It’s the first day of camp: SUVs and minivans are pulling onto the grounds, and parents are hastily unloading children and luggage.
While some campers are excited to return and visit with old pals, others are more hesitant about spending an entire week, or more, away from the comforts of home and familiar faces.
This extended time with “strangers” can be scary for a child–especially a first-year camper.
As a camp director, counselor, or staff member, you know this often leads to late-night tears and phone calls home, and sometimes, an early departure from camp.
So, how can you help these kids adjust quickly to camp life and immediately feel comfortable in a new group? Try the power of a custom T-shirt on for size!
The Power Of The T-Shirt
Remember that old T-shirt in the back of the closet, the one that just can’t be thrown away? It may not even be worn anymore, but it holds a memory.
Although you’ve probably never given it much thought, there is something special about the power of a T-shirt.
Custom T-shirts have the power to unite people–they transform a ragtag group of players into a uniformed team, elevate a simple gathering to an event, and make a special moment, well…more momentous.
A customized T-shirt helps people bond together, regardless of their differences. It makes them feel part of something.
For staff members, camp counselors, and directors, wearing T-shirts may represent and denote responsibility at the camp. Your shirt signifies team leadership, whether you’re someone who answers questions, assists with problems, lends an ear, or offers a friendly, reassuring smile.
Not only does your shirt help campers recognize you as someone they can turn to, but it also creates a sense of coworker unity. The T-shirt communicates a message–we’re all in this together.
If shirts can do that for camp staff, imagine what they can do for campers.
The Benefits Of Custom T-Shirts For Campers
A Sense of Belonging
Camp can be intimidating–new people, unfamiliar surroundings, and newfound challenges to tackle. Providing campers with T-shirts on arrival day says, “You’re in the right place; you belong here; we’re happy to have you; and these other campers are a lot like you.”
And, the shirts serve as a reminder to parents to take a deep breath and relax–their kids are in good hands and among soon-to-be friends.
As campers begin to settle in and learn their surroundings, the T-shirts also serve as a way to connect with others.
Depending on how the camp is run, consider custom shirts for smaller groups, such as specific age groups, bunks, or sports. This is a great way for small-unit campers to identify commonalities and develop a sense of pride.
From a practical standpoint, team shirts provide campers with an easy way to locate friends in a large-group setting, and serve as a quick solution for counselors keeping track of “their” kids.
For camps with scheduled trips and outings, customized T-shirts can serve as an excellent safety mechanism. Outfitting campers in brightly colored shirts makes it easier for counselors to supervise their group and quickly locate any wanderers.
If a camper were to become separated from his or her group, or be in any type of danger, T-shirts make it easier for outsiders or authorities to identify the child’s affiliation and connect with camp administrators as quickly as possible.
After camp concludes, the campers’ T-shirts will be a warm reminder of wonderful memories, new accomplishments, and shared friendships.
It’s also not unheard of for people to make new friends simply because they recognize a T-shirt. They may not have been campers at the same time, but years later, wearing that T-shirt can trigger a heartfelt exchange about shared experiences.
Resources For Customizing T-Shirts
Remember when customizing meant sitting down with a plain white tee and some puffy paint? All it takes now is a few clicks of the mouse.
The tedious process of finding a screen printer, negotiating price and delivery time, and fooling with complicated design files is a thing of the past. Now, T-shirts can be designed and ordered online with free access to hundreds of fonts and art libraries.
Colors, fonts, and artwork can be mixed and matched until the design is just right. Shirts can be customized with camp pictures and personalized logos. With the right partner, the human touch–designers and customer-service reps on-call, ready to assist–is not lost.
As plans are finalized and supplies are ordered for next season, keep in mind the power that T-shirts have to unite people, especially campers. Camp creates memories that last a lifetime, memories they’ll recall every time they pull on that T-shirt.
Kimberley Haver is the Vice President of Merchandising for CustomInk (www.customink.com), a design online custom T-shirt company.
T-Shirt Ideas For Campers
When it comes to creating custom T-shirts for camp, the sky is the limit! Here are a few suggestions:
Welcome T-shirts: Send them ahead of time to registered campers to wear on move-in day, or hand them out when campers arrive.
Bunk, team, age, or other sub-group shirts: Let counselors or coaches get creative and design shirts before camp season begins, or differentiate the same camp design with a variety of colors or styles.
T-shirts for competitions or events: Commemorate and add to the excitement of special events (talent show, swimming contest, field day).
T-shirts as awards: Use custom tees as prizes for superlatives or other special recognition for individuals and groups.
T-shirts as an art project: Online design labs allow anyone to try his or her hand at creating a design. With a guaranteed delivery date from a T-shirt provider, campers can have those finished shirts by the end of the camp session.
A T-shirt signing party: Fabric markers and custom tees allow campers to collect signatures from friends and counselors to further personalize their keepsake tee.