Sure, sleep-away camp is great with its bunk beds and bonfires, but why should it get all the hype? Day camps can also provide exciting and memorable experiences for your kids this summer. Here are some tips for day camp rookies, and advice from the YMCA camp staff.

The benefits

Day camps offer a practical solution for working parents, as well as kids who may be prone to boredom at home. Here are a few compelling reasons to register:

Close to home. While some kids crave the adventure and independence of overnight camp, others may prefer a familiar environment where they sleep in their own bed.

More affordable. A Monday-to-Friday day camp typically costs less than a sleep-away camp that involves extra travel and amenities.

High structure. If your child thrives in predictable routines at school, they will likely transition well to the similar format of day camp, with an organized agenda of instructor-led activities, outdoor time, and lunch breaks.

Flexible evenings. With day camp, you can still enjoy your evenings together as a family. If your child plays on a sports team, they won’t have to miss any practices or games.

So many cool options. As you’re filling out registration forms, you may feel envious of all the neat things your child will get to do! If they will be attending multiple camps throughout the summer, you can keep it fresh by choosing a variety of themes and locations.

Specific interests. A week-long day camp lets your child immerse themselves in something they’re truly interested in, whether it’s science, technology, nature, art, music, or sports. An important bonus: over the course of the camp, they will likely meet friends that share the same passion!

Making your choice

There are many factors to consider when choosing a camp, and we’ve already compiled the top 10 considerations for this year. If you’re feeling unsure where to start, here are a few additional tips:

Buddy up. Seek recommendations from other families, especially the parents of your child’s friends. If they have rave reviews of a certain day camp, maybe the kids can sign up together.

Brainstorm. To cast a wide net in your search, think about places that host kids’ activities and birthday parties. Consider dance or gymnastics clubs, theatre groups, craft studios, nature centres, children’s museums and zoos. Check your city’s seasonal activity guide, along with other community locations such as libraries, churches, and community centres. If your child is the sporty type, inquire with your local sport association, aquatic centre, or university athletics program.

Ask questions. If the camp website or brochure doesn’t provide all the details, reach out to inquire about age groupings, number of attendees, leader/participant ratio, and pick-up/drop-off times (including options for later pick-up, if needed).

Getting ready

To assist you in preparing for day camp, we consulted Courtney Didier, Director of Operations, Outdoor Services for YMCA of Three Rivers. “All families receive a list of things to pack to ensure campers are prepared for activities in all types of weather,” she says. She highlights a few key items for your child’s backpack:

  • Proper footwear. “Camp is very active, so running shoes are required for safe participation,” Courtney says, adding that sandals and slip-on shoes are only suitable for water play.
  • Sunscreen, labelled with the child’s name. “We recommend labelling everything,” Courtney explains, “but sunscreen is the number one item that ends up in the lost and found bin every summer.”
  • A reusable water bottle that your child can refill independently.
  • A book or other quiet activity in case there is “down time” at the end of the day while waiting to be picked up.
  • If relevant, a bathing suit, towel, hat and bug spray.
Pre-camp jitters

“We recognize that it may be a tough decision to send your child off to camp. Especially after two years of being very connected during the pandemic,” Courtney says. “Please know that camp staff members are here to answer any questions you may have- and trust us, we have heard them all!”

It’s natural to for kids (and parents) to feel nervous, especially if they’re camp rookies. “Most of us who work in camp were once campers ourselves,” Courtney notes. “We remember our first day of camp and understand that being dropped off at a new place with new people can be intimidating.”

The good news is, if you’ve done your homework and chosen a reputable camp, your child is in good hands. Courtney points out that YMCA day camp staff are certified in Standard First Aid and CPR, and all swimming and boating activities are supervised by fully certified lifeguards. “Our staff receive extensive training to prepare them to be safe, caring, engaged, and responsive,” she says. “When camp is in full swing, there will be a Site Coordinator or Director available to discuss your child’s individual needs.”

Chances are, your child will settle in and have a fantastic time. In fact, you may want to avoid scheduling a lot for the evenings, as they may be tired from their action-packed day. A kid who’s ready for bed after a day of summertime fun – now that’s a happy camper! 

Make sure to always ask if your Camp has a Fundraising Program. This one allows parents to buy their kids camp name labels, and the camp earns 20% commission!  

Never head off to camp without purchasing your camp labels! You don’t want germy mix-ups and lost items! 


Kristi York is a freelance writer and mom of two sports-loving boys. Her work has been published by ParentsCanada, Running Room, ParticipACTION and The Costco Connection.

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