6 things to keep in mind when planning for summer camp
Selecting a summer camp for your little one can be a whole mission. As a parent, you want to make sure that you find the perfect program. Not only do you want to ensure that your child has an awesome summer, camps also need to meet your family’s needs in terms of logistics, financials and interests!
Here are the main things to look out for when researching camps:
First and foremost, the location of the camp has to work for your family logistics. Nothing is more stressful than having to commute through heavy traffic when picking up and dropping off your child. Also, keep in mind, that if still working from home, you might have to do the drive four times a day (back and forth for drop-off and back and forth for pick-up).
You can either look for a camp near your work or near your home or on your typical route to work. Near your work makes sense if you anticipate going back to the office next year. Keep in mind though that you will have little ‘me’ time between dropping off your kids and stepping into the office and the same between wrapping up work and picking up your kids. Some people need a bit of time in between to mentally prep for their workday or decompress after a busy day.
Finding a camp near your house ensures your kids don’t have to do the commute with you but also means they spend more time at camp and less time with you (you decide if that’s a good or a bad thing 😊).
Also, look at the camp's drop-off and pick-up times and decide if you can make it work by that time to the location and still make it to work or back home in time.
2) Your child's interests
Summer is always a great opportunity to try out new things and maybe find a new long-term interest. However, don’t overdo it trying to get them to become a pro at soccer or become fluent in a new language. Try to involve your child in the decision. You might really want them to learn how to dance or sign them up for that camp that is super convenient for you while they might have something different in mind or just want to have fun at a general camp without a specific focus.
Specialized camps focus on a specific skill to learn or improve while multi-activity camps integrate a range of different activities in their daily schedule. There are hundreds of options out there and finding a good mix of what you think your child should focus on or what works best for you (logistically and financially) and what your child really wants, is key. Maybe you sign them up for that tennis camp for 2 weeks because you would really like them to explore their potential a bit more and then send them to that Pirate camp that they really want to go to as their friend has been telling them about it. Find a compromise that works for everyone.
Make sure that your child is ready for a specialized camp that focuses on one specific skill for the whole week. If it's their first camp experience or they don’t yet have a specific interest they want to focus on, a traditional or multi-activity camp might be a good choice. Multi-sports camps are also a great way to expose them to many different sports until they’re ready to focus on a specific one for longer. Ask around as well what camps others might have enjoyed. A recommendation from a friend or family is always worth a lot.
3) Camper to counsellor ratio
There is no mandated policy for a camper to counsellor ratio at a summer day camp in Ontario. Therefore, each camp can make its own policy. Most camps vary between 1:15-1:6. Which of course can make a big difference, especially the younger your child is. Daycares in Ontario have a mandated ratio of 1:8 for preschoolers (2.5-4 years) and 1:5 for toddlers (1.5-2.5 years). This can help as a reference when looking at camps. It’s also important that there are always at least two staff members with your child’s group to guarantee safety in terms of supervision and emergency situations.
Find a camp that you feel you can communicate well with from the beginning to the end. Especially if it’s your child’s first camp experience. It’s very important that you feel you can ask any question you have before camp starts and that you know where to turn to during the camp.
Signs for open communication are for example the possibility to text/WhatsApp the camp or a chat on the website. Those are efficient and easy ways to communicate if you have a quick question or need assistance. Try it out before you sign up so you can see how fast they respond.
5) Activities & structure
Look out for camps that have a general schedule, themes, activities they can share with you. It’s helpful to understand how the days are structured (and that they in fact ARE structured) to prep your child and get a general idea of what’s going to happen every day.
In terms of daily activities, the most important is what is important to you and your child. If you want them to spend a lot of time outdoors, ask how many hours a day campers are outside or if it’s mainly an indoor camp. If you want your child to get the chance to explore their artistic side as well during camp, find if there are any arts and crafts done throughout the day. If your child loves the water, check if water play or visits to the local pool are integrated into the schedule.
Last but not least, this is, of course, an important factor. The range of the weekly fee for day camps in Toronto is very wide and it can feel overwhelming to decide where to set your limit. Think about what your family’s budget allows and then look at how you can meet that budget on a weekly average. Maybe you sign them up for one very specialized high-end camp for a week or two and offset that higher cost for a few weeks with a smaller local camp that comes with a lower price tag. Or maybe grandparents can jump in and take the kids for a week so you have more budget to spend on the other weeks.
Summer camp is an investment not only in childcare so you can get your things done, but more importantly in your child's development. That development doesn’t only mean becoming a better soccer player, but also learning social skills, finding friends, spending time outdoors, and so much more!