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Choosing the Right Summer Camp for Your Child

Choosing the Right Summer Camp for Your Child

Did you know that 1.5 million children and youth attend summer camps in Canada each year?

Summer camps offer children a chance to explore new interests, develop skills, and make lifelong memories. Whether you're considering a day camp or an overnight camp, selecting the right one requires careful consideration.

Choosing the right camp: Key considerations

1. Define your goals

First, identify what you want your child to gain from the camp experience. For example, a Canadian Camp Association (CCA) study found that 90% of Canadian parents reported that their children developed self-confidence and social skills at camp. There are approximately 800 summer camps across Canada, each with their own unique activities and ethos. Are you looking for a camp that focuses on sports, arts, academics, or outdoor adventures?

2. Day camp vs. overnight camp

Day camps:

  • Typically operate during regular business hours. Kids return home each evening.
  • Ideal for younger children or those not ready to spend nights away from home.
  • Often less expensive than overnight camps.
  • Provide opportunities for children to engage in various activities without the commitment of staying overnight.
  • No need for travel insurance.

Overnight camps:

  • Offer a more immersive experience, with children staying at the camp for a week or more.
  • Help foster independence and deeper friendships.
  • Often provide a wider range of activities and a more robust community experience.
  • Better suited for older children or those who are comfortable being away from home for extended periods.
  • Could be located anywhere in Canada, or even abroad.

3. Research camp credentials

Make sure the camps you’re looking at are accredited by the Canadian Camp Association (CCA). The CCA accredits camps that meet over 400 standards for health, safety, and program quality. Accredited camps maintain a staff-to-camper ratio of around 1:8, ensuring adequate supervision.

4. Visit the camp

If possible, try to visit the camp in person to see the facilities, meet the staff, and get a feel for the camp environment. Pay attention to the cleanliness, safety measures, and overall atmosphere. Trust your gut!

5. Check the staff credentials

Inquire about the camp staff's qualifications and experience. Look for camps that hire counselors with relevant backgrounds in education, diversity and inclusion, child development, or specific activities the camp offers. Additionally, confirm that the camp conducts thorough background checks on all staff members.

5. Evaluate the safety measures

Safety is a must! It should be very clear that the camp has detailed safety protocols, including emergency procedures, first aid training for staff, and adequate supervision ratios. Ask about the camp's policy on handling medical issues, including allergies and medications. It’s a good idea to be upfront and honest about all of your child’s health concerns.

Insurance considerations: Protecting your child

The good news is that fewer than 0.5% of campers experience injuries requiring off-site medical attention, according to the Canadian Camp Association. Most injuries at Canadian camps are minor, like cuts and bruises. Still, here’s what you need to know from an insurance perspective:

Camp-provided insurance

Reputable camps will carry liability insurance that covers injuries or accidents that occur during camp activities. However, this coverage typically protects the camp itself from liability rather than providing direct benefits to campers. Some camps offer optional accident insurance for an additional fee, covering medical expenses for injuries sustained at camp. You can ask the camp leader for more information!

Personal accident insurance

Many camps offer optional personal accident insurance for an additional fee. This insurance can help cover medical expenses in case your child is injured at camp. Read carefully and ask questions to understand what is and isn't covered under these policies and whether you have another policy that may cover the same things.

Health insurance

In Canada, provincial health insurance plans cover most of the emergency services a summer camp attendee might need. Inpatient and outpatient hospital care, including surgeries, emergency room visits, and diagnostic tests such as X-rays and lab tests, should all fall under your basic provincial healthcare plan.

Remember, though, your child’s provincial health care doesn’t extend beyond its borders. If your child is going to attend a camp outside their home province, check to see what insurance is needed.

Always keep your child’s insurance card and relevant medical information readily available. The camp may ask for copies of this information.

Do you have private health insurance as well? Check in with your provider to understand what your policy covers regarding injuries or illnesses that might occur at camp.

Travel insurance for camps

If your child is attending a camp far from home, think about opting into travel insurance. Travel insurance covers unforeseen events such as trip cancellations, lost baggage, or emergency medical expenses. It doesn’t always cover adventure travel, like SCUBA diving or four-wheeling, so cross-check the coverage against your child’s summer camp activity list.

Final thoughts

When picking an incredible summer camp experience for your kids, think about their personal interests and comfort zones, available accredited camps near you, and the safety measures they have in place.

It’s always a good idea to double-check insurance coverage provided by the camp, plus your personal or provincial coverage, and then decide whether additional insurance is necessary.