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The Happy Camper Checklist

Summer camps in Calgary come in all shapes and sizes, appealing to a range of interests and ages. Here’s how to find a camp that invests in your youngster by creating an unforgettable experience where they’ll meet new friends, gain self-confidence, and learn new skills - all while giving you peace of mind.

Begin with basics. First, determine your schedule needs. Some summer camps in Calgary are only a few hours a day, while others are structured to work well with a working parent’s schedule. Figure out if you’ll need to arrange before- or after-care.

From there, seek a camp with “caring staff, fun programs, and dedication to the health and safety of the campers,” says DD Gass, a director of camps and school-age services at a Jewish Community Centre.

Match the camp with your childs interests. From computer coding to robotics and sports, day camps offer kids the opportunity to try all kinds of new activities. If your child isn’t interested in a camp that specializes in one activity, choose a more traditional camp that offers a wide range of activities throughout the session.

“Make sure there’s a healthy balance between structure and choice,” says Jim Spearin, senior vice president of Youth Development for the YMCA.

Consider the culture. Ask for referrals from trusted family and friends. “Choose a camp that welcomes parents as partners in their experience,” advises Spearin. “Parents should always feel welcome to come visit during camp. There should be planned activities for both parent and camper to enjoy together such as special events or campouts.”

Seek qualified, organized staff. Camp employees should be licensed, certified, and trained in sexual/child abuse prevention, First-Aid, and CPR. Find out how camp leaders are supervised and how they plan for emergencies, including natural disasters, intruders, and other threats. Also consider the child-to-staff ratio. Will your child feel lost in a group that’s too big, even if it meets the province’s criteria?

“It’s vitally important for staff to have child development knowledge and experience to ensure that appropriate, engaging, and enriching activities are offered,” says Katrina Ball, child care resource and referral director for The Family Conservancy.

Try it before you buy. If possible, attend a summer camp expo or a camp fair to find out what options exist in your area. Some organizations feature their own camp fairs and mini-camps for families to try.

“As a parent, you know your child best and what program would be best for them. Trust your instincts,” advises Ball.

Calm the butterflies. Many youngsters have a hard time adjusting to new situations and new people, and may feel scared or intimidated. Include your child in the process of choosing a camp. Discuss the schedule of activities and what a typical day will look like.

“Children can help pack their lunch, if needed, and pack their backpack with the items they’ll need for camp. This helps them know what they have in their backpack and know what they will need to bring [back] home,” says Gass.

Find out if one of your child’s friends would like to attend the camp with your child. Attending orientations, visiting the campsite, and meeting the staff prior to the beginning of camp can also help reduce any pre-camp jitters.

Freelance journalist Christa and her husband are the parents of two happy day campers. Christa’s latest book is Happy,  Healthy & Hyperconnected: Raise a Thoughtful Communicator in a Digital World.

Calgary’s Child Magazine © 2021 Calgary’s Child