Time is flying by and summer break is almost here. A lot of the week-long and overnight camp programs fill up fast, so you need to decide which camp to send your kids to and book it fast. The problem is: How do you know which camp is right?
We contacted a few camps and spoke to their resident experts on the subject to find out how you should start the process. The experts had a lot to say and shared some great tips and advice for camp hunting, which we have broken down for you below.
Involve your kid(s)
This one might seem obvious; unfortunately, some parents just pick a camp and send their kids without checking first, and then they are surprised when the kids are whining and complaining the whole week. The best way to avoid tears and tantrums is to involve our kids in the decision-making process.
You don’t have to give them all the power, just let them weigh in before you decide on the camp. According to Kristina from Avenue Road Arts, “This will ensure that he/she has a memorable and inspiring experience. This may even include going for an on-site visit of the facility and even meeting some of the faculty. This will also ease any first-day jitters that may arise.”
Melisa from TAC Sports advised that you should, “Ask your child their activity of interest and how they would like to spend their break.” By involving the kids in the camp process, you can also find out what they’re into right at this moment.
Learn their interests
Basically, just having a discussion about interests will help you narrow the search. There are so many camps to choose from, so searching by related interest is helpful and according to Jennifer at Pawsitively Pets, “It will help you create a list of must-have’s in your camp choices, and ensure your child has a fun-filled break.”
If you’re not even really sure where to start, try sitting down with the kids and asking them what they want to do. Loretta, from the Royal Conservatory School said, “Try to find out what activities they enjoy the best at school or when they are hanging out with their friends. If they have previously attended camp, talk with them about past experiences – what they liked, what they didn’t – to fine-tune your options.”
Pamela from U of T Math Camps said it’s all about passion. “Educational camps can be fun and exciting and can show kids something different from what they learn in school, but sports or arts camps can give them a chance to explore and be involved with different things,” she said. “In addition, finding a camp that holds interest for your child will also allow them to spend a week with others who share that interest and it’s a great opportunity to make new, like-minded friends.”
“Support and embrace what your kids are into!” agreed Maytal from The Second City. “You can also think about what additional encouragement they may need. For example, if they are very shy in school, a camp that offers a safe space that encourages participation from all campers can really bring them out of their shell,” she added.
And if the kids aren’t really sure what their interests are, camp is also a good opportunity to experience something new. Jordan from Hatch Canada said, “It’s a great time for your kids to try new things. Either find a camp that offers multiple types of activities or pick a few different camps over a number of weeks to sample new activities and find what interests them.”
What do you want from the experience?
Now that you’ve asked the kids what they want from camp, it’s time for you to ask yourself the same question. If you’re really not sure, Alysha from Mad Science suggested, “Choosing a camp begins with understanding what you want and what you need to get out of the camp. If you pick a camp that matches your family’s values and budget, as well as your child’s interests and energy level, you’ll be on the right track!”
Kristina added, “You also want a camp that offers programming that goes above and beyond what is done in the school classroom or at home.”
Maggie from Nike-Lytton Sports Camps said, “Your child’s happiness and growth are most important – but we know there’s a convenience factor to camp, too. Many camps let you choose from half-days, full-days, or daily rates, and offer before and after care to help work within your schedule.” Sometimes parents need to use a more logical approach when they are choosing a camp.
If you don’t agree with the kids on what kind of camp they should attend, then you can also try one that covers more than on subject or theme. If your kids are generally the creative, indoor types and would love to just stay home and read all week, but you really want them to get up off the couch and get fit, try finding a camp that has creative and active activities so you can both be happy.
Do your research
The only way to find out if a camp has everything you and your kids are looking for is to do your research. “Once you’ve identified a few key areas of interest, do your homework,” said Loretta. “Research camps around the area that align with your students’ interests, and find out as much information as possible about the activities during camp week.”
When getting started on your research, Joe from Double ‘00’ had some good advice, “Each year there are new camps that pop up and/or the existing ones change their curriculum. A good source is Help! We’ve Got Kids. Other sources could be the school PTA or local blogs by parents. Also, for someone who lives downtown and has a busy lifestyle I recommend they look for something close to home. This makes it easier for you and the kid(s). There are not many kids that would want to travel long distances both to and from camp.”
Don’t be afraid to call or email the camps directly to learn more. Robyn from Adventure Valley said, “Take some time to call around to your shortlist of camps and speak to the directors. Visiting the websites is a great first step, but speaking with a director will give you added insight into the vibe and culture of the camp.”
Maggie brought up an important point. “When looking for a camp, find a place that wants to answer your questions. It’s completely reasonable for a parent to want details on their child’s schedule and safety,” she said. “A camp should recognize that and be ready to answer any and all of your questions so that you can feel confident it’s the right place for your child.”
And finally, if you need some help with what to look for in your research, Alysha shared the following list of super helpful tips to help you choose a camp:
- Cleanliness and safety within a camp are paramount. There should be clean outdoor and indoor facilities for all the kids.
- The staff must exhibit genuine care for their campers. Knowing how to handle minor bumps and bruises is a must, as well as current CPR and first aid training, and a clear police reference check.
- Children can get easily bored when doing the same things over and over again, so you should choose a camp that has different activities planned and will keep everyone engaged all week long. Include your child in the decision-making process to ensure your camper is a happy one!
- While it’s important for a camp to be structured and well organized, it shouldn’t feel like school. The learning that does take place should be fun and exciting, and there should also be time for free play and fun for fun’s sake!
- Each day should include some outdoor activities (weather permitting, of course) so your kids can enjoy the benefits of fresh air and sunlight.
- Although finding a camp that best fits the interests and needs of your child is important, finding one that is convenient for the parents is important too. Ensure that the camp schedule fits in with yours, and remember to pick a good location to reduce your commute.
- Go with a camp that has a proven track record. Ask around and see what other parents recommend in your neighbourhood.
If you need a place to start, check out our listing of Camps for Kids to find something that fits!
READ MORE LIKE THIS:
- Why Should You Send Your Kids to March Break Camp?
- How Camp Improves Kids’ Self Esteem
- Tips for First-time Overnight Campers and Parents
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