On choosing a camp

Tent in the woods

Hard to believe that with freezing temperatures and snow still under our feet, that we are receiving application forms from summer camps. Kind of nice though. It’s the same kind of feeling I get when I walk past my favourite clothing store in February and start to see the first of their Spring collection. It fills me with hope of warmer days ahead. The thought of summer camp elicits thoughts of happy children running carefree with their friends or wading in water knee deep, a refreshing cooling off under the brilliant sun.

But are all children happy campers? For some, the thought of summer camp brings about feelings of anxiety. For some, even day camp represents an unfamiliar bus ride between home and the camp grounds. For some, it may mean having to make new friends. Other kids live for camp. They get through the school year by reminding themselves of the freedoms of summer camp, of rekindling relationships with special camp buddies and learning new skills that foster self confidence and personal growth.

The bottom line is to know your child when selecting a camp environment. Camp does not have to be a fair distance from home, does not have to be overnight, does not even have to be sporty. For younger children, camp may be the only alternative for parents who are working. Sometimes, the school or day care that your young child attends may offer summer programs too. As children get a little older, aged 6 and up, for example, parents may choose a day camp that is quite varied. By doing so, they allow their child to be involved in many different activities – both in and outdoors – from sportsy to artsy so that both parent and child can develop increased awareness of the child’s interests. Some children may hate the heat and prefer to attend an indoor camp that offers outdoor activities. Other children love to be out all day and might feel cooped up inside. As children are even older, you may want to tailor the camp to meet your child’s interests. There are so many to choose from. There are theatre camps, arts based camps, gymnastics camps, tennis camps, sailing camps and baseball camps from which to choose. The list is endless. For a listing of accredited camps, it’s best to call the Ontario Camping Association at 416-781-0525.

Aside from considering your child’s interests, location of the camp and their facilities, whether they are accredited or not, how flexible they are in offering the hours that you need, whether or not they offer the option of transportation and meals, consider very importantly the ratio of counselor to camper. Ideally, there should be no more than 5 campers per counselor in the younger age groups and no more than 8 campers per counselor as the children get older. Also, ask what experience and training the counselors have. Are they certified in CPR and first aid? What is the minimum age requirement for counselors?

Camp is not for everyone and some children may prefer to just hang out at home the whole summer long. However, keep in mind that ten weeks at home can be quite long – for both parent and child. Unless you’re prepared to find activities to keep your child out of mischief, even a few hours of camp a day can be helpful. Include your child in the selection process – many camps have open houses during the Winter and Spring months. Others send wonderful promotional CD’s for you and your children to watch. Camp should be a fun place to be and if it’s not, then explore other options.

For a listing of accredited camps, it’s best to call the Ontario Camping Association at 416-485-0425.