If you are seeking a sleep-away summer camp for a first-time camper, you may be looking for an experience that eases them into the program rather than dropping them off for the whole summer or even a whole week.
Following are camps that offer a positive, inclusive experience designed to make the first-time camper feel at ease at sleepover camp—so much so that they’ll probably wish that you had signed them up for the whole summer!Prices do not include HST.
Camp White Pine programs are designed especially for younger campers. The Pre-Wee Program (SK–Grade 3) helps make your child’s first experience at camp “warm, welcoming, and full of fun”. It can be one day or a full weekend. Kiwi Camp (Grades 2–5) is a full two-week or six-week session appropriate for first-time campers. Caring counsellors are trained to work well with the younger age group and each camper has a CIT “big buddy” who is with them for their entire stay at camp. A well-rounded, jam-packed camp experience awaits!1335 Camp White Pine Court, Haliburton
Muskoka’s Camp Pine Crest provides a great first camp experience with Pine Cones (ages 5–7): three days and two nights of traditional camp. Campers can explore camp activities as they safely find out what it means to be independent. Lodge cabins with indoor washrooms help with the first sleep-away experience. Campers also get to experience out tripping and cooking out on the property for some extra fun.
1090 Gullwing Lake Rd., Torrance
Ages 5–7 Pine Cones; other programs up to age 16
There’s more than one way for campers to dip their toes into the waters of overnight camp. Less than an hour north of Toronto, Kettleby Valley offers a one-night overnight for kids ages JK and up—a great way for the small fry to see the camp without being away for very long. There is a whole lot of fun to be had, with canoe tripping, swimming, ropes courses, and so much more. Campers must be registered at the Kettleby Valley day camp to take part in the overnight. Week-long overnight camp is available from Grade 3.609 Kettleby Rd., King
Blissfully close to Toronto (just west of Barrie), this camp gets high marks for great activities and fantastic staff. Mansfield Camp is both a day camp and an overnight camp. Kids who have completed JK, SK, or Grade 1 are in the Pioneer Program and can explore a range of great activities, including swimming, arts and crafts, drama, wood shop, ecology, camping skills, sports, and even STEM! Campers are invited to sleep over on the Thursday night of their day camp week to get a feel for overnight camp life. Campfire activities and camp-wide games round out the bill.937365 Airport Rd., Mulmur
Pioneer Program SK–Grade 1; other programs up to Grade 10
Camp Wenonah in Muskoka has a full range of programs through leadership camp for teens, with two options ideal for brand-new campers. The three-day, two-night WEEnonah program for kids ages 5–7 will have them begging to go back next year. Kids ages 8–12 can try out the five-day/four-night introductory program, sure to pass in a whirlwind of fun and new friendships. The more than 30 recreational and instructional programs at the camp range from sailing and white-water kayaking to digital photography and acoustic guitar.1324 Bird Lake Rd., Bracebridge
Ages 5–7 WEEnonah, ages 8–12 introductory; other programs up to age 17
Kiddos born in 2011, 2012, and 2013 can take camp for a test drive this Muskoka camp for three nights and four days. Campers registered for WILD camp at Muskoka Woods try out a bit of everything, taking part in more than a dozen activities during the week, including archery, swimming, tubing, skateboarding, and arts and crafts. They stick with their cabin-mates and with the same counsellors all week, so they quickly feel at home. It’s all the fun of a big summer camp with some extra guidance for this younger age group.4585 Highway 141, Rosseau
Ages 6–8 for WILD; other programs up to age 12
Camp Belwood, near Guelph, absolutely understands what it is like to be away from home for the first time. Not only is it a small camp with shorter sessions, there is also a portion of the website dedicated to camp-prep strategies like dealing with homesickness, building positive excitement, and making camp a great experience. Camp Belwood’s counsellors are specially trained to encourage campers to learn camp routines and do new things for themselves. From fishing to BMX biking, there’s something for everyone at Camp Belwood.R.R. #3, Fergus
This full-service sleep-away camp in Muskoka has programs for all ages, including leadership programs for teens, so it’s a great place to start your child at a “home away from home” for the long haul. The weekend-long Mini Camp program (ages 6–9) is the perfect stepping stone to camp, where the most nurturing staff help young campers build up to a longer stay. The next step is Junior Camp, a two- to four-week session that allows kids to decide whether to stay on at the two-week mark. Cabins have indoor plumbing and toilets and cookouts, zip lining, sailing, and horseback riding are just some of the fun activities the kids can enjoy. You can also attend a Family CampBox 10002, Huntsville (Muskoka)
Ages 6–9 MIni Camp; ages 7–9 Junior Camp
This year-round outdoor-education centre in Muskoka has a couple of options to introduce kids to camp in summer. First, there is a day camp with a two-night Camp-Out option (ages 6–12) to get kids used to the residential camp. Or, if the kiddos think they’re up to it, there is the four-night Voyageur Camp (ages 7–12): an outdoor education program combined with canoeing, hiking, swimming, camping, and forest discovery. Two nights are spent on-site (in bunkies) and two nights on a tent-camping trip.1368 Housey’s Rapids Rd., Gravenhurst