Tools and Tips - Choosing a Summer Camp

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Home | Events | News | Tools and Tips - Choosing a Summer Camp

Summer Camp - Tips for Parents on how to choose the right camp

Summer Camp fun

Choosing a summer camp program for your child involves some research and decision making. You will consider safety, price and structure, the experience of the staff and the camp director and the overall reputation of the camp. Our first piece of advice is to get started on your research early! The camp experience could have a significant impact on your child’s life and your mental health! Here are some other tips on making this important choice.

1.  Child-centred approach

While researching, keep in mind that this camp is for your child, not for you (though wouldn’t it be nice..?)! Think about your child’s personality, interests and needs. Look for a camp that meets those interests or one that provides a range of opportunities for them to discover their strengths and interests. What kind of structure and set up will your child benefit from the most? What do you want them to gain from the experience?  Involve your child in this process if possible.

2. Logistics

What camp fits with your work schedules and holiday dates? Is the camp mostly outdoors or inside? If inside, is there a play area outside or are regular out-trips scheduled?  You may want to tour the facility to ensure it is hygienic and free of hazards.

Does the camp offer transportation to the location or extended hours to accommodate parents’ schedules? If the camp will be transporting your child (to location or for out-trips), make sure you ask about the condition of the vehicles and that all drivers have clean Class 4 licenses.

3. Philosophy

All sorts of organizations run camps for different reasons. Some camps will emphasize one activity while others will offer a wide range. Questions you might consider are: will the camp encourage my child to try and learn new activities or enhance existing skills? Is the camp inclusive? What is the philosophy regarding competiveness? You should firmly believe the organizers will prioritize the best interests of the campers at all times.

4. Staffing

It is perfectly acceptable to ask the organization how it recruits, screen and trains its staff and about the ratio of staff to campers.  If a camp is licensed (the license should be posted at the facility) it will adhere to the strict licensing requirements that staff must be over 19, have at least 20 hours training in child development, guidance, health and safety or nutrition courses and have relevant work experience. All staff and volunteers must also pass a criminal record check. Non-licensed camps should still have clear hiring and screening policies for staff. Hiring standards for our Outdoor Adventure Camp staff are the same as those for our licensed camp. You should also inquire about how extended hours are staffed as this is where some staff cut corners. It may give you peace of mind to know if there is a supervisor available on-site or at the end of a direct line at all times for when problems occur.

5. Day to Day life

Ask for a sample camp schedule to give you a glimpse of day to day life. Does the camp have a plan for every day? Does the camp utilize intentional programming (kids might moan about learning during the vacation, but good program leaders can turn a fun game of capture the flag into lessons on team-work and communication!).

Make sure the camp has considered risk management for daily activities. For example, it’s good practice to have a policy on sun lotion, hats, water and medication management, plus clearly communicated emergency procedures.

Also, check the camp's approach to discipline and conflicts between campers. Does this mesh with your parenting philosophy? Will there be frequent check-ins from staff and good communication with parents.  

There’s a lot to think about but there are also lots of good camps to choose from. For more advice, look out for supplements in the Black Press, Times Colonist and Island Parent magazine, consult Child Care Resource & Referral or watch this informative video from Boys & Girls Clubs of Kawartha Lakes. 

Boys & Girls Clubs offers Outdoor Adventure, Urban Adventure (licensed camp) and Outdoor Youth Leadership camps. Register soon before they fill up!

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