Packing Tips for Sleepaway Camp

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I'm on year four of packing my kids for sleepaway camp and every year I learn something new that helps with making the process go a little more smoothly - for both the parents AND the kids. So, I thought I would share some of those tips with you and save you some of the trial and errors we've gone through.

1. Labels - lots of labels

It takes a LOT of labels to label everything for summer camp. I often under estimate how many we'll need or forget to order them until the last minute.

I love Mabel's Labels because they ship really quickly and they have a camp specific kit that makes it easier for me to know what I need. I go through a lot of their little labels on clothes (and stopped bothering to label their socks) and put multiple big labels on the really valuable things (like life jackets!).

I also just order our last name since a lot of the stuff passes from kid to kid and when I'm lucky, some of the things are already labeled when I go through it the next year!

While I am sometimes tempted to not label everything, the camp my kids go to do the entire cabin's laundry in one go, once a week, so having names on things is an easy way for everyone to get their own stuff back.

2. Send the old stuff

These kids are going to get DIRTY and stinky and wreck a lot of the clothing that gets sent to camp. Send the old crappy clothing and don't worry about trying to get them all kinds of new stuff.

Along this same note... be prepared that some things won't make it home - the brand new water shoes and lifejacket that disappeared are ultimately a small price to pay for the amazing experience of camp! :)

3. Plastic bins and plastic drawer systems

I've been using the bins for three years and only just discovered the drawer systems so haven't implemented it yet, but will definitely be doing this next year.

Plastic bins are a great way to store all the non-clothing stuff and get it to and from camp easily. I've found that some of the cabins have shelving and storage and some don't, so having an easy way to separate the clothing from the other things the kids will need is a handy and easy way to pack.

I recently discovered something other parents do and plan to try it next year: buy plastic drawer systems and essentially deliver your children to camp with a dresser and their clothing already organized! 

4. Make sure your kids know what's theirs

The first year my child tried to use shampoo as insect repellant for a week (WHAT?!) because he never took the time to read the bottle carefully and last year one of my kids thought he didn't have a toiletries bag because he didn't recognize the one on his shelf with all of his stuff (that was also full of his stuff) so BORROWED toiletries all week. 

Make sure your kids know what they have with them, even if you're only finalizing all the packing late the night before you leave, or all your time and effort may go to waste if they don't even realize all the amazing stuff you packed them is theirs!

5. Get your kids involved in the packing

My kids each get a copy of the packing list and they are responsible for getting me everything they're bringing in one spot, creating a shopping list for what they're missing and labelling the items. Packing kids up for camp is a big job and I get them as involved as possible. See note above for what happens when they aren't involved in every single step! ;)

I keep learning more every year but hopefully these tips will help make packing your kids up for sleepaway camp a bit easier!

Pedalling away

I first heard about Pedalheads last year and thought it sounded like a great idea for parents (like me) who are a bit nervous about taking the training wheels off. After hearing more great reviews from friends, I signed the kid up for a week of half days. She was very excited to get out on her bike with the other kids. 

When I dropped her off, with training wheels, on her first day I was immediately impressed with the two instructors. They were greeted her and made her feel welcome, as well as explaining a few things to me. 

When I picked her up that first day she told me that on the second day she was going to take her training wheels off. 

We knew that her bike was a bit small for her, and I sought advice from the instructors on whether she needed a new one and what size it would be. They were very helpful and we dropped her off on Tuesday with a bigger bike, no training wheels, ready to go. And go she did. 

With their encouragement she was able to ride by herself by the end of the second day, and then she spent the next three days working on stopping and starting. 

They also spend time playing games and learning about road safety. One day they built a bike rack and another day they built a bike wash, which they then got to ride through. There was much giggling. 

Before the end of the first week I had already signed her up for a second and soon she'll be road ready. 

I really can't express how impressed I am with the way the camp is run. My husband and I watched from a parking spot one day before and saw how excited the instructors get for every success a child has. They seemed almost as thrilled and my daughter was and there were many high fives thrown. 

We were at the Kanata camp, but there are camps across Ottawa and some still have space for this summer! 

Summer Camp at Starr Gymnastics!

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When you send your kids to camp, you want to know that they are safe, with good friends (or ready to make some new ones), and having fun all week long. You want the price to be reasonable and you want to feel that your children will come out of a five day journey with stories to tell and a desire to go back again. When they want more, you know you've made the right choice. Well, if you send them to Starr Gymnastics Summer Camp, you might be shocked when they tell you that this is the ONLY camp they ever want to do!

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Your child's week starts with gymnastics. After all, that's what Starr does best! Every child will learn something! It might be that they learn to flip for the first time, or they finally get that cartwheel that they've been practicing at recess for the last month. Every athlete is made to feel special and will learn new skills. Even kids that take regular lessons will find they are doing tons of "outside the box" moves and twists. The purpose of the camp is to explore the less conventional side of gymnastics and really get excited about the creativity of the sport.

