Many summers, I would scramble to leave the newsroom by 4pm to pick my kids up from summer camp. Still, I would be one of the last parents in the camp pick-up line. When my kids complained, I wondered how other parents made their summer schedules work.
Especially for parents working outside of the home, summer can be absolute chaos. Finding safe, fun activities that won’t break the bank is only half the battle faced when the final school bell rings in June.
Most parents also have to factor in multiple children, camp hours, and traffic, which is why I have put together 10 tips for successfully preparing for summer camp season:
1. Plan early for summer camp. Loosely planning out your schedule for the summer in advance will help you pick the camps best suited to your family. Are you taking any vacation time? Is your cousin getting married? Family reunion coming up? Knowing your summer schedule ahead of time will ensure you don’t enrol your child in a five-day camp when you’re only in town for those three days.
2. Summer camps, especially low cost or subsidized, have limited space and fill up quickly. Wondering what camps are available? Check out last year’s Calgary’s Child Summer Camp & Program Guide online on this website and be sure to pick up a hard copy or read online the 2020 Summer Camp & Program Guide, being featured in the upcoming Spring issue.
3. Ask your child what they would like to do. It’s their time and you don’t want to waste your money on a camp they will hate. What activities are they interested in participating in this summer? Do they want to go to camp with a friend? Do they want to go to an overnight camp? These are all important questions to ask early in the process. If your kids are old enough, get them to help you by doing some of the leg work looking for camps that interest them.
4. Do your due diligence. Nowadays, you wouldn’t buy anything without doing a little research and summer camps are no different. A quick search will help you assess the quality of the programs and see if they are in good standing with the city/province you live in. It is also important to ask about the camp instructors before enlisting your child. Do they receive any training? How many kids per instructor? Do they have first-aid certification? In large camps, who do they report to? Remember, these are the people who will be caring for your kids for eight or more hours a day.
5. Do you have a shy child? If a child is shy, it can be hard for them to try something new and even harder if they don’t know anyone.
To ease your child’s separation anxiety, see if you can visit the camp before you drop them off for the first time and provide your child with lots of information, such as:
6. Check for extra fees or discounts. Enrolling multiple kids or enrolling in back-to-back camps? You’ve enrolled in the camp but sometimes there are extra activities that a child might want to take part in. Knowing there are extra fees in advance means you won’t be scrambling to find $5 in change on your car floor at drop-off.
7. Dress for success. Is the camp outside, crafty, or does it involve partaking in multiple activities throughout the day? Camp isn’t the time to pack your child’s new outfit from grandma, their new hydro flask, or the new skateboard sneakers they begged for. At camp, their stuff is going to get lost, dirty, or wrecked. Don’t have anything on hand? Hit up a second-hand show or thrift store and most importantly, label all of their belongings with your child’s last name. Having the right gear can make or break the camping experience for everyone involved.
8. Keep yourself in the loop. You booked a camp in March and checked it off your list, but make sure you also stay up to date on communication. There is nothing worse than finding out on the first day of camp that there were forms you needed to bring in or that camp starts later than they originally told you. Make sure you are signed up for emails and join their social media, so you can stay abreast of any and all new developments.
9. Read the fine print. Signing up for camp comes with reams of paperwork. Camp information, contact information, health care forms, waivers, personality quizzes (just kidding!) - it can feel endless. Carefully read through what you are signing to catch details like additional fees, shortened camp schedules that are out of the ordinary, or extra field trips that your child may want to participate in.
10. Red light - green light. Have you considered the change in your routine? If you are used to going straight to work, how will dropping the kids off impact your schedule? In big cities, summer is construction season - will there be detours or road closures on your route? Do you have multiple kids? Make sure you didn’t sign them up for camps on opposite ends of the city. Is there bussing to and from camp? How long will they be en route to camp each day? While summer traffic is usually lighter, planning ahead will make sure you don’t spend extended time on the road.
Happy summer planning and camping!
Nanica is the proud parent to Benjamin and Fable. Truly a child at heart, she is constantly exploring Calgary for new things to keep her kids from destroying her house and happily occupied year-round.
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