The Essential Summer Camp Guide

With so many great options for summer camp, how do you choose the right one?

The Essential Summer Camp GuideThe smell of marshmallows roasting over a crackling campfire, the delightful feeling of jumping into a cool lake on a hot day, the familiar songs and the fun of learning a new skill: all of these conjure up the excitement of summer camp.

With dozens of different types of summer camps, there are great choices for kids of all ages. We found some of the country’s best summer camps, where kids can make new friends, get active, learn new things and build confidence – all while having fun in the sun!

Sending your kids to camp can be a big decision, and you want to make the right one! Check out the Canadian Camping Association’s site at to find lots of helpful info and advice

so many camps, so many choices!

With so many types of camps, how do you know which is right for your child? Here’s a breakdown of the most common options and what they offer

Traditional Sleepaway Camps These camps offer a variety of sports, activities and many of the old favourites including campfires, sing-alongs and crafts.

Special Interest Camps From athletics to visual arts and music to religious affiliations, there is a specialty camp for nearly any activity your child is into.

Academic and Technology Camps If your child loves robotics, learning French or solving equations, then
this type of camp could be just the thing to foster those interests.

Special Needs Camps There are a whole host of camps that support children with particular medical, behavioural, physical and emotional needs.

Day Camps Most communities have day camps where kids can have fun, make friends and learn new skills without the extra costs of overnight camp.

insights from lifetime campers

“Camping has been a part of my life since I was six. The first time I went to camp I was a little nervous about being away from my parents, but I had my cousin with me and by the time I was there, I was having too much fun to think about it. I love having the chance to make new friends, I have become more independent and I’ve learned how to keep track of my belongings better!”
Laura Cameron, 15, Toronto

“It was at camp that I discovered my love of golf — one of my favourite pastimes. But I also enjoy all of the other activities, like kayaking, canoeing, rock climbing, archery, and high ropes, because they allow me to spend time outdoors and meet new people. Going to camp has had a greater impact on my career choices than any other influence. Attending camp has influenced my decision to become a National Lifeguard, which allowed me to get a job at a local swimming pool. After working as a camp counsellor, outdoor recreation, sports management and teaching are the career streams I’m currently focused on.”
Kyle Cameron, 18, Toronto

Is your child ready for sleepaway camp?

Take this quiz to find out!

Is your child a little nervous about heading off to camp for the first time — or, are you? We asked Jocelyn Palm, 30-year veteran camp director and former president of the Canadian and Ontario camping associations, to answer some of your biggest questions and help you decide if your young one is ready to head off to camp this summer.

1 To go to sleepaway camp, my child should be:

a) Very bold and outgoing
b) Of average confidence
c) Of any level of confidence

2 Kids who are homesick at camp:

a) Will need some time to adjust
b) Should go home right away
c) Are juvenile and wimpy

3 Sending your child away with a friend has the potential to be:

a) Helpful
b) Detrimental
c) Both

4 Sleepaway camp is only good for kids who are:

a) Couch potatoes

b) Full of energy
c) Either

5 If your child wets the bed, she will:

a) Be teased at camp

b) Have no fears about going to camp
c) Be able to cope with this issue at camp


1. C) Even if your child is shy, camp can help foster the confidence he might be lacking. “Camp is the place where a child can gain skills, do fun things with other people, learn, grow and figure out where she fits. It’s all facilitated by a staff who are very sensitive to shy kids,” assures Palm, who is the director of Glen Bernard Camp near Sundridge, Ont. Since camp encourages kids to get involved in activities they enjoy, your child has the opportunity to meet other kids who have the same interests. You may find that camp helps to bring your child out of his shell.

2. A) “Any child who comes from a caring home may well be homesick,” explains Palm. “There are very few kids who come to camp who don’t love home too.” One of the biggest mistakes parents make is to tell their children that if they don’t like camp, they can come home. “That’s a self-fulfilling prophecy,” Palm says, and the result is usually a more homesick child. Camp counsellors are trained to deal with this matter, and most kids lose their homesickness after about four days at camp. Try to help your child keep an open mind, since being away from home often teaches kids more independence and self-sufficiency, which is a good thing!

3. C) If your child has someone to go to camp with, she will probably feel more secure about going. However, you may worry that it will keep her from making other friends, or worse, a homesick friend could keep your child from getting the most out of camp. “Going away with a friend can be positive if you have a child who needs the support of a friend in order to want to go,” explains Palm — or, “if you have a daughter.” Girls tend to always do things in pairs — as we women know. But be aware that there are risks involved — the two friends might not end up as best buddies by the end of the three weeks!

4. C) Some kids are more couch potatoes than prospective marathon runners. But camp exposes all of them to the outdoors and plenty of physical activity, both of which are excellent solutions to sedentary behaviour. “There are very few camps that are highly competitive. You don’t have to be athletic to paddle a canoe or go sailing. If the camp has a varied program that appeals to different children, it’s an ideal place for them,” says Palm. Since kids can participate in water sports, land sports, arts and theatre, there is no telling what your child — inactive or active — might discover he loves!

5. C) Bed-wetting has become a more commonly addressed matter in the last couple of years. “We explain to the campers and the staff that there is usually someone who is late in stopping bed-wetting, so we have to help that person to deal with it. We talk to the kids about solutions, so no one else has to know a thing about it,” says Palm. Parents should tell the camp director and/or their child’s counsellors in case there are any accidents. However, the best solution is probably overnight kids’ underwear, designed specifically for bed-wetting.

impressions from a first-time camper

“I loved everything at camp and I had a lot of fun. We made a rope, built a safe campfire and did some activities. We had a campfire when it wasn’t raining. I stayed with my friends at the activities. I met new grown-ups that were running the activities. I would love to go to camp again.”
Jacob Durston, 5, London, Ont.

“I think camp gave him some confidence to try new things and to experience a bit of independence. He also had a lot of fun. I would definitely send him again. It was a great opportunity to learn new skills and meet new people. It was a very positive experience.”
Michelle Durston, Mom of Jacob

Nervous about letting them go to camp? Keep reading for more camp tips

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