Being the Best at Getting Campers to Bed

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Why Do We Care About This Time?
Campers making food at summer campEvenings at camp can be very emotional (good and bad) and so it's always best to have a strong plan.    It is a time when kids can get very homesick and an activity or discussion often helps to get their mind off of things.
When kids are getting ready for bed and the mood is a bit more quiet and contemplative a great counsellor can give those children an awesome experience.  Those moments are often the times that kids remember years later.
A Big Caution:
If practical jokes are part of your camp culture it's incredibly important that they NOT take place in the quiet time of the night.   A big scare will be something that kids will remember and report back to their parents.  Also kids that are nervous and anticipating a scare or trick will be more homesick and more likely to wet the bed.
Scary stories at night will have the same effect.
The Goal:
Be intentional about every moment after kids finish their evening program and snack.
Here are some suggestions from some of my favourite counsellors:
  • If you close off your night with a campfire and singing, have the kids brush their teeth before campfire.  They can then quietly leave the campfire area and head to bed.    If you don't do this the whole camp ends up in the washrooms and the volume and energy skyrockets.
  • The campfire leader should dismiss kids from the campfire area one unit at a time while everyone else is singing a quiet song.
  • When you head back to your cabin with your kids don't let them turn on the lights in the cabin.  Make them use their flashlights to find and get into their pyjamas.   Flashlights are a cool thing that they never use at home and it helps to create another symbolic separation between home and the magic of camp.
  • In the cabin, play quiet music and help kids relax and calm down after what is often a very stimulating day at camp
  • Have discussion questions ready to go for when the kids are quiet and in their bunk. Talk about positives with them, never negs (strong emotions are always magnified when it's dark and the kids are tired). Talk about a cabin cheer. Go over the plan for the next day.
  • Give kids a visual "focus" point.  This is another way to signal to kids that it's quiet time.  One of my favourite tricks was to stand a flashlight on the floor facing the ceiling and then blow bubbles across the light.   Kids looked forward to it every night and knew that it meant that we would begin our quiet discussion or story at that point
  • Play guitar (or your own instrument) and sing to them
  • Once the kids are in their pyjamas ask them to grab their teddy bears and come sit on the floor with you to have a discussion
  • Use Christmas lights in the cabin at night instead of the overheads as a way of setting the mood.
  • Make sure that you tell kids (and reinforce this nightly) that they must wake you if they have to go pee in the night.  They'll feel comfortable going out to the washroom if they have their counsellor and the counsellors will cut down on the incidents of bed-wetting.
  • Have the campers share turns saying good night to YOUR teddy
  • As a counsellor go and whisper to each camper individually once they are ready for bed. Wish them a good night
  • Use a guided relaxation or guided meditation to help your kids fall asleep
  • Read a novel to them, one or 2 chapters per night
  • Read Choose Your Own Adventures - you know what kids are still awake by who speaks up
  • Listen to an age-appropriate audiobook every night for 15 minutes
  • Give each camper an LED " candle" - light it with them. Have a quiet word with them when they do it each night

What is your favourite trick for getting campers to sleep?

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