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First Day Of Summer Camp-What You Didn’t Expect!


Counselors First Day

Are you ready for everything and anything on the first day of camp?  I’m sure you have a schedule set up for your camp, but how do you stick to that schedule?  Here are some tips to stay on schedule and it all starts with the beginning of the day.


   Sign In




  • Did you allow time for the campers to sign in?  This is the most crucial part of your day.  If you fall behind at the start of the day, you’ll be playing catch up all day and that’s not fun.  Tip: If your first activity is going to begin at 9 a.m., than your sign in time should start at 8:30 or earlier depending on how many campers you have coming that week.  If you allow walk-ins which I highly recommend, you should allow more time for sign in.  Many camps don’t have this, so if you have walk-ins you’ll have something different that most if not all of your competition.


  • You’ll want to have a sign in clip boards for registered campers and another for walk-ins.


  • If your camp is cash/check only make sure you have change, singles, fives etc…  My parents usually pay for lunch with cash, but they’re allowed to pay ahead of time with their initial camp payment for a food/drink credit.


  • In this day and age people expect to be able to pay with credit card.  You may lose business if you don’t offer it. Here are a few options if you don’t have it cc slider“> Mini-Swiper and pos register“>Pos Register.


  • Make sure you have counselors outside to guide parents/campers into the building with a smile on their face.  This counselor will tell the parents/campers which line to get on when entering the building.  you’ll have one line for walk-ins/new campers and one line for registered returning campers.


  • Be aware that some parents will ask a lot of questions.   This will slow down your sign in and that’s okay if you’re prepared.  The two lines that we just spoke of will speed up the sign in process and your counselors reinforcing which line to get on will be very helpful.






  • Did you set up the first set of activities before the campers arrive? Scoreboard, balls, wrist bands, pinnies etc..


  • Are you prepared for which different age levels will go for their first activity? K-2 classroom games, 3rd-4th small gym, 5th-6th big gym, 7th-9th outside field.


  • Do your counselors know what to clean up and what to set up for the next activity during the water break?  Do your counselors know who is to stay in the classrooms with the kids on their break and who needs to clean or set up next activity?  This needs to be established ahead of time.


  • Tip: Always have a runner and always have enough counselors that will allow you to be free to do whatever you need to without being stuck to stay with a group.  Runner: A counselor that is not assigned to any particular group.  Their job is to answer the phone, help a crying child, grab a forgotten piece of equipment, pick up lunch etc….


  • Tip: Rotate the runners.



Walkie-Talkie: You’ll want all of your counselors to have walkie-talkies.  They’re cheap and it’s a great way to get in contact with them as soon as you need them or vice versa.


Crying child   


  • Having counselors placed at different locations will help take care of this.  If you have a line of excited campers waiting to get into camp, the last thing you have time for is a crying child.  You should have a counselor near your sign in ready to help the crying child.  This counselor can guide them into the room where you have a movie playing while the other campers sign in.  Find other kids their age and even stay with them until they become comfortable.


Rule review


  • Make sure you set time aside to go over the camp rules once you have all of the kids in lunch/break room.  It may feel like a downer to list a bunch of rules to kids when they’re so excited for the start of camp, but children need guidelines. Here is a list of some rules that I go thru on the first day of every week.


  • Criticism: Yes everyone is here to have fun, but you’re also here to get better.  Remember that when a coach is giving you advice or making corrections, it’s because they care.


  • Bathroom: Make sure the kids know what bathrooms their allowed to use.  Mention expected behavior when using bathroom and all campers must ask a counselor to use the bathroom.  K-2 you may want a counselor to go with them.  Not in the bathroom.


  • No Shooting:  If it’s a soccer camp don’t allow shooting at the goals unless instructed by the counselor.  It’s an accident waiting to happen.  My campers have VERY LITTLE DOWN TIME.  Maybe 1 or 2 minutes and they’re told to juggle or pass.


  • Property:  Make sure the kids are told to respect the property around them.  If you’re renting space for the Summer and the kids do damage to it, than it will be unlikely that you’ll be invited back the next Summer.  Also, make sure everyone’s valuables/lunch are locked in a classroom or locker when counselors are not present.


  • Introduction:  Introduce your counselors, maybe even a few words about them.  All of my counselors are former athletes of mine, so I usually brag about them.  Kids are going to want to get to know you and the counselors, so it’s good to tell them a little bit about yourself.


  • Breaks:  Let them know they’ll be taking water breaks after every activity and tell them what time they’ll have lunch.  Mention the activities they’ll play before the day begins.  It will ease the tension and anticipation.


  • Clean-up: Discuss throwing out their lunch/snacks and not leaving a mess on or below the table.  The clean table competition will help.  Which ever tables are the cleanest after lunch, will get called first for lunch the following day.  Write the table order on the whiteboard or somewhere the kids can see it.  Seems silly, but they’ll compete for this.


  • Groups:  Tell the kids what group they’ll be with and which counselor will start the day with them.  It’s also very important to make them aware that they can switch groups within reason.  For example:  A very athletic 2nd grader may want to play with the 3rd and 4th graders and that is fine, if you think they can handle it.  Another example:  You might not be aware that you split up friends and you’ll want your campers to be happy, so I would make the change.  Of course there are exceptions.  For example: A first grader has a brother in 5th grade and he wants to be with his brother.  That is too big of an age difference and dangerous for the 1st grader.  Use your best judgement.


  • Behavior: I make it clear to the campers that if they don’t behave they can be dismissed from camp.  I’ve only had to do this a few times in the last 18 years.  It may sound harsh, but as a teacher it’s easier to be tough in the beginning and ease up as time goes on.  If your soft in the beginning, it’s much harder to reel them in.


  • Two examples of kids that were sent home from my camp.  An older brother put a stink bomb in the backpack of his younger sister and stunk up the entire lunch room and hallway.  The second example that is probably the more obvious when a camper punched another camper in the face.  I can count on one hand how many kids were dismissed from camp early in 18 years.  Hopefully it will be the same for you.


  • Tip: Make sure you mention in your waiver that you reserve the right to dismiss a camper from camp without reimbursement.


  • Tip: Don’t make changes in groups until your first break.  Make the kids aware that after the first game, if they’re not happy they can ask to be moved within reason.  You’ll already be short on time since you just went thru the sign-in process and now rule review.



  • Tip: It’s okay to cut out your first activity if you fall behind at the start of your day.  For example:  If I’m starting with soccer skills, I may skip my first drill/activity of lead passing.


CLICK HERE to check out management strategies 


I hope you enjoyed this info.  Please feel free to leave a comment or question below.


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    • admin

      Thanks! Much appreciated!

  1. Jerry

    Well, if I ever wanted to run a summer camp, I would surely rely on the useful advice you have given in this article. I agree that preparing well, for any event, will prevent a lot of issues later on. Start well and you could be in a flow before you know it. I like the rules you have in place, they create clarity, peace and quiet and everybody knows their place from the very beginning. It also goes to show as you do not need to dismiss many children in your 18 years. Amazing!

    • Mr. L.

      Thanks for the compliment!  I hope that someone who may be in a different line of business, can still use some of my strategies.  

      Have a great day!


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