Kindness is at the heart of every SeriousFun camp—it helps create the inclusive environments and warm communities that bring camp magic to life for kids and their families around the globe.
You’ll find it in the thoughtfulness of our programs, the design of camp facilities, and the interactions between volunteers, campers, and staff. Here are eight tried and true ways to foster a culture of kindness wherever you go.
1. Celebrate Wins
While not everyone has the same strength or ability, everyone can be celebrated for their own growth. A camp summer staffer put it like this: “I learned that each camper needs to be treated as an individual… What might appear minor to us may have taken a lot of courage and strength for that camper to complete. I made sure that I celebrated the camper who put on a harness for the first time and climbed three feet off the ground the same way I celebrated the camper who climbed to the top of the tower in less than a minute."
Be cognizant of how and when you celebrate wins for the people in your life. Cheer for the both the big and the small.
2. Offer Support, When Needed
When someone appears to need help, offer support when it’s needed and encouragement when it’s not. The best way to know the difference between the two? Always ask. Sometimes when a camper appears to need assistance, they’re actually excited to surmount the challenge on their own—whether it’s using their wheelchair, flying on the ropes course, or signing at stage night for the first time.
By asking if someone need helps, you empower them to choose they level of support they need. When their answer is “No” a quick “Way to go, you got this! I am here if you need me...” lets them know you’re there.
3. Be Intentional
Put in time and effort to show you’re thinking of others. At camp, staff and volunteers go to great lengths to make sure campers are welcomed and included—they write welcome notes, decorate cabins, and plan activities where everyone can participate regardless of ability or limitation. When you can, take that kind of thoughtfulness and inclusivity along as you move throughout your day. Try setting this as a intention to kick off your morning.
4. Describe, Label, Praise
In many situations, the last thing you want to encourage amongst children is “labeling,” but at SeriousFun camps, it’s never about labeling THE PERSON, it’s about giving a name to the positive actions that can be encouraged to be repeated. At SeriousFun partners programs throughout the world, every camper receives a Super Camper Award. It’s a vehicle to remind them that they’re important, loved, and valued. Each award includes three, very thoughtful and very intentional, parts:
- DESCRIBE what they did: "You put a lot of time and energy into that project at school with your friends."
- LABEL what that action means: "You're a dedicated, creative, and ambitious team player."
- PRAISE with words of encouragement: "Congrats, keep it up!"
Use this technique in conversations with loved ones, or get your crew—whether that’s a school group, your coworkers, sports team, and so on—onboard with making Super Camper (or Super Friend, or Super Brother, or Super Babysitter…) Awards for each other. Cards and paper plates work well!
5. Listen To Understand
Truly listening to someone is one of the kindest things you can do. It shows you care and it helps them know that they’re not alone. At camp, we find campers want to be understood (as we all do). When you spend your energy listening, instead of thinking up a reply, you may find you have more in common with someone than you think. This will build bonds!
6. Give Warm Fuzzies
Warm fuzzies are a tradition at Camp Korey, the SeriousFun camp in Washington—and they come in all shapes and sizes! No matter what form they take, warm fuzzies are a means of acknowledgement.
Acknowledgement can be many things. You might snap or wiggle your fingers (i.e. spirit fingers) when someone’s said or done something that resonates. Or you might write a small note to congratulate someone on trying something new, or complement them on a job well done. And while you might not replicate the actual warm fuzzy critters (pictured above), a small gift or token—like a coffee, donut, or new pack of pens—can have the same, powerful effect.
7. Say Thank You
We just talked about acknowledgement above, but this time it's all about appreciation: remember to say thank you!
Make sure to thank friends, colleagues, family members for things they’ve done. Not everyone knows how their actions are appreciated by others, so it's important to remind them. Write a card, say it out loud, or recognize them more publicly when appropriate—“Did you know that she helped me do [x]? It was a huge relief!”
8. Invite People In
Sharing is caring so invite others to join in something you enjoy. In the workplace or at school—invite the new person to take part in conversations, mealtimes, and events. Make an effort to be welcoming.
At camp, we have a concept called “challenge by choice.” It invites campers to participate in activities in ways that are meaningful to them. We encourage campers to stretch out of their "comfort zone" but steer clear of their "panic zone"—and this looks different for different campers. As you invite people to participate, allow them to define their own "stretch zone" and respect that this may look different than your own.
Allison loves live music, the outdoors, and really cheesy jokes. So it stands to reason that she fits right in at camp. She helps raise funds by connecting others to SeriousFun's powerful mission. Her favorite camp joke: What's orange and sounds like a parrot? A carrot!
For more information on SeriousFun Children's Network visit www.seriousfunnetwork.org or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.