue at night there is an adult in place to help them navigate the situation.
One of the most important parts of any child’s experience at camp is the feeling of being welcomed and included, and camps go to great lengths to take advantage of the period before campers arrive in order to create a welcoming environment. Staff members will be taught ice breaker games, and will be informed of specific camp policies that are designed to foster an atmosphere of inclusiveness. At the camp I work at, there is an “open chair” policy – when you are sitting in a group, you must have an open chair or space for someone to join, which will make it much easier for someone to welcome themselves into the group if they want to join but are just a little bit more shy. This policy is enacted during pre-camp for all staff members, and continued throughout the summer once the campers arrive.
One other way that camps use the time leading up to Opening Day is to create a sense of unity among the staff, which tends to translate to a cohesive camp community once the campers arrive. Staff will play games together, will work together within their departments to achieve goals, and will spend hours of downtime socializing (hours that they certainly won’t have once the campers arrive!) It truly is tremendous to see how quickly a camp’s staff can come together as a community, and in just a few days many staff members will form the foundations for real and lasting friendships that will last throughout the summer and, sometimes, a lifetime.
There is nothing quite like Opening Day of camp – I truly love when the kids arrive, and the reason I come to camp each year is to play a part in the special role that camp plays in a child’s development. But this development is only possible because camps take advantage of the time they have before the campers arrive. On the last night of pre-camp, many counselors will sit in the main bunk playing cards or board games, relishing in the incredible experience that has only just begun. I personally like to walk to the lake and simply sit and listen to the sounds of nature, and breathe in the fresh pine air over the crystal blue lake – because once camp opens, this period of calm will seem far, far away.
Maine Camp Experience Resources & Tools
Looking for the perfect Maine camp for your child? Try out our helpful tool where you can select a camp by choosing: type of camp (girls, boys or coed) and session length (1-8 weeks). It helps to narrow down a few camps to a manageable list that includes rates. Then you can research these camps in more depth.
Next, be sure to contact our Maine Camp Guide, Laurie to discuss these camps as well as for free, year-round advice and assistance on choosing a great Maine summer camp for your child.
Talk to Laurie, our Maine Campcierge™, about choosing the right camp for your child and what to do in Maine.