Choosing a summer camp

Five factors to consider before signing your child up for camp

It’s been seven years since my son first headed off to summer camp, a little plaid hat shading his head and a huge bottle of sunscreen tucked into his over-sized backpack. Over the years, I have sent him, and then his sister, to various camps around the city. Some focused on specific activities like theatre and swimming, while others offered more traditional programs of arts, crafts, sports and group fun. But what now seems routine for us — choosing and registering for a summer camp — was once an overwhelming process. So many choices, so many decisions. Here are seven things I’ve learned along the way that I believe will make the process
a little less daunting.

The early bird gets the best dates. In February, summer seems like a long way off. But many camps, especially the residential (sleepover) ones, are already taking registrations and spots tend to fill up quickly. At day camps, the weeks in late June and early July (right before the so-called “construction holiday”) are very popular and also tend to book quickly. If you would like to enrol your child for sessions in August, check the program dates carefully. Many camps stop offering sessions in mid-August because their CEGEP-bound counsellors are starting school.

Include your kids in the selection process. This may seem obvious, but with families so busy these days, it can be hard to find time to sit down and talk about camp with our kids. It’s worthwhile, however, as they may have very strong feelings about what they do or do not want to do. Try to get a sense of what they want from camp — a chance to learn a new sport or an opportunity to make new friends. They may also share some of their fears if you engage them in conversation.

Don’t always go for the obvious choice. Your child loves hockey? Then hockey camp would be a great choice, right? Maybe. But the summer can be a great time to explore other interests. Maybe your athletic daughter would prefer to give sports a break and learn about animals and the environment instead.

Think about using the buddy system. Many kids worry about not knowing anyone at camp. Having a buddy — either a sibling close in age or a friend — can alleviate some of that stress. This can be particularly true if a child is attending a residential camp for the first time. So start asking around to see if and when your child’s friends are attending camp so you can pair up.

Do your research. The Internet has made it easy to research and find basic information about summer camps. The Quebec Camping Association’s website,, has an online directory of certified camps in the province.

Also, our online Resource Directory has listing of camps from Montreal, Quebec, other Canadian provinces and the U.S. 

Finally, mark your calendar for the Montreal Families' Camp Fair held annually in February - this year's date is February 18, 2018. Visit with many residential and day camps all on the same day. Admission and parking are FREE and children are always welcome to attend. 

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