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Affordable summer programs

If you are looking at the list of available summer camps and having to make some tough financial decisions, you are not alone.

After two years with restrictions due to COVID, many people are excited about filling summer to the brim with programs and camps this year. However, the reality of post-COVID finances may mean that families have to choose and prioritize their summer budget carefully, leaving several weeks without planned activities.

The good news is, we’ve got lots of ideas for low and no-cost programming to entertain your kids so you can make that summer programming budget stretch just a little further this year! While most of these programs do require adult supervision, see if you can organize a childcare swap with a friend or family member to get a much-needed break. 

The City of Calgary, the Calgary Public Library and a number of other organizations provide free or affordable programming for children during the summer months:

 

THE CITY OF CALGARY

The City of Calgary provides a number of programs through its Calgary Parks and Recreation departments. Learn more and register for these programs at calgary.ca.

Park n' Play. These safe programs help children between the ages of six and 12 make new friends and learn. Games and activities are designed to encourage them on their path to healthy and active lifestyles. Programs run Monday to Friday at various park locations around the city. Reserve your drop-in spot online seven days in advance. Walk ups will also be accepted on a first come, first serve basis. 

Stay n' Play. These supervised programs help children ages three to five years old stay active through a play-based learning environment. Participants engage in games and activities that they can use on their path to healthy and active lifestyles. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Programs run Monday to Friday and take place in a number of locations around the city. Reserve your drop-in spot online seven days in advance. Walk ups will also be accepted on a first come, first serve basis. 

Youth Leadership Programs. Looking for some free, high-quality programs for youth between the ages of 11 and 17? The City of Calgary offers programs at no cost. These registered programs offer many different activities for youth and are available in various community locations across Calgary.

Programs include:

  • LEAD. The City’s leadership certification program.
  • Nature LEAD. This youth leadership certification program allows youth to learn, develop and practice their leadership skills, all with an emphasis on nature.
  • LEAD 2.0. Graduates of LEAD can enhance their leadership skills, exercise their critical thinking, develop job skills, and discover the positive impact they can have in their community.
  • Youth Job Skillz. This youth program teaches youth about working with children in their community and using their skills to have fun.

Unplug n’ Play. Bring your lawn chair and snacks and enjoy live entertainment for the entire family. This event is free and open to all ages. Events will take place in various locations across Calgary. Please note these events are weather dependent. Unplug n’ Play events are drop-in programs. To ensure proper ratios are maintained, a limited number of participants can be accepted at program sites each day. Walk ups will also be accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Wetland Wonders. Are you ready to learn all about the wonders of wetlands? Join Calgary Parks to explore these natural spaces and the wildlife that call them home. Discover why wetlands are important and get an up-close view of the amazing critters that live below the surface during a pond dip. Programs will be held at Ralph Klein Park and other local parks in the city. Participants must be accompanied by an adult. Recommended for family cohorts with children aged five to 12.

PlayBins in Parks. Looking for a fun way to spend a day at the park? The City’s new PlayBins are treasure chests filled with games, recreation equipment, fun activities and so much more. All you have to do is Unlock the PlayBin… and discover the treasures within!

To access the PlayBins, visit calgary-cwiprod.motorolasolutions.com/cwi/tile and fill in the required information. Once you submit your information an access code for the combination lock will be sent to the email address you provided. 

PlayBin locations:

  • Flyover Park – 652 McDougall Road NE 
  • Rocky Ridge Landing Park – 151 Rocky Ridge Drive NW 
  • Churchill Playground – 91 Colleen Crescent SW 
  • Applewood Park – 899 Applewood Drive SE 
  • Bankview (Buckmaster Park) – 1629 21 Avenue SW

Self-Guided Walking Tours Of Local Parks. Explore Calgary’s diverse and amazing parks at your own time and own pace. Self-guided walking tours highlight stunning landscapes, rich history, diverse ecosystems and interesting wildlife. Choose from a range of walking tours across Calgary, with stops carefully selected by the City’s environmental education staff to help you discover local sites on your own. Visit calgary.ca/csps/parks/locations/walking-tours.html for more information.

 

THE CALGARY PUBLIC LIBRARY

Public libraries in and around Calgary offer a number of interesting programs for children of all ages. Learn more about which programs are offered at your local branch and register by visiting calgarylibrary.ca.

Baby programming:

  • Storytime
  • Songs 
  • Rhyme time
  • Sign language

Toddler programming:

  • 1-2-3: Count with Me
  • A-B-C You and Me

Kids (ages five to 12): 

  • A wide variety of topics, including bats, astronomy, birds, construction, engineering, climate change, dinosaurs, drawing, fairy tales, science, math, wildlife

Teens:

  • A wide variety of topics, including writing, coding, animation, STEM, cooking, comics, video games, poetry

 

BOW HABITAT STATION

What’s Up With Nature? Learn about Alberta’s wildlife and nature with your family through hands-on Investigation Stations hosted by special guests from local wildlife organizations in the Discovery Centre. 

Guided Fish Hatchery Tour. Join a 30-minute guided tour of the Fish Hatchery to learn about how trout are raised from egg to adults, and the role that recreational stocking plays in Alberta. This program includes an opportunity to feed thousands of fish in the burrows ponds. For more information, visit bowhabitat.alberta.ca.

No matter which of these affordable programs you register for or drop in to, your children will be appreciative that you put in the time and effort to find them something fun to do this summer without stressing you out financially.

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