Overnight Summer Camp Success: The First 48 Hours

Posted by Erec Hillis on Jan 31, 2014 1:45:00 PM

Overnight Camp Success: The First 48 Hours

**This is a continuation of our Counselor Skills Series, where we share some of the specific training we do with our counselors to make sure that your children enjoy the benefit of getting to know exceptional role models while at camp. You can find the other articles in this series here: Homesickness, Confidence, and Discipline.

Getting Ready for Summer Camp

One of the ways that we ensure a successful term for each of our campers and counselors is a very purposeful approach to the first 48 hours of each camp term. Beginning at 2pm on Opening Day, the first 48 hours contributes heavily to the trajectory that the rest of the term will follow. If a counselor can help a camper feel at home, connected, and engaged during that “try out period”, it is much easier for that camper to feel comfortable, make friends, and enjoy activities for the rest of camp.

Overnight-summer-camp-success-first-48We wanted to share our approach for the first two days of camp so that you know that your child will have the most thoughtful and complete supervision available!

These are the things that we train our counselors to do during those first two days, quoted directly from our counselor training manual:

1) Opening Day—Opening will be the very first impression of camp for about a third of our campers. The rest will have been eagerly awaiting this day for weeks, so for all of them, we need to make Opening Day pop! This means enthusiastically greeting each member of your cabin, learning their names, and helping to establish friendships with their cabin mates from the get go. If you can get your campers talking and playing with each other right away that will eliminate much of their anxiety about being at camp. This starts before campers arrive. Make a plan with your co-counselor on what cabin games you want to play, how you want to set your cabin rules, and what you want to do between dinner and torchlight. Plans make success, so you'll need to make a plan.

2) The First Meal, Evening Activity, and Torchlight­—These activities will help set the tone for the rest of the term. Make sure to talk to each one of your campers during the first meal both to check in and to continue to establish your relationship with them. We’ll also need to make sure that the evening activity is something special, even if it’s our third time to do that particular activity by the end of the summer.

Prepare your campers ahead of time with what to expect and tell them how much fun they will have at each step of the first evening (prime them to enjoy it). Make sure that everyone is involved at the first torchlight. For first year campers, explain what happens during torchlight and why we have it almost every night. Getting all of your campers excited during Pump It Up and engaged throughout torchlight is one of the best ways to help them feel involved and part of the action.

3) The First Night—For many campers, this is a period of apprehension and fear, anticipation and excitement. Our job is to minimize the fear and help campers look forward to the activities of tomorrow. Make sure to learn each camper’s name during the first afternoon and interact individually with each camper at least a couple of times before bedtime. This cements the relationship and will reduce first night anxiety. Talk about the schedule of the next day, what activities campers have to look forward to, when wake up is, flag raising, etc. Knowledge reduces anxiety, so give campers an idea of what is going on. We will do plenty of homesickness training, but as always, don’t hesitate to ask your DL if you need assistance.

4) Monday Morning and Campers Missing Home—Monday morning is typically crazy; it’s a time when campers are trying to learn their way around, and we are getting schedules finalized and passed out. In all the rush, campers can disengage and begin missing home, so try to minimize down time and continue to give each camper the love and attention he or she needs. This is another area where being organized and having a plan will benefit you. At breakfast, go over the morning schedule and what the campers will need for their activities.

5) Monday Morning Through Tuesday Afternoon—Monday will be the first day of activities and the first full day at camp. It is important that we execute this day well to demonstrate how we want the schedule to run for the rest of the term. Let’s make sure activities get started on time, meal tables get cleaned well, and once again the special event and torchlight pop. If we can execute a clean Monday, by Tuesday even our newest campers will feel like experts in their new environment.

This is the time when we get to build good habits (for both ourselves and our campers) and set the term off with a bang!

Go get those first 48 hours!”


We believe that the way we train our counselors is among the best in the country. We are writing this blog series to share parts of what we teach during our 12-day orientation, so that you can feel secure in trusting your child to the supervision of our counselor role models.

See the full series here: Counselor Training Series 


If you are just beginning your Sleepaway Camp search process, consider downloading this helpful guide to choosing the right overnight camp below.

Download Guide: Choosing the Right Summer Camp

Tags: Counselor Training