Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Search for A Summer Camp to Match Your Child

Oh, summer camp. I loved summer camp as a kid! Every summer from the age of 8 or so, I would head of to an overnight camp for a week or two, and then my grandparents would pick me up for two weeks before my parents should pick me back up.

I loved overnight camp so much that I even went back and counselled for a few weeks after my summer job ended one year. And on a side note, counselling at camp is hard hard work! It's exhausting!

My brother on the other hand, hated summer camp. He tried day camp a few times, and I'm not sure that he ever finished the week out. It just really wasn't for him. Fortunately for him, our mom was a stay at home mom, and he was able to live out his summers in peace, playing with kids in the neighborhood.

Fast forward 25 years. Times have changed. Most families are dual income, and don't have the luxury of a parent staying at home. Which means that kids can't stay home on their own until responsible enough. And even if they did stay home, there aren't other neighbourhood kids for them to play with, because they are either away at camp or on holidays.  Even for families that have a parent at home, sending the kids to camp for a week is a nice and well deserved break!

Once my daughter became school aged, summer vacation became a mishmash of childcare, piecing together days that worked.  Vacation days for parents, grandparents stepping in, and... Summer camp.

Over the years, we have tried many different types of daycamp within our city. Art camp, karate camp, YMCA day camp, soccer camp, camp at the local university...  Some were great, others not. Many of these are not full day, and so you still need to figure out drop off and pick up. The art camp ended at 3:30. Luckily for me, I finished work at 3 at the time, but many people work later! The YMCA had a program that I could schedule days of camp instead of by the week, which worked really well for my bizarre work schedule.

Here I am again, at the beginning of April, finalizing summer camp plans. Although our daughter is old enough to stay home on her own, and has even just begun babysitting, I don't want her home alone all summer. Last year, we did two weeks of sleepaway camp, two weeks of day camp, and four weeks at home. During the weeks at home I tried to adjust my schedule so I was home more.

The day camp she went to last year is one she has been attending for 5 years, but she doesn't want to go back this year as she feels too old for it. She's one year too young for the LIT leaders in training program at the YMCA. And so I'm back on the hunt again for daycamps that fit her personality, fit out schedule, are affordable, and that we can get to on public transit for the days my husband is called out of town with our one family vehicle. Sigh.

Here are my tips for finding a good day camp!

1) Ask friends, family, neighbors and acquaintances about camps!

We recently found out about a basketball camp through friends that our daughter plays basketball with! Unfortunately she is already booked that week for overnight camp, but I have written it down as a possibility for next year!

2) Check your local paper for camp advertisements.

It was from a paper ad that we find out about the art camp.

3) Check your local sports complexes, and the city/township.

Most YMCAs have programming, and often cities hire camp counselors to run programs as well.

4) Check your colleges and universities.

By looking into daycamps offered by our local educational institutions, I found a computer programming daycamp that I've registered our daughter into this summer.

5) Have your child go with a friend.

I'm still on the lookout for one more week of camp this summer, but I've let some of her friends and their parents know this.  I'm hoping that a camp comes along that might be a little bit out of her comfort zone that she'd be willing to attend if a friend went along with her.  By going with a friend, you can arrange carpooling too!

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