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So many tasks, activities, and responsibilities from your days as a camper or counselor have benefits beyond the months of June through August. They become summer camp life skills. For developing new areas of expertise, what happens at camp doesn’t stay at camp. It’s true that some activities don’t become summer camp life skills, but there are many more that do help with the bigger picture. Successful group interactions, ways to think on your feet, and tasks to do around the house, are just a few of the summer camp life skills that have extended benefits. Here are eight camp experiences that provide value for a lifetime.

1. Handle emergency situations

Even the most predictable camp events can play out in unexpected ways, and the ability to handle these situations is a top summer camp life skill. We’ve all been there when a camper with an allergy gets a bee sting. We’ve all experienced sudden changes in weather. This summer camp life skill is about finding solutions, keeping everyone calm, and working step-by-step toward resolution. In an emergency situation outside of camp, the circumstances might be different, but the ability to process what’s happening and make good decisions is just as important. 

During an emergency at camp, it’s important to keep everyone calm, delegate, and stay in control. This same approach to emergency management works outside of camp. Even if your situation isn’t affecting hundreds of people, the ability to stay calm in moments of crisis is a summer camp life skill that is valuable beyond measure.

summer camp life skills cook for a group

2. Cook for a large group of people (and wash all the dishes)

Boil some pasta, open a jar of sauce, sprinkle some cheese, and boom, you’ve got a quick meal for a few folks. Multiply that dinner group by four or five times and suddenly that simple three-ingredient meal isn’t going to cut it. That’s where this summer camp life skill comes to the rescue. 

If you know how to cook pizza for hundreds of campers with a variety of diets and allergies, you can definitely organize and cook for a small dinner party. You know how to figure out how much to cook and the order in which to prepare each item. You know how to keep some things cool, other things warm, and to manage the mess. While your menu might be a little fancier than Sysco chicken nuggets and iceberg lettuce, your kitchen acumen is a key summer camp life skill.

3. Project your voice in a large room full of people

The announcement you need to make at camp might be reminding campers to wear closed-toe shoes, or assigning them a team for a bizarre group activity. Whatever you have to say, it needs to be loud and clear. If you can’t command attention there’s a chance that campers won’t be prepared, which can throw off your whole day. 

The ability to confidently stand in front of a group of people, and speak with clarity and authority is not something to take for granted. If you can reach those campers at the back of the dining hall and get them ready for canoeing in 30 minutes, you can use that same approach to present a new idea at work. You can even reach that person who appears to be taking notes but is actually doing a crossword puzzle. Or at least you can confidently try.

During an emergency at camp, it’s important to keep everyone calm, delegate, and stay in control. This same approach to emergency management works outside of camp. Even if your situation isn’t affecting hundreds of people, the ability to stay calm in moments of crisis is a summer camp life skill that is valuable beyond measure.

4. Unclog a toilet

Maybe most people can handle unclogging a single toilet in their house every once in a while. But can they do it multiple times a day or week, during the hot summer months, with toilets that have been around for who knows how long? That’s a summer camp life skill that your friends and family will appreciate. 

There seems to be no limit to what will end up going down (or not going down) a summer camp toilet. And with lines of campers waiting to go, there’s no time to waste (zing!). With this life skill, you’ll have the confidence to plunge (zing!) into even the most challenging clog situation.

summer camp life skills organize

5. Organize and pack any items

When former camp counselors and directors were asked about the most valuable life skills they have due to their summer camp experiences, variations of the ability to pack and organize came up frequently. These are two related summer camp life skills that are extremely useful.

Most of the folks surveyed said the experience of successfully arranging eight weeks’ worth of clothes and supplies in a single duffle bag has helped them in adult life when packing for a vacation. On the organizational side, these camp experts said that after organizing 30 colors of string, six different sizes of cereal bowls, and every possible sports ball there is, straightening up a closet or pantry just doesn’t feel that difficult.

6. Work well in teams

You’re as likely to find a camp counselor who worked solo all summer, as you are to find Big Foot. Working at camp requires teamwork, but also adaptability and flexibility. This is because different counselors take on leadership roles at different times, and a team can vary literally by the day. This summer camp life skill is about filling gaps, being dependable, and learning when to step up (and when to step back).

Teams are successful when individuals are empowered to do what they do best, while also having the opportunity to grow. Successful teams also don’t always rely on the assumption that a person with seniority always has to take charge. Camp teams rotate often, and different counselors have to jump into different roles all the time. When teams outside camps function this way, we’re all better off.

Working at camp requires teamwork, but also adaptability and flexibility. This is because different counselors take on leadership roles at different times, and a team can vary literally by the day. This summer camp life skill is about filling gaps, being dependable, and learning when to step up (and when to step back).

7. Never lose track of people when you’re in a large group

One camp counselor who was asked about life skills mentioned that after working at a camp for eight summers, they moved with friends to New York City. It wasn’t until their first visit to Times Square that they realized how important it was to keep tabs on each other. Even amidst the Big Apple crowds, they never struggled to do so. 

Looking back, this is a summer camp life skill that they honed when hundreds of kids were darting all over the place and they had to leave an activity with the same group they started with. Confidence in navigating a big busy city without losing your buddies can only come from the experience of being the only chaperone on a field trip with 20 eight-year-olds who are all wearing variations of the same outfit. 

8. Disagree respectfully

At some jobs, you can get into a heated argument and then just walk away. That’s hard to do at summer camp. If you and your co-counselor aren’t on the same page, you’ve got to spend every day with each other anyway. You also want to be a good example for the campers, which means you need to figure out how to handle disagreements respectfully. 

Don’t underestimate the power of this summer camp life skill. The ability to be kind, to really listen and consider other perspectives, and to not make things personal are all connected to the respect and closeness that camp staff develops with each other. While you may not be able to replicate the camp dynamics that helped you develop this skill, it can stay with you in your personal and professional life.

All the Skills

Limiting life skills learned at summer camp to just eight is almost disrespectful. There are so many more ways that camp impacts daily life, and these are just a few examples. Whether you’re cooking, cleaning, or managing a team, you’re bringing a little camp with you—even if you don’t always realize it. What other life skills have you developed thanks to summer camp? 

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