Assuaging Those Pre-Camp Jitters
By Laura Viator, Camp Co-Director for Camp Kingfisher
Camp can be a magical place where a child can explore their interests without the strict rules that often come during the school year. Every day becomes an adventure; games are sillier, days are longer, and the adults running the show get to tap into their childlike nature alongside the campers. But it can also be a scary first for parents. Will my child be safe? Will they be accepted, bullied, or even have fun? Short answer? Yes and no. Chances are, they will meet other kids who are just like them. Shy, outgoing, loud, quiet, silly, and everything in between. They may even meet someone who isn’t anything like them because camp is a place for everyone.
As a mother whose children are coming to Camp K for the first time this summer, their safety while in the care of others is my top concern. Sending your children off on a new adventure will always come with some risks, and as parents, we cannot control everything (even though we sometimes like to think we can). Our children are individuals who will make their own choices when we aren’t around. Running when they should walk, cartwheeling around 270 other children, swinging their water bottles around like they’re going for an Olympic shotput record; these choices are made often, and by many, at camp. However, any camp worth its salt will have the same number one priority: your child’s safety.
The safety of campers makes everything else possible. Canoeing, swimming, archery, hiking, ropes courses; everything is built on the foundation of safety. Counselors are trained in it, and campers are reminded of it. Here at camp, we stay safe and have fun. One way summer camps lay the foundation of safety in their programming is through staff training. When looking for a camp for your child, look at their staff training information. How long are staff onsite before camp starts? While you may not know exactly what their training schedule looks like, you can get an idea of how long they are together learning about the camp and the kids they will be working with. At Camp Kingfisher, our counselors are on-site ten days before camp starts, learning techniques for working with children, how we run our programs, and so much more. Our head counselors will be on-site seven days prior to help prepare for the rest of the staff to arrive. Having a well-trained staff lays the groundwork for an amazing summer.
Another thing to look for in a summer camp is its reputation. Ask your neighbors, community members, or your child’s school. What have their experiences been like at camp? Did their children have any issues? And if they did, how did the camp staff address them? What happens if your child comes home saying they were teased, bullied, or even worse… ignored by the other campers? These are things that can happen in any setting and sometimes happen here at camp as well. Kids are constantly learning. They’re picking up on social cues, noticing physical differences, and learning that not everyone thinks like them. And all of this is okay. What isn’t okay, and what should never be tolerated at any camp, is picking on others because of these differences. Camp staff should work very hard to ensure all campers feel welcome and included.
At Camp Kingfisher, we do this by playing ‘Get to Know You Games’ first thing every Monday morning. Additionally, our counselors don’t lecture on the rights and wrongs of camp. They get the campers’ input on how they should behave while at camp and devise a list of group rules together. Debby and I visit every group within the first hour of camp to discuss our number one rule: Respect. We respect nature, we respect our counselors, and we respect each other. With the strong foundation these practices provide, our staff set themselves and their campers up for a fantastic week of camp.
As I said before, camp is a place for everyone, and it is most likely that your child will find their niche. It is my hope that they come home with, at the very least, wonderful experiences. And, at the most… a newfound love of canoeing or archery. A new best friend. Fifteen friendship bracelets that they refuse to take off. The ability to tell you five facts about red-tailed hawks or how a pitcher plant can survive without roots. Or, best of all, a sense that they have found a place where they belong. A place that accepts them and allows them the freedom to learn and grow. A place that values their opinion and their safety. A place of magic. Because that’s what summer camp is: magic.
Hello! My name is Laura Viator, and I am one of the Camp Co-Directors for Camp Kingfisher at The Chattahoochee Nature Center. I am a former Camp Kingfisher Travel Program counselor, former CNC Naturalist, and former Certified Interpretive Guide.
I have a background in teaching, adventure travel, ropes course instruction, lifeguarding, and team building, and I previously worked with The Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta, Bright Horizons, and AmeriCorps. Summer 2023 will be my sixth summer at Camp Kingfisher.
My favorite thing about working at a summer camp is seeing the campers return year after year. Seeing their growth throughout the fall and winter months, and their excitement to come back in the summer is wonderful. In my spare time, I love to hike, go white water rafting, bake, and spend time with my husband and boy/girl twins, Jackson and River.
Hi! My name is Debby Head, and I am one of the co-directors of Camp Kingfisher at the Chattahoochee Nature Center. After spending the majority of my life as a Camp K kid, teen, and adult, my love for Camp Kingfisher is in my blood. I have filled roles from high school volunteer to Camp Co-Director there are not many roles at camp that I have not filled in some capacity. Yes, I do have a favorite – ask me this summer, and I’ll tell you!
I have a degree in Health and Human Services from KSU, a passion for mental health, and helping people grow through the camp experience. The best part of my job is to watch kids and young adults grow into the most AWESOME true version of themselves. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to see some of our phenomenal staff as 5-year-olds who were scared to walk into the gym on the first day of camp and sometimes grow through the challenges that life throws at us.
I am a dog mom to a pitbull princess, Indie, and a wild child lab, Harper. When I’m not at camp, I like to spend my free time with my 2 pups and getting on the water. I can’t wait to see you all this summer!