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Summer camp at different ages and stages

When is the best time to send my child to camp?

Find the best camps at the 9th annual Camp Expo

Our Kids' Toronto Camp Expo

Saturday, February 9, 2019
Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto • 12:00 – 4:00pm


  • Meet with 50+ Camps & Programs: March break, summer & winter camps, day and overnight camps, after school and year-round programs
  • Choose arts, sports, science, math, technology, adventure, special needs, and many more traditional programs!
  • Save $10 and receive FREE admission by RSVP online now!
Save $10 and receive FREE admission by RSVP online now!
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(Regular at-door admission $10 per group of 4)

Being a parent through the ages and stages of childhood is demanding but also rewarding, especially when you see your child flourish. Remember to include "camp" on your best-choice list of places where that happens.

The following is a general guide only, but it will help you to explore the links between the stages of development and the ways camp can help a child to grow and learn.

When choosing a camp, be realistic about your child's physical, intellectual and emotional development levels and his or her limitations. Every child develops at a different pace and in a unique way, but all can find a place in the sun at camp.

Ages and stages

Ages 4 to 6

Their world

  • Sponges for information, questioning and curious
  • Learning to reason and understand their environment
  • More aware of the feelings, actions and motivations of others
  • Focusing more on how peers see them
  • Stronger physically, more co-ordinated and agile (conquering the monkey bars, learning how to throw and catch a ball)
  • Learning to read and write

Their concerns

What camp offers

  • Children learn to take part in more structured activities, such as crafts or field trips
  • Learning to take turns, to share and to consider the feelings of others
  • Encourages trust in adults other than parents
  • Increases confidence and comfort level about being apart from parents
  • Teaches children to take care of themselves, such as keeping track of the contents of a backpack
  • Some overnight camps offer short, partial-week stays as a gentle first experience for their youngest campers

Ages 7 to 9

Their world

  • Becoming more of an individual, exploring likes and dislikes, expressing particular personality traits
  • Developing specific interests (sports, music, drama, computers)
  • Friendships become increasingly important, as does socializing in groups
  • Developing a more sophisticated sense of right and wrong, understanding codes of behaviour

Their concerns

  • How they compare with others
  • Question rules and structures
  • Looking for role models outside of family

What camp offers

  • A chance to test out a wide range of activities and also to focus on specific interests and talents
  • A supportive environment in which to take on physical, emotional and intellectual challenges
  • A safe place to explore capabilities and limitations
  • Promotes the setting of appropriate boundaries
  • Encourages children to take responsibility for their own actions
  • A chance to make new friends outside of home or school

Ages 10 to 12

Their world

  • Torn between childhood and adolescence: sometimes rushing to be grown up, other times yearning to remain a kid
  • Looking for role models
  • Questioning the rhyme and reason of the worldaround them
  • Friendships and peers gain greater importance

Their concerns

  • Looking for more independence from parents
  • Worried about fitting in with peers
  • Want to define their unique personality

What camp offers

  • A good outlet for the independence preteens crave; boundaries are expanded, but in a supervised and nurturing environment
  • Campers are given greater responsibility and encouraged to solve problems themselves
  • An environment where they are able to acquire and master skills at their own pace
  • Many athletic, social, and recreational activities allow preteens to find a fit, master a skill and gain more self-esteem
  • Campers learn teamwork
  • Counsellors and camp instructors act as role models
  • A diverse environment that encourages tolerance and acceptance

Ages 13 to 15

Their world

  • A concerted push for independence and autonomy
  • Seeking out roles, including leadership ones
  • Want more responsibility, but also to set own rules
  • Friendships start to overshadow family
  • Testing their limits

Their concerns

  • Defining their place in the world
  • Being listened to and heard
  • Wanting to be understood and accepted, particularly by their peers

What camp offers

  • Chances to build leadership skills
  • A safe environment for taking positive risks
  • Skills for working both independently and with others
  • A sense of self-esteem through mentoring younger campers
  • An environment that fosters building deep and abiding friendships
  • Chances to challenge their physical abilities and master new skills and gain self-confidence
  • A sense of belonging

Ages 16 and onwards

Their world

  • To find their adult selves and their niche in the world
  • Challenging and exciting experiences to test their limits
  • Mentors they can respect and admire
  • Friends who understand them
  • To define themselves beyond the parameters of their parents

Their concerns

  • Shedding childhood roles
  • Gaining greater independence
  • Figuring out who is looking back at them in the mirror
  • Future job opportunities

What camp offers

  • Greater opportunities to practice leadership
  • Positive role models
  • Adult mentors
  • A deeper sense of who they are as individuals and the effect they can have as part of a community
  • Heightened physical and mental challenges to test what they're made of, particularly through advanced adventure trips like extended canoe or hiking expeditions
  • Extended camp sessions for a month or longer
  • Skills that will help them at school and at work, as well as in life

Camp offers work-world preparation

  • Life and career skills such as planning, time management, team building, co-operation, effective communication and conflict resolution
  • Specialized leadership and counsellor-in-training programs
  • As former campers, often preferential hiring for summer employment as counsellors
  • Competency and certification in specialized areas, such as lifeguarding or first aid
  • Training in how to support, guide and lead others, whether peers or younger kids
  • Confidence-building for more adult responsibilities
  • Personal goal setting and drive to better your best: a mindset that supports future education and career achievements

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