Time, location, and interests all need to be considered, say parents

With summer around the corner parents are beginning to think about what to do with their children.

It may be possible to find a day-home or a nanny for the summer.

However you can put your kids into summer programs where they can spend time with other children their age.

There is a wide range of camps that reach many interests with different formats, like day programs or over night away-camps.

Yukon DeLeeuw jumped in national competitions after experiencing ski jumping for the first time at summer camp.

Photo courtesy of Cheryl DeLeeuwUse these simple tips and words of advice to find out what will be best for you and your child.

Step 1 – Ease and Accessibility

When discussing which camp to send your child to, consider the ease and accessibility of each camp.

Parent Wanda Burns said that when looking at day camps, some of the main questions she had to ask herself were:

  • If the age categories would allow both her children to go.
  • Did the start and end times coincide with her work schedule?
  • If the camp was within a reasonable distance of their home.

“I know some of these day camps had great ratings and other parents had raved about them, but we live in Calgary and for some camps it would be an hour commute to the camp, then another hour back to my work, that’s just not doable,” Burns said.

She suggested finding camps in your area that will still interest your children, or ask the camp to contact other parents on your behalf and develop a car pool plan. If your child is begging to go to a certain camp, there are sometimes ways to get around the distance.

Burns said: “It’s not like when they are going to school throughout the year and you know the school bus is going to come to your house and pick up your children. It takes a lot of planning.”

Step 2 – Type of Camp

Camps vary for children of different ages, sex, race, even for specific religious beliefs.

Several websites offer a compilation of camp offerings in Calgary:

Cheryl DeLeeuw, mother of two, said that while she was trying to decide which camps to send her children to, she tried to find a wide range of different camps.

“I always ensured they went to at least one intellectual camp where I felt they’re schooling would benefit from it come summers end,” said DeLeeuw.

While day camps can help children learn hobbies, or intellectual pursuits, another type of camp is over-night camps.

Long-time camper, turned counselor at Waterton’s Camp Canyon Janay Smith speaks of the many benefits she experienced and helped others to learn.

“Camp helped me learned to be confident in myself and allowed me to build some lifelong friendships,” Smith said. “I also learned a lot of valuable life skills: you learn how to communicate with different personalities because teamwork is an essential part of the week,” she added.

When discussing overnight camps with your children though, it is important to ensure that they are old enough and ready to be away from home for up to or over a week’s time. Smith says the biggest struggle she dealt with, as a camper was homesickness for the first day or two.

Homesickness was also what she noticed younger campers struggling with the most while she was a counselor.

“Camp is usually the first time away from home for most kids, and also in a totally different environment. I was able to help these kids though by sharing my same experiences,” she said.

Step 3 – Most Beneficial

Those interviewed said the most important thing to evaluate is the long-term benefits for the child. There are some camps where you know your child will have fun, but perhaps they won’t learn anything new.

“During the year, my kids all attend dance programs, and I’m thinking about putting them in one of two dance camps throughout the summer, but I want them to learn something new,” Burns said.

She said that summer is a when her children have a great opportunity to spend time outside, and perhaps discover new hobbies and interests they don’t have time for during school. It also allows them to make new friends that may have the same background or interests as them.

Camp counsellor pSmith also stressed that this is a time for children to develop new friendships, and discover who they are without the pressures of home. She said camp helped shape her into the women she now is.

“In today’s society kids spend so much time playing video games and checking Facebook that I think they all could benefit from a week surrounded by nature and no technology,” Smith said, “They learn to be independent but also learn to work well with others.”

lpritchard@cjournal.ca