Choosing a summer camp
For many families where both parents work, sending a child to camp is a logistical necessity; the kids are too young to stay home and need to be cared for during the day. But choosing a camp isn’t easy as there are so many options and it’s hard to know in advance if your child will enjoy the experience.
My son has been to many over the years: multi sports, flag football, tennis, hockey, arts camp and more. Here are some things I’ve learned along the way that may help parents make the process a little easier.
Procrastination is risky
Yes, it may only be March, but this is the time to start registering for camps. In fact, with the pandemic, many camps are filling up faster than ever because parents are desperate for their kids to socialize and be active. Wait too long and there may not be space available in the weeks or for the programs you want. There is also a financial incentive; many camps offer an early-registration discount.
Talk to your kids about camp
It can be hard if they’ve never been to one, but kids may offer some insight about activities they like and ones they don’t want to pursue. Also, try not to let your memories of camp – bad or good – have too much of an influence on the choices you make. Try to match your child’s personality with the types of activities on offer. Shy and introverted kids might find camp challenging with its seemingly endless emphasis on being part of a group. So maybe an art-type camp with some solo projects may be a good option.
The obvious choice may not be the right one
If your kid loves sports, you might immediately think of signing him or her up for a sports camp. But don’t overlook the value of using camp as a way for your child to explore or discover new interests.
Consider sending your child to camp with a friend
In the early years, when my son was very young, this was my number one priority. As long as he had a friend, I believed he would feel safe and secure. And I wasn’t wrong. Having a familiar face around seemed to boost his confidence and the counsellors worked hard to ensure they had time together as well as time apart to make other friends. I also appreciated the convenience of shared driving duty.
Ask a number of questions
A camp website may provide basic information, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Pick up the phone and talk to other parents about their kids’ experience with various summer camps. You can also post questions on online parenting community groups. These have become very popular and a good way to share experiences.
Discuss health issues in advance
You’ll be asked to fill out a health form, but depending on the severity of the problem, you may want to discuss the issue in person with the camp director and your child’s counsellor. If your child has allergies, make sure the counsellors are aware of precautions that should be taken and that they know how to use an Epipen.
Make sure to send your child fully equipped
Once the choice has been made, fill out all the forms and review the list of suggested (or required) items your child will need. For a day camp, this will usually include a hat, sunscreen, swimsuit and towel plus lunches and snacks. Every year, hundreds of items get lost or left behind at camp. Make sure to label everything to increase the chances that items will make it home.
Remember that camp isn’t forever
Despite all your careful plans, your kid might not like the camp you’ve chosen. A combination of factors – a child’s age, a program geared more towards older kids, an inexperienced counsellor – all can make for a less-than-stellar experience. Most day camps have weekly registration so you can also try a few different ones to avoid repetition and boredom. Montreal has many great camps and you are likely to find one that your child enjoys.
Most of all, don’t delay if you want to have the pick of programs on offer this summer.
Also, our online Resource Directory has many listings of camps from Montreal, Quebec, other Canadian provinces and the U.S.