5 x Ways To Choose The Right Summer Camps

Paul Romani

With so many types of summer camps in Vancouver, it can be difficult choosing which ones for your child. Here’s a guide to summer camps to help make your life easier and more affordable!

Vancouver offers a long list of types of summer camps from the more traditional North American camps to more modern specialist camps.

Each of these types of summer camps offers its own positives, as well as its own limitations.

Here are 5 things to think about when choosing the right summer camps:

1) Activities

How diverse are the activities for your child? If the camp runs for one or more weeks, you need some range of activities.

For traditional overnight camps, there is a wide range of activities on offer! This could include swimming, archery, arts & crafts, sports, etc.

For more modern specialist camps, you need to be aware that many consist of doing the same thing all day, e.g. art or gymnastics. While a 1 hour gymnastics class is amazing, doing that same activity all day for 5 days is probably not for everyone. Likewise, doing soccer outdoors all day, every day, is not the safest things for kids to be doing during the hot summer months. It’s all about balance. Some camps try to mix unrelated activities together, e.g. art and soccer, but this is a haphazard way of running a camp.

Additionally, consider how long the summer break is. For most kids, it’s around 8 or 9 weeks – almost one fifth or 20% of the year! While you could spend all of that time in a daycare setting just playing, that’s over two months with little to no education. It’s worth spending at least half of your child’s summer camps dedicated to education, with the other half to more outdoor related activities. You can even mix and match during the summer!

At Pear Tree Education, we offer not only diversity across the summer, but even within a single camp there is a wide range of areas of learning. We also offer a balance of indoor and outdoor time, and education time and free time – and even the education time is fun and engaging.

Burnaby Summer Camps

2) Staff

Without question, the most important consideration for choosing any summer camp is the staff that will be working with your child. Too many summer camp organisations rely on undergrads or high school students as their camp leaders, because they are often paid less. Alternative, even in the case that the staff are adults, they may have certain skills or expertise, but they may not necessarily be specially trained to work with children. This affects their ability to know how to work with children effectively, as well as potentially undermining their judgement in ensuring students safety and welfare.

One of the most appealing aspects of Pear Tree’s camps compared with most other organisations is that our camps are led by school teachers. These are school teachers that we have selected; in many cases, these are returning staff that work for us every spring/summer. It’s essential to us that our staff know how to work with children really well!

East Van summer camps

3) Numbers

Is there a limit to how many people can attend the summer camp? The majority of summer camp organisations do not provide any information about maximum numbers of students.

Another of the biggest complaint I’ve heard from parents about attending community centre camps is the large number of students in those camps. Having more students in a camp makes it more profitable for the organisation, but plays a significant role in potential welfare and safety issues arising.

At Pear Tree, we have a maximum of 15 students per camp. With younger classes, we generally have an assistant in the class, bring adult to student ratios to about 1:7, which is really good!

Vancouver summer camps

4) Hours

A practical consideration is the hours of the camp. Not all summer camp organisations offer full day camps. Many are half day only. For many families, this is a deciding factor, since most people in Vancouver have to work in jobs with full-time hours.

Pear Tree only offers full-day/full-week camps, 9am – 3pm Monday-Friday. We also offer pre-camp (7-8am) and after-camp (3-5pm) for families that need the extra hours.

East Van camps

5) Cost

Sadly, but understandably, cost is often the ultimate deciding factor for which camps children end up attending.

At Pear Tree, we charge as affordable a rate as we think reasonable, with superb discounts to encourage families to register their kids in a variety of our camps to get the full ‘Pear Tree experience’ (as opposed to simply signing their kid up for a cooking camp, because their kid only likes cooking!).

Families can look at the price of a community centre or VSB camp and think that they’re onto a good deal. However, if you look at the information above, you’ll see that the hours and class numbers, and even staff quality, make those camps much lower value for money than they first seem. You might only be paying $330 for a ‘3-week’ VSB camp, but those are half-day camps, they are the same activities for 3 weeks straight! And, there is no mention of maximum numbers in the class. For community centre camps, you might pay less simply because the staff cost less money due to having no specialist qualifications, or simply because they’re still students.

If childcare is all you need, community centre or public school programs might be adequate for your needs. However, it goes without saying that every parent should think of their children’s needs. While parents need childcare services, children need high-quality education and other high-quality activities. Those things (staff, time, limited class sizes, activity materials, entrance costs) come at a price.

Everyone knows that you get what you pay for.

Performing arts camps