Building A Camp That Builds Friendships

Kids today do few things where they face each other. They’ve always faced forward in the school bus and in the classroom, but now they sit side by side and face a video or computer screen when they get home, too. Mom drives them to activities (no more walking) where instead of deciding how to pick teams and agree on the rules in a vacant lot, they sit on the bench and wait for their coach to rotate them into the game. Then home again in the minivan. More than ever, kids need the times and places where they can sit, face each other, and talk about the activities they’ve just shared. Otherwise, they haven’t shared anything.

Pinewood Picnic Tables Offer Affordable, Useable Space

How does this apply to your camp? Let’s take a tour, starting with your cabins. Is there anywhere in your cabins where kids can play cards? (Four kids don’t fit on one bunk). How about a small picnic table in the middle of the room or on the porch? Is there time during the day when they could sit around it and play cards or checkers? Just imagine if every cabin had one of those big carpet checkerboards like you find at Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores and a deck of cards. Kids would be making friends, just like YOU did when you were a kid, or in college.

Where do kids line up and wait at your camp? Outside the dining hall? At the Trading Post? Outside the pool or waterfront? If you had picnic tables there kids could be facing each other, sitting as cabin groups, sharing snacks and stories and laughs. Every picnic table is a clubhouse with a hundred uses. Drill a hole in it, add an umbrella and it looks like a resort!

Compare your camp web site to “resort” web sites. Most of those sites aimed at adults will have an almost identical picture of two Adirondack chairs facing a great, relaxing view. You can just see yourself sitting in one of those chairs and talking with someone, can’t you? So where are those chairs at your camp? Don’t your campers think of camp as their summer vacation? Don’t they want a break from the hectic pace of school? Just look at some of the accompanying photos of camps whom have added “gathering spots” around camp and you know instinctively how they’ll be used.

The Right Game Can Promote Friendship

Friend Making Games

Did you play kickball or baseball as a kid? You know one reason they’re so popular? Because you spend half the time watching the game and talking to the other kids on your team! But what your camp probably doesn’t have are the dugout benches where that can happen. (Again, you can’t beat picnic tables; and an igloo cooler of water makes it a natural gathering area. To make it perfect, put it in the shade – trees if you’ve got them, or a vinyl-tent “carport” if you don’t.) It’s not the game that makes the friendship it’s the time talking about the game with new friends that makes it a lasting memory.

One of the best friend-making activities of all time is four square. Only four kids are on the court, but dozens more can be in a line circling them waiting their turn. They’re commenting on the game, learning the rules and techniques, telling stories, idolizing mentors and inspiring young ones. Each camper village and every “waiting” area should have at least one four square court and ball-holder where staff get the game started any spare minute.

Page 2 of 3 | Previous page | Next page

Related posts:

  1. Put Your Camp Store To Work
  2. Building for the Future
  3. Conceptual Steps
  4. Reevaluating the Camp, Part 2
  5. Incremental Improvement, Part 2
  • Columns & Features
  • Departments
  • Writers