Choosing the “right” Camp is a Family Decision
March 30, 2020 by Kyle Marshall

Muskoka Woods

Including children in the camp decision process is a wise choice as you look towards the
Summer of 2020

To experience a summer at camp is to have an experience like no other. Those fortunate to attend come away with life skills and accomplishments that they will always remember and may never experience again.

Regardless of the camp kids attend — whether it is day or residential, sports or music — the takeaways children gain from their experience can be universal, yet unique to each camper at the same time. For a parent, the process of having to choose the right camp for their child doesn’t need to be daunting and can be quite smooth and painless as long as they know what they are looking for.

The fact of the matter is that there are a lot of great summer camps to consider and choose from. Knowing what kind of experience your child wants will go a long way in determining what camp they ultimately attend. Parents, also, do not have to take the journey alone. There are several resources that can help, with one such resource being the Ontario Camp Association (OCA), a voluntary, non-profit organization that draws its membership from camps, individuals and like-minded organizations and agencies, all devoted to maintaining high standards for organized camping, and to sharing information and ideas that maintain these standards.

The OCA provides resources to parents to make sure they understand how accreditation works, and the importance of camps meeting and exceeding certain standards. That way, parents can ask prospective camps more clear-cut questions regarding health and safety and other regulations, so no matter what concerns they or their kids have, they have done their homework prior to making their final camp decision.

“[Camps] are going to share as much information as possible, and it is important for parents to make sure that it’s something that is supported by the child,” says Joy Levy, the OCA’s executive director,
adding that one of the most important steps in the camp-decision process is involving the child. This can help ease concerns for both parents and child.

Levy points out that thanks to the Internet, camps today use their websites to offer virtual tours, whether it be through pictures or video. However, for those who need a more hands-on, in-person touch, many camps offer meet and greets so that new campers and their parents can check out the facilities and meet the staff to help with any uneasiness.

According to the OCA, there are some key tips that will lead to a successful summer camp experience:

1. Set your child up for success by visiting and touring the camp prior to their first day.

Zodiac Day Camp

2. Call other parents whose children attend the camp for helpful information and a reference. You could also schedule a get together with families attending the same camp so your camper can start getting to know their camp friends.

3. Get excited with your child and help them mentally prepare. Mark the first day of camp on the calendar, create a checklist of items for camp, talk about what to expect and how they can cope with different situations they may face.

4. When your child is at camp, don’t schedule a significant family event. The disappointment of missing a family celebration will outweigh the camp experience.

5. Talk to your child about homesickness. Tell them it’s normal and encourage them to talk to other campers or counselors about their feelings. Even the most tearful, clingy camper will ultimately adjust. Don’t make promises or statements you’ll regret such as “if you’re really, really homesick I’ll come and pick you up.” Communicate confidence in his/her ability to handle being away from home. Packing a favorite item or going to camp with a friend may help ease your child’s homesickness. When writing to children, avoid dwelling on how much you miss them or what they are missing out on at home.

6. Write your child letters (even a few days before camp starts so they’ll get them in the first few days). “Mail Call” is a big event at camp.

7. Talk with your child about what to expect at camp. Are calls home allowed? Is there a time for parents to visit?

8. After your child returns home, encourage them to practice their new skills, and encourage them to maintain their friendships through e-mails, letters or phone calls. In the end, summer camps are such a unique adventure that once you experience the right one, wonderful things can happen.

In the end, summer camps are such a unique adventure that once you experience the right one, wonderful things can happen.

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