What is a summer camp? Should I send my child to one?

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A summer camp is a facility that offers supervised programs for children and adolescents. These programs can be as short as half a day to several weeks. Traditional camps offer outdoor activities, sports, crafts, and wilderness exploration. On the other hand, specialty camps focus on providing intensive training and instruction on one or more skills like music, art, dance, sports, or academics; or building leadership, spirituality (church camps), or even weight-loss and healthy living.

Why send your child to a summer camp?

When school is out, working parents can consider a summer camp as a great alternative to hiring a sitter or leaving kids in a daycare. In Manitoba, children under the age of 12 cannot be left alone at home unsupervised.

But even for older kids, camps are great outlets for youthful energy and curiosity. If you don’t want your kids to spend all their time on the computer at home, enroll them in a camp that is in line with their interest and talents. They can continue learning and gaining new skills for a more productive and memorable vacation.

Other benefits of attending summer camp:

  1. Children learn social skills and make new friends.
  2. They learn independence, leadership and decision-making skills.
  3. Boost your child’s confidence as he or she accomplishes challenging activities and gains new skills.
  4. They learn about the environment, nature, and exploration. Camps nurture their inquisitive minds.
  5. They have fun!

Choosing the right camp for your child – Things to consider:

  1. Location – you may not be comfortable letting your young child go to a far off camp, especially if it will be their first time away from home. It would be good to look for camps that are just a few minutes away. Also, having the facility nearby will make it easy for you to drive them to and from the site (if it’s a day camp), enable you to observe the activities, or in the unfortunate instance that your child needs to come home (for camps with longer duration) be able to fetch your child easily.
  2. Cost – costs vary depending on the program. Many camps also offer sibling discounts. Community-sponsored and church camps are usually more affordable; some are even free. It would be a good idea to inquire about such activities from your local YMCA/YWCA or the church you belong to.

    If you are in Winnipeg, check if you qualify to the fee subsidy program. Low income Winnipeggers get free access to recreation facilities in the city as well as program subsidies to various activities. Another tip would be to ask about the camp’s refund policy. This knowledge may come in handy if in case your child cannot finish the program and needs to leave the camp.

  3. Is it accredited? – check if the program is accredited to ensure that the facility and program meet standards of quality and safety. This usually relates to the child to counsellor ratio, qualifications of the training of camp director and counsellors, and safety policies in place (like an emergency preparedness plan or medical aid). If your child has food allergies, check the camp’s food policies. You can go to the Manitoba Camping Association website to see a list of accredited member camps.
  4. Is it in line with his/her interests? – include your child in the process of choosing to ensure that he/she will see the program through. Also, check if the activities are appropriate for his or her age.

Finding a camp in your vicinity

You can start by inquiring in your neighbourhood for summer camps. Check your child’s school, church, the YMCA-YWCA, the Leisure Guide, even Immigrant-Serving Organizations nearest you.

You can also inquire from: Arts and music camps in Winnipeg, Manitoba Camping Association, or museums like the Manitoba Museum. You can start looking for summer programs around March-April. Sign up early to ensure a spot or get discounts. But don’t worry if you haven’t signed your child up yet. As long as it is still summer, you will be able to find a program near you.

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