About Dan

 

Dan Weir has been working in youth development & summer camp for over 20 years. He is a host on the CampHacker Podcast, volunteers at with American Camp Association NY-NJ & the New York State Camp Directors Association, and works at the YMCA of Long Island. He tweets at @danlovescamp.

 

 

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« For parents: Top 10 questions to ask at a Summer Camp Fair. | Main | 5 questions you should ask your camp director »
Tuesday
Dec222009

What age group should I work with?

Almost every day during the hiring season, I am asked the same question. “I was thinking about applying for camp, but I am not sure what age I should work with. Any suggestions?”  

I often reply by explaining how campers break into three main developmental age groups and require different talents.

- I find for younger children (7-9 year olds) you need a great deal of patience. A camp counselor might find themselves repeating instructions or requests a few times.  It is completely worth it though for the moments where everything clicks with them.
- I find for tweens (10-12 year olds) you need to be ready for a wide variety of behaviors from kids.  A child can act really mature one minute and then result to using bad behavior for attention a moment later.  A camp counselor’s demeanor has to be the consistency in the camper’s life.
- I find for teenagers (13 and up) you need to have a good sense of empathy. A camp counselor needs to know the right time to joke around and the right time to be serious.  Sarcasm, while often used for bonding between teenagers and staff, can be extremely damaging when used at the wrong time.

To clarify, I’m not saying those are the only qualities a counselor needs to have.  I’m trying to point out how those qualities are necessary for working with that developmental age group.

I’ve worked with people that are strong with all three age groups.  I’ve also learned new tricks and techniques from people that were only great with one age group.   It is important to remember that working with children should be the same as working with adults.  As long as you practice values like caring, respect, and honesty (you can tell that I’ve been YMCA brainwashed) with your campers, you will be successful.

image from The Library of Virginia

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