Follow Monday with some group games, trips to the park, crafts, weekly themes ranging from Disney Day to Space Day (yes, that's where they do gymnastics with glow sticks and black lights!) and you're left with the highlight of the week - Friday's BIG SHOW TIME. If your child is falling asleep in the car on the way home every day isn't enough satisfaction, you are invited on Friday afternoon to see a live performance of all they've learned, packaged neatly with music and cheers - in true big top style! The Coaches even put on a show, reminding the parents that your children are surrounded by true role models who love what they do!

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And that's another point that sticks with families that register for Camps at Starr. The staff are the most dynamic, caring and friendly people you will ever meet. They seem to genuinely have a passion for excellence, and they help every child achieve their best by inspiring them, not ordering them around. They are always approachable and happy to accommodate your needs whenever possible. Their flexibility (no pun intended) is matched only by their safety-conscious approach to the finer details of camp. You think you are dropping your kids off to learn gymnastics, but once you see how seriously Starr manages allergies, outings, lunch-checks, and attendance, you realize that you are getting so much more.

So it might not just be your kids that want Starr, and ONLY Starr! 

For more information - please visit www.starrgymnastics.com or call their central office at 613-721-4868

Editorial note: this post was sponsored by Starr Gymnastics.

The 'Boro House (Art Table): Creativity for Kids

by Alanna I came across a gem. You know how friends like pages on FB and you sometimes check them out? Well I did just that. "The ‘Boro House – what could that be," I wondered. Low and behold it is a creative program for children and adults.

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DING! DING! JUST what I was looking for. My incredibly creative 7 year-old had been looking for a summer camp to go to. I wasn’t looking for a cookie cutter program that would actually stifle her creativity with their rules. I wanted a place where I knew she could experiment, play and create. I signed her up immediately.

I knew I was in for a “Mama, please stay” when we got there. We were greeted by the owner Kelly who instantly won over my daughter. My little girl quickly shooed me off on my way. (Insert stunned look here) When I returned to pick her up 7 hours later, there she was – as happy as a clam. She pulled me over to see all that she had created, in the same breath asking if she could come back. I needed to know more about this program!

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The ‘Boro House AKA The Art table has been in existence for 10years. Nestled at 560 Churchill Ave. in the heart of Westboro, the program is run by Kelly Hotte - professional photographer with a background in ECE. According to Kelly, “we believe that creativity is brought to life through the expression of our unique and hidden talents.”

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My daughter and I would agree. Each child is given a high quality drawing book to use as they wish. Kelly provides the materials and the encouragement. Experts are brought in from the community. Everything from cooking with a real chef to doing yoga with a yoga teacher.

Kelly explains that “our program draws on the creativity of local artists as leaders who add knowledge and excitement to our workshops and regular programming. This practice creates a wonderful sense of meaningful community with the children and staff.”

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As an Early childhood Specialist I could not agree more. This type of education will inspire children and support their learning. The positive self-esteem that grows from being provided with real life experiences and opportunities is priceless. This is more than your average everyday creative experience. This is a lifelong learning opportunity. Oh, and did I mention she does Adult classes as well?

Alanna lives in Richmond with her husband, two children and four cats. She is an Early Childhood Educator and Algonquin College Professor.

GCGC Gymnastics

For a while I only knew them as GCGC Gymnastics. I recently discovered that GCGC stands for Gloucester Community Gymnastic Challengers. Tucked away in an industrial park in Gloucester, this unassuming Gymnastics centre wow'd us with their programming. YL7_5715-small[1]

I took both my girls out to a Saturday morning Kindergym, and they were in awe of the 12,500 square foot facility. The children started off with a warm-up on the floor with fun music (who doesn't love running around in a circle like a mad person?) The kids were then separated into groups based on age and skill level. An instructor led each group over to various parts of the gym, and the girls got to practice on the balance beams, trampoline and bars.

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My youngest (18 months), was just a teensy bit too young, although she certainly had a good time. By the time the class was over, I was in a full sweat from chasing her around everywhere. My 4.5 year-old got a lot out of the class, and I was so proud to see her confidence in trying new skills.

There are a lot of gymnastics options out there for parents, and it's hard knowing which one to choose. I like GCGC because there are both recreational and competitive options. Founded in 1976, the centre is in good standing with Gymnastics Ontario and bilingual coaches are certified with the National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP). The ratios are very small, and my girls were in a group of only 4 children in total. It's great knowing that my oldest could start off in recreational programs and perhaps move into competitive programs as she builds her skills.

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Summer camps are also open now for registration, so if you're like me and have procrastinated getting your kids signed up, there's still space! Take a look at their website for more program information. Also, head over to their Facebook page and give them a "like!" Supporting local businesses like GCGC is such a pleasure!