Written by Allison Percival; Photo: Fotolia.com
Summer is just around the corner, and that means it’s almost time for camps! We’re fortunate in the Calgary area to have a huge variety of summer camp options covering a wide range of ages, interests, skill levels, and budgets. Booking camps can sometimes be overwhelming, and it isn’t always clear what they offer that’s above and beyond what your regular child care might provide potentially at a lower price. When you’re making your selections for the summer and weighing your options, it’s important to really look at what each camp experience is worth based on their venue, programming, and instruction.
Some families will find that several weeks of lower cost, more generalized programming fits the bill perfectly, especially at younger ages. Other families will make arrangements for more affordable child care for most of the summer, saving their budgets for camps with specialist teachers or unique settings which further skill development in areas that can’t be replicated at home. Some families have started pioneering 'stay at home' camps, developing programming themselves or with a small group of other families.
Recently, we asked our readers and summer camp providers around the city to tell us what they felt went into a great camp experience. We’ve collected their thoughts and used them to create some questions to guide you while you consider your summer programming options this year.
What’s Your Goal:
- Will my child develop a new skill or interest, or improve on a skill?
- Will this camp expose my child to social situations, environments, experiences or equipment you don’t have access to at home?
- How many other children will there be in the camp? Are there structured activities to guide socialization?
- Will my child be able to make or do something that requires a special setting? (For example, a full theatrical performance with costumes, lightings, sets, and a cast of actors, a glazed and kiln-fired piece of pottery, trail riding on horseback.)
- Is my child developmentally ready to enjoy all that this camp has to offer?
Evaluate the Cost:
- Is this camp led and/or developed by a specialist instructor who will have knowledge and experience to help my child grow?
- Does this camp feature direct instruction and interaction, or supervised 'free play' only?
- Does this camp give your child the opportunity to see something working 'behind the scenes,' or give them special access to a facility, attraction, or occupation they might not otherwise get to experience?
- What kinds of materials, supplies, and equipment will be made available to my child as part of this camp?
- Is there any performance or project-creation component to this camp? Will my child have something to display or take home at the end?
- Is the camp venue specialized or otherwise unique to the program?
- How was the camp program developed and why?
- If considering residential camps, consider the added cost of 24-hour supervision, food and lodging!
Consider the Alternative:
- Do I have the time and mental/emotional energy to plan and supervise a full summer of activities for my child?
- Is my child likely to be bored or unproductive at home or in their regular child care setting?
- Will our regular child care arrangements provide opportunities for skills and interests development over the summer months?
- Am I willing to provide full-time child care and activity planning/supervision for other children as part of a babysitting share or camp share arrangement? Do I know other parents who might be interested in this?
- What are the potential financial costs of art supplies, attractions, and activities to keep my child busy all summer long?
- If I want my child to meet new friends or gain more social confidence, how will I facilitate this?
No matter what your time and budget allows, the best summer programming options will be the ones which work for you! Every family, every child and every situation is different.
Have a great summer!
Allison Percival, BA, B.Ed, is the assistant publisher of Calgary’s Child Magazine.