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09 Feb, Thursday
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Montreal Families

Backyard camps are a new trend

With many day camps deciding to stay closed this year, some Montreal parents are scrambling to find ways to keep their kids busy this summer.  At least three companies, The Everblast Play Company, Local Babysitters, and the Prep Academy Tutors, are finding innovative ways to offer activities, often with an educational component, to small groups of kids in “backyards.”

The Everblast Play Company organizes games and activities like giant slingshots, laser tag, water games and scavenger hunts for summer camps, schools as well as for birthday parties.  It also offers unique sports activities, such as Soccer Supreme or Shoot and Score (playing soccer using giant balls or cubed-shape balls) or Ostrich Obstacle, where players try to not drop their ostrich eggs through an obstacle course.

In light of COVID-19, the company is offering the same services but is bringing the activities to people’s backyards.  President Corey Szwarcok says because many parents aren’t comfortable sending their kids to day camps this summer, he decided to provide an alternative. The camp activities are adapted to the kids’ interests and the counsellors are all 18 years and older, have CPR certifications, and related work experience.

All backyard camps require a minimum of six kids, from a maximum of three different households, as required per Quebec social distancing regulations. All equipment used will be properly disinfected. Parents can book two, three or five half day, or full day, packages for a minimum two weeks. Half day camps are from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. or from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and full day camps are from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. In the event of rain, parents can reschedule for another day.

EverBlast Backyard Camp
514-928-8772 or info@everblastMTL.com
958  Montée-de-Liesse, St. Laurent.
Ages 5 to 12
Cost: $25 per child per half day or $50 per day per child.

Local Babysitters is a newly launched web and mobile app that connects Montreal parents with potential babysitters. Both the parent and the babysitter sign up on the app or website. Two households can hire one babysitter to create a small backyard camp experience. Founder Johanna Miller provides babysitters with weekly activity suggestions, including bike rides and going to parks, among others. She has a partnership with the Montreal Institute of Swimming so she can help parents book swim lessons with lifeguards for those who have pools. YMCA lifeguards will also be available. Government issued social distancing guidelines will be applied.

With this company, parents can get friend-recommended babysitters. The app works a lot like a LinkedIn profile: when a parent signs up for an account on the app, they put in an address, phone number how the number of kids they have. Parents can invite their contacts to sign up for the app. When a parent books a babysitter, they browse through profile listings and can choose from ‘local’ (to find a babysitter in their neighbourhood), or ‘recommended’ (ones their contacts recommend).

For Miller, creating the app was out of a personal necessity.  As a parent of three kids, she understands that parents need a break, but can’t always find a trustworthy babysitter. She was ready to launch the app in March, but when stay-at-home restrictions were put in place, she put it on hold. But Miller says that now, more than ever, parents need a respite from kids after so much time being together.

Initially, babysitters were going to hang out with the kids in people’s backyards, but now that indoor gatherings are allowed, babysitters can go into homes. All babysitters will be at least 13, are vetted and have CPR certification.

Local Babysitters
1-888-985-6225 or hello@localbabysitters.ca
localbabysitters.ca (under construction)
Ages 4 to 12
Cost: Rates are per family, not per child, but are to be determined by the babysitter.

Prep Academy Tutors provides an at-home and online tutoring service for elementary and high school students in Quebec, Ontario and Alberta.  Andrea Borod, who is in charge of the Montreal bureau, says she is trying to fill a knowledge gap caused by what will be almost six months of kids not being in a school setting (by the time they return in September).

So she started offering tutoring services in people’s backyards. For the time being, even with indoor gatherings now permitted, tutors will teach from a student’s backyard, with social distancing.

But when the summer camp where Borod planned to send her 5-year old daughter announced it wouldn’t be opening this summer, she put on her thinking cap and came up with an innovative idea. She created the LEARN ‘N PLAY backyard camp as a way to get kids whose families know each other a chance to get together and have fun outside. The activities are geared to kids’ interests and counsellors come prepared with a variety of activities, from scavenger hunts to science experiments, arts and crafts and even drama activities, where kids will preform a play for their parents at the end of the program.

Borod hired 45 counsellors for the LEARN ’N PLAY camp who are out of work summer camps they previously worked at are closed this year. All of the counsellors are between 16 and 24 and have at least two years experience working with kids. Borod tries to pair counsellors based on the kid’s interests and personalities.

Counsellors will be assigned to one group for all sessions so they do no have to hop from house to house and thus avoid contact with multiple families. Sessions can take place in a park, but if this is the case, parents must drop off and pick up their kids.

LEARN ’N PLAY (Prep Academy Tutors Montreal)
514-700-7166 / andrea@prepacademymontreal.com
376 Victoria St., Westmount
Ages 3-14
Backyard tutoring sessions can cost $50-65 per hour per student depending on the tutor. Two kids is $45/student per hour and three kids is $35/student per hour.

LEARN ’N PLAY  camp costs $20/hr per family, with a maximum of six students per counsellor from a maximum of three different households, as per allowed by the Quebec government. A minimum three hour block of time per reservation is required (time slots are 9 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m for as many days a week as the parents want). If parents book four days or more, the cost goes down to $15/hr per family.

There is a 12-hour cancellation policy for both the tutoring and LEARN ’N PLAY.


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