Summer camp offers kids a lot of the same benefits as moving does, but without the hassle of packing up a truck. Kids get to reinvent themselves and gain self-confidence as they handle situations on their own. Sure, it can be a bit scary, especially if this is their first time away from home. However, whether they’re going to sleepaway camp or day camp, making new friends is easy with a little practice at home.
Summer camp is the best place to make new friends because everyone is in the same boat and everyone’s looking for fun. To help your kids meet people, tell them to follow this simple rule: Be like Dory from Finding Dory and swim through the SEA. Smile, eye contact, and arms open (SEA).
Smiling will signal to people that you’re friendly and ready to have some fun. Eye contact let’s people know that you are listening and interested in the other person. Keeping your arms open and by your side shows that you are open to meeting others. When you cross your arms, you’re assuming a defensive posture that tells people you’d prefer to be left alone.
Making New Friends at Summer Camp – Role Play Time
Do some role playing scenarios with your child, focusing on smiling, eye contact, and arms by your side. Pretend you’re another camper and you’ve both just arrived at summer camp.
Parent (smiling, making eye contact, arms open): “Hi! I’m Ellie. I’m from Chicago. Where are you from?”
Child: “Hi! I’m Lily. I’m from Fort Wayne. What cabin are you in?”
Parent: “I’m in Robins. How about you?”
Child: “Cool. I’m in Cardinals, right next door.”
Parent: “Awesome. Do you want to meet me at the camp shop during break time, Lily?”
Child: “Sure! That sounds great, Ellie.”
You: “See you then! Bye, Lily.”
Child: “Bye, Ellie. See you soon.”
6 Tips to Making Friends at Summer Camp
You covered a lot of ground in this quick role play. Let’s break it down:
- Body language: You highlighted the basics of body language and encouraged your child to smile, make eye contact, and keep their arms open. Show them how different the conversation feels when you don’t smile, you look down at the ground or your arms are crossed.
- Introductions: When you meet someone new, introduce yourself. Say your name and where you are from. The more information you give to your new friend, the more information you will get in return. So, if you mention you live in Chicago, your friend will tell you their hometown, too.
- Open-ended questions: Ask open ended questions instead of just “Yes” or “No” questions. Asking what cabin someone is in is a great way to learn more about them. Your child can also ask her friend what she does during free period or ask about her activity schedule or counselors.
- Remembering people’s names: Remind your child to listen to the other person’s name and to try to remember it. Tell him to repeat the person’s name throughout the conversation so he doesn’t forget it. (This is a valuable lifelong skill.) If your child doesn’t remember the other person’s name the next time they see each other, he can just ask his friend again. His friend won’t mind.
- Get together again. Set up a time to meet later. After a fun conversation with a new friend, your child should pick a time they might be able to hang out again. It could be during a free period or he could mention that he’ll be at the same place again the next day, “I’ll see you at the flag raising tomorrow!” If your child sets up a time, he should show up at the same time and place the next day. Camp is flexible and stuff happens, so remind your child that it’s okay if his new friend doesn’t show up. There will be other opportunities to hang out.
- Say “good-bye”. Finish the conversation by saying good-bye. The horn may sound for the next activity. Remind your child to say “bye” to his new friend. Extra points if he remembers his name.
This simple role play scenario will help your child build the self-confidence she needs for making new friends at camp. The good thing is that summer camps make it easy with fun ice breaker games. It’s hard not to become friends with someone you’ve covered in slime and wrapped in toilet paper.
Cool ideas — last year was my kids’ first at camp and they struggled to make friends. Will definitely try these tips. Thanks!
Thanks so much, Alex. I’m sorry to hear camp was a struggle the first year. I hope these tips can help out your kids next time!