Preparing Campers -- A Checklist

Preparing campers for their next camp experience is all about anticipation. Anticipate their needs, questions and concerns as the camp season draws nearer.

Make sure everyone's on board, and has put themselves in the campers' shoes -- from the owner to the director and all of the staff.

New campers hope that when they embark upon a day or resident camp adventure that they will experience reciprocal friendship from their peers. Returning campers will be looking forward to being with their friends and their former counselors, in addition to new activities and programs.

And this is where anticipation enters the picture again. Campers -- whether they're new to camp or returning -- may have common concerns about their upcoming involvement in camp. They may have internal and external issues about their acceptance, approval and positive relationships with their peers and staff.

Whether they're seven or 15, their own self-esteem, competence, effectiveness, self worth, skills, abilities and appearance are being compared, not only by themselves to themselves, but also by their subjective interpretation of how others perceive them.

The director's innovation and implementation of a Camper Handbook, which would be discussed with their parents before the season, can be helpful for their understanding of some of the obvious and less obvious ingredients found at camp.

Staff handbooks are a necessity, and camper handbooks must be incorporated into the process of communication and the orientation of campers.

Below is an alphabetized list of topics, needs and concerns which should be addressed by the administration for their clientele.

• Assigned and elective activities available in the program

• Camp rules and behavior standards and the reasons for them

• Canteen/camp store availability

• Clothing lists which incorporate what to and not to bring to camp

• Coed fraternization policy for older campers

• Communication to and from camp by telephone, cell phone, e-mail, fax, letter and packages

• Day/night security for the protection of the camp

• Development of self-esteem, competence and effectiveness

• Dining Hall program, menu, nutrition, weight and special diets

• Ethnic, racial, religious and socioeconomic diversity of campers and staff

• Free time options

• Health Center and infirmary for medication and treatment

• Laundry facilities

• Lights out and wake-up

• Making a team, drama and dance presentations selections

• Meeting special needs at camp (ADA)

• Non-acceptable popular fads and fashions

• Out-of-camp activities

• Physical size and appearance concerns

• Privacy considerations in the bathroom, showers and cabin

• Relationships within their cabin, unit and peer group

• Responsibility, respect and integrity as major values

• Role model expectations of campers and staff

• Separation anxiety issues –- letting go -- for campers and parents

• Staff supervision throughout the camp experience

• The camp's philosophy about intra and inter competition

• Transportation and luggage information

• Visiting policy

Many of the topics for the purpose of orientation included in the camper handbook will be of interest to campers and their parents.

Age, maturity and stages of physical, emotional, cognitive and social development must be considered for each camper because their socialization process and education do contribute to their individual differences.

Dr. Charles B. Rotman is Professor of Psychology, Emeritus, at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass., and is a licensed psychologist. Dr. Rotman is the author of "Camp is Business, Customer Satisfaction" and "Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) in Camp Management" (1998. Babson College Press), and is president of CBR Associates Inc., a mental health consulting service for camps. For questions, he can be reached at (781) 235-4105 or

Bryan BuchkoComment