The Camp Counselor Experience: Learning From Kids

This was my very first summer that not in my hometown with my mom. Instead of working at our local ice cream shop, I decided to try my hand at camp counseling. While I was close to the cities, it was a great way to get some experience working with kids and being outdoors. I had a different group of campers each week, and I even slept with them in the cabin. While learning from the kids was not what I had in mind at the beginning of the summer, I think it is one of the most valuable takeaways from my 3 months on the St. Croix River. 

Be excited. I learned that young kids get so amped about literally the most normal activities. At first it was funny, but the more I thought about it, it became a beautiful thing to watch an eight-year-old scream and jump when I told them we would be playing Gaga ball later in the afternoon. What if we went through our days as excited as my little campers were? I can personally say that, after watching them for the summer, I have started to get excited for the little things. It helps you to love and appreciate each little moment a little bit more. 

Forgive quickly. I did have to mediate a lot of petty fights this summer, but one thing that always amazed me was how quickly these young girls were able to forgive. One minute they would be sulking, not talking to each other, and the next minute I would look over to see them playing soccer and laughing together. While it’s important to take the time you need to heal, it’s also good to remember that, in the end, we only get one life together. We might as well not get hung up on petty things, and learn to forgive. 

Voice your needs. There would be many times when a child was crying and I had to tell them, “If you don’t tell me what’s wrong, I can’t help you.” As I repeated it week after week, I realized I needed to take my own advice. If I’m struggling with something, no one can help me if I do not ask for help or show honesty to my friends. 

Be a little wild sometimes. Most of my campers were absolutely brimming with energy. All. The. Time. It was a lot to handle, but it also became one of the best things about working with children. Once I learned to lean into their silliness, feed off of it and reciprocate it, I found myself connecting with them a lot better. Obviously you have to keep safety in mind, but it’s okay to be a little goofy and weird. It made just about every activity at camp more enjoyable, and I think it’s translating into my everyday life as well. 

While the list of things we can learn from kids is endless, I think these were some of the most important things I saw my campers teach me. It was a humbling experience to see myself grow because of the influence of someone younger than I, and I would encourage anyone who is interested to give it a shot. You never know, you may learn some important life lessons from someone half your size.