Surviving Summer Without Camps

Summer camp is a rite of passage for many kids. Whether it’s sleepaway or day camp, it’s something both children and parents look forward to leading up to summer vacation.

As I feel my body swell with a heavy load of parental guilt, I’ll offer up full disclosure — I have not yet afforded my children the opportunity to participate in summer camps. I didn’t tirelessly research camps. I didn’t put my name on any wait lists. This summer, I merely relied on the status quo: daycare.

The reality is, camp simply isn’t a good fit for every family situation. While they’re positively packed with solid experiences, life lessons and budding friendships, camp schedules don’t jive with every parent’s workday, let alone their bank account. While many camps offer early drop-offs and extended pickup times, most don’t compete with the more flexible hours offered by many licensed daycares. But if you’re wondering what summer is without camp, here are six ways to survive the season in your own backyard.

S Sleep outside

Break out the sleeping bags and flashlights. You can easily create a camping atmosphere by pitching a tent steps away from your child’s bedroom. The change of scenery and experience of sleeping outside will surely give your kid a taste of the rugged outdoors and the bonus is, when nature calls, you won’t have to trek too far.

U Utilize your local library branch

Check your local library branch for a list of fun and free activities. If your schedule doesn’t work with daily programs, why not pack the kids up and head over for an unscheduled visit? Simply checking out books or movies and exploring all that your branch has to offer will be a treat for the little ones, especially when they can choose their own books to take home.

MMake trips to the beach

Bring the shovels and buckets and let your child’s creativity do the rest. Building sand castles and splashing around at the beach aren’t the only free activities; there’s plenty of opportunity at your fingertips. Many waterfront areas also boast state-of-the-art splash pads, so if the lake isn’t quenching your thirst, there are other options. You can also pack a picnic lunch or a cooler filled to the brim for a beachfront barbecue.

M Maximize your community calendar

Check out what’s happening in your city during the summer months. You may be surprised by the number of affordable and free activities geared for kids of all ages. From fireworks displays, to summer festivals, to concerts in the park, be sure to scan flyers and newspapers and also take a look at your city or town’s online events calendar.

E Explore your local habitat

Hiking isn’t just a great form of exercise; it also allows children to explore and learn about nature. Canada has plenty of trails and green spaces, so take advantage of them. The GTA’s Rouge Park has become a regular hiking spot for my family, providing endless opportunities for us to explore all that nature has to offer. Why not take your children on a journey through the forest, teaching them about different tree and plant species, or asking them to find the most spectacular walking stick during your jaunt? It’s also wise to dress children in long-sleeved shirts and pants to help fend off mosquitoes — especially if you embark on a suppertime hike. Some experts also swear by light coloured clothing, since mosquitoes are most attracted to dark colours, such as blue and black.

RReturn to basics

If you’re a millennial or a gen X-er like myself, you might remember collecting ants for your ant farm, or playing jump rope, or spending hours outside playing make-believe. Sometimes, we were even bored. Let’s remind ourselves that as parents, it’s okay for our children to be bored too; let their imaginations run wild and give them the opportunity to think creatively.

While some day camps are comparable to daycare pricing, sleepaway camps can cost upwards of $3,000 for a two-week stay. Many websites can give you info on availability and pricing, including Toronto and GTA Day Camps. But if it’s not in the budget, don’t fret. I’m a product of camp-less summer holidays and I don’t harbor an ounce of resentment. I’m hopeful that in turn, my parental camp guilt will begin to subside before summer’s end. Cheers to the last few weeks of steamy temperatures, late sunsets and backyard cookouts!