Who are my campers? 

What are their basic needs? 

Sometimes, people can be pretty hard to figure out. Why do our brothers and sisters, friends, or parents behave the way they do? What makes us do the things we do? 

Almost anything a person does can be understood when we picture it as an attempt to meet one of five basic needs. These five fundamental human needs are present in every person. They vary in intensity and importance for each of us, and their importance may change from time to time. Still, every human being needs:

  1. Affection
  2. Power
  3. Security
  4. New experiences
  5. Recognition

Affection: Our need for affection is more than just a need for love, although that’s part of it. Affection includes being accepted by a group, feeling that others care about us and understand us. Our need for affection involves seeking friendships and social relationships. We want to know we are needed by the group and missed when we are absent. 

The camper who says, “I don’t want to join that group because I don’t like them!” may be telling you something about the camper’s need for affection. 

Power: The need for power sounds bad to most of us. We might picture a power-hungry general trying to take over the world. Power for most people, however, is simply the need to show control over oneself or things. We need to know we have the power or ability to master new things. We need to feel we can be successful in doing a certain task. The need for power is the need to feel competent, capable and a little invincible. 

A camper who announces that they are not going to play volleyball because it’s a “dumb” game may be telling you something about their skills and their need for power.


Security: Every person wants to feel safe and secure in their surroundings and with their peers. We need physical security in the form of material things like food, shelter and clothing. We need emotional security in the form of acceptance and understanding from our families and friends. We need to feel we can have confidence in these people and they will support us. 

Campers, particularly when away from home for the first time, miss their familiar routines and ways of life. They worry about finding their cabin, locating the swimming pool, and getting to know cabin mates. 

Campers who need security may be frightened by the new settings, and homesickness can result. 

New Experiences: To do something different, or try one’s wings, is the opposite of the need for security. We all need to be challenged to try new things. These challenges can be as simple as learning a new craft or as difficult as climbing a mountain. New experiences allow us to explore our own abilities. They provide excitement and prevent boredom. 

Camp is an excellent place for new experiences. Campers who are bored and restless are not being challenged by new experiences. 

Recognition: Everyone has a desire to stand out as an individual, to do at least one thing better than everyone else. This is our need for recognition at work. We need approval and recognition from others that we have done something well. This recognition helps build our self-confidence and self-esteem. 

Most campers will seek recognition by pleasing you, the counselor. Remember, if their need for recognition can’t be met in a positive way, they may look for less acceptable ways to get recognition. 

If a camper constantly disrupts the group with negative behavior, they may be trying to tell you about their unfulfilled need for recognition.