April 16, 2018

SUMMER SURVIVAL: The whats, whys and hows of camps in & around Toronto

SUMMER SURVIVAL: The whats, whys and hows of camps in & around Toronto.

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 So, you've made it through the school year.  Lost mittens, packed lunches, PA days. You did it.  With the kids finally asleep, you breathe a sigh of relief when it hits you, SUMMER CAMP.  What to choose?  Who to choose? How to choose?


Relax, you have come to the right spot. Here we will explore the ins and outs of this competitive space. First off, you must discern. Are you a price-conscious savvy consumer or an extravagant adventurist? Is this your child's first experience with camp or are you shooting for a summer-long sleep away?  (Keeping in mind most sleep away camps don't start until your child is at least 7 years old.)

How to pick your child's camp


Let's face it, with a myriad of options out there it may be tempting to fall for the latest glossy flyer that lands on your doorstep. However, educators recommend looking at the history of the camp. Asking: does it have a record of strength and reliability? Can it facilitate any special accommodations your child may require? Any camp worthy of hosting your child must have well-trained staff and a low camper-to-staff ratio (about 10 to 1 for kids ages 8 to 14). In addition, all staff must be background-checked, with references, an interview, and a vulnerable sector criminal records search.  A robust sense of community evidenced by a high camper return rate and loyal camp counselors should help to ease your mind.


Now, that's not to disqualify the latest in summer camp initiatives. What these camps may be lacking in history, they more than make up for with the most up-to-date educational practices, particularly in the area of tech - such as coding classes for children using real coding languages! Camps have evolved into so much more than they were 20 years ago. No longer are we limited to a one size fits all approach. With a little research you really can find the perfect camp for your needs.  

How to know if a camp is right for your child


There is no point expecting your indoors loving, water-fearing child to spend 8 hours a day on a lake. Remember who you are choosing the camp for. Talk to your child and learn what they see as valuable. You may be surprised.  

Don’t be afraid to visit prospective camps. Bill Jones, director of Camp Lake Hubert and Camp Lincoln in Lake Hubert, MN says "We want parents to know us, and we want to know our parents and kids."  Some camps like Hatch have weekly classes that offer free trials that also serve as a great way to learn if a camp will be a fit.

How to ensure your child's summer isn't wasted


Camps are a wonderful opportunity to explore areas not readily available throughout the school year. Offering diversity, both in attendees and classes taught. It is summer, after all, what better time to ensure our children are having fun with their learning!

"Kids have to learn how to separate from their families and to become resilient and independent," says Peg Smith, CEO of the American Camp Association. Camp gives children a safe way to take these steps. Breaking ground on new skills inherently exercises soft skill development as children make new friends, ask for help or celebrate a new milestone.

What benefits does summer camp provide in this technological age


Quite simply, try as they might, not all subjects are covered in the standard J-K curriculum. Summer camp gives your child the opportunity to explore new areas of themselves. Whether they dream of becoming the next great tech leader or long to conquer the elusive backflip. A well-chosen, engaging, camp could quite possibly be the launch pad for success your child is longing for

How do I know if my kid will ‘fit in’ with the others

Child clinical and school psychologist Paulo Pires, from Milton, Ont., says that “From 9 until 11, children start to gain awareness of similarities and differences within peer groups, and hierarchies begin to develop”. Therefore, it is important to recognize the value of specialty camps such as Hatch Coding. Like-minded individuals coming together to collaborate and expand their learning in a safe inclusive environment.

Academic or fun?

There are tremendous options for both academic and the more traditional fun focused camps. Both of which offer your child wonderful learning opportunities. Robert Brooks, PhD, coauthor of Raising Resilient Children. Says children learn to succeed by overcoming obstacles, not by having you remove them. "It's particularly important for young children to have the chance to play and take risks without feeling that their parents will criticize or correct them for doing something wrong," In addition, experts agree, attending an academically focused camp liberates students from the standardized constraints of school, allowing for deeper exploration of chosen subjects.   

This also sets children up for success in the upcoming school year.

STEM Camps: Which languages?


JavaScript, Python, Drag and drop - what does it all mean? If you are anything like me this question leaves you scratching your head.  A quick Google search floods your screen with,

‘Coding made easy’,  ‘Simple drag and drop’, or ‘learn to code without syntax errors’. I'm even more confused. Isn't coding without actual typing symply constructing someone else's puzzle? Coding is creative and requires higher order problem solving. Students require time and guidance to learn this higher order skill, not quick fixes. Learning to code using real computer languages like JavaScript or Python offers long term benefits across multiple subjects and into a plethora of career paths.


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