Choosing a summer Camp for your kids? Day-camp or Over-night camp? For many children, including mine, the summer camp experience was an important part of their lives. My kids spent time at day camp when they were little and when they were older a few weeks at camp was the highlight of their year. They made new friends, tried new things and created positive memories that they still talk about as adults. It was not all perfect. There was rain, cold, and some injuries but on the whole those experiences were very significant to them. I have some tips for parents looking to find an extraordinary experience for their kids combined with safety and learning.
Choosing a summer camp for your children for the first time can be a daunting decision if you have little experience with camping yourself or a no clear idea of the activities your child might want to pursue. A great source of information is family and friends who have children with similar interests or first-hand experience at a particular camp.
To help you and your child start the process of finding that perfect summer experience start by asking yourselves about the kind of activities you want. Look for camps with those activities and then review the website, brochures and camp videos.
COSTS - Fees for camp vary greatly and are based on activities offered and their facilities. With residential camps it is important to consider the extra costs above and beyond the registration fee such as: transportation, optional activities or out-trips. Most camps also have tuck shops for treats and pre-ordered camp apparel.
With Day Camps the provision of lunch differs from camp to camp, so it is important that you inquire with your individual camp. If the camp is providing your camper with lunch it is important to remember to share any information on allergies or dietary restrictions with the camp so that your camper’s needs are properly met.
TYPES OF CAMPS - Day camp; many camps provide a summer day program where campers enjoy daily activities. A camp program can range from one week to an entire summer.
Overnight camps provide a residential camping program where campers enjoy daily and evening activities. A session can also range from one week to a whole summer.
Specialized camps cater to a variety of needs and interests such as: specialized activities, academic programming, travel, or serving a population of children with additional needs.
PROGRAMS & ACTIVITIES - What is most important is choosing the right camp based on your child’s interests. The environment, facilities and activities should be important deciding factors. Most traditional camps will provide a wide variety of programs ranging from team to individual sports, the arts to waterfront activities, and some nature options. Many of these camps also provide campers with some elective periods to focus on the activities that they particularly enjoy.
Some camps may specialize in one activity while others will offer a wide array of programs. (e.g. arts, sports, horseback riding, gymnastics, computers, photography, wilderness trips). Generally camps where the programming is focused to one activity or sport employ staff that are specifically trained and have dedicated facilities. Typically, these camps have other facilities and activities that provide campers with additional experiences.
Whether a day camp or residential camp choose a distance from home that is comfortable for you and your child. With a day camp, factor in the time for drop-off and pick-up for your child. No one likes to be last at the end of the day. Most important are the questions related to safety, healthcare, programming and accessibility.
SWIMMING AT CAMP - Many day camps and residential camps offer swim programs that vary greatly in content. Some are merely recreational periods only while others offer full lessons sets from learning to swim through leadership, based on recognized national programs from such organizations as the Lifesaving Society, Red Cross and the YMCA. If swimming is an important activity for your child ask a lot of questions about the programs offered, the qualifications of staff as well as any additional costs associated with certifications.
There are a variety of camps which specialize in sailing, canoe and kayak programs. Look to the Canadian sport organizations which support those programs for advice on programs, clubs and camps.
YOUR CHILD'S ADDITIONAL NEEDS - There are many factors to consider if your child has an additional need. There are some camps that cater to a specific need and some that cater to a variety of additional needs, while others offer integrated programs. When choosing a camp ask a lot of questions about the camp programs and accommodations, medical assistance if required for your child, and staff and facilities that will meet your child’s individual needs.
What are your child’s interests?
Is your child ready for an overnight or a day camp experience?
Are there any physical, intellectual, or social limitations that should be well-thought out?
What kind of type of camp structure will your child be most comfortable in, co-ed or same gender only, very clearly organized or a camp with lots of self-directed fun?
What type of camp fits best with work schedules and family vacation times?
What happens when the weather is bad?
What are the total costs of the camp?
What is the camp’s refund policy if the camper leaves early for illness or other reasons?
What is the camp’s background?
How long has this camp been in operation?
If a residential camp, is it an accredited member of the Ontario Camp Association?
What is the camper-counselor ratio?
Are the staff trained in the Principles of Healthy Child Development (High Five)
What kind of staff training is provided?
What is the swimming instruction program like?
How does the camp insure the safety and security of its campers?
What is the food like?
What is the policy about mail / email and cell phone use?
What Health Staff and facilities are available on site?
Will the camp supply references?
Most municipalities have day camp programs during the summer months and the Spring Break. Many of these programs have excellent programming and facilities and importantly many train their staff with the Principles of Healthy Child Development (High Five). YMCAs have a long history of day camps and residential camps, featuring a variety of experiences. Both municipal and YMCA programs do have some funding help available for families that need assistance providing that summer experience for their child.
- C. Sibany
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ For more information follow the links below
HIGH FIVE® is Canada's quality standard for children's recreation and sport. Authorized Providers are our partners in delivering HIGH FIVE® across Canada in day camps, a variety of sport and recreation programs To find more on High Five and what programs are involved in your area contact www.highfive.org
The OCA Annual Camps Guide lists accredited camps in Ontario. www.ontariocampsassociation.ca
For information on YMCA Day and Overnight camps check out: www.ymca.ca/en/programs-and-services/camps.aspx
Interested in sailing, contact Ontario Sailing at ontariosailing.ca
For information on Canoeing and Kayaking in Ontario go http://canoeontario.org
Water Ski & Wakeboard Canada is the source of information on this exciting sports www.waterski-wakeboard.ca
For some information on camps for children with special needs try this link; www.ourkids.net/special-needs-camps.php