GROWING SEASON: Traditional Summer Camps for Kids

Can you remember falling asleep to the sound of loons after a long, languid day playing on the beach? Or perhaps your first lesson in how to paddle a canoe, or how to skip stones? As our lives become more digitized, mechanized and urbanized, most of us look back with fondness at our childhood experiences of being immersed in nature. For many, those golden moments took place at a summer camp.

Summer camps remain a popular way to allow kids to connect with nature and each other in a fun, safe, and supervised environment. The array of choices can be overwhelming, but with research and advance planning you should be able to find an experience your child will love.
The benefits of camp are many: your child can learn to appreciate nature, become more independent, meet new friends, and develop new skills and interests.

Here is a small sample of traditional, residential summer camps located within a few hours drive:


Only minutes from Newmarket, this camp has been in operation since 1957 and is owned and operated by Upper Canada Creative Childcare Centres. Located on over sixty acres of forest, fields, rolling hills and a “modest” waterfront Kettleby Valley offers overnight camps for children who have completed Grade Three all the way up to age 14. Activities include canoeing, wall climbing, swimming, paintball, pottery, frisbee, golf and more.


Located on Lake Couchiching near Orillia, this camp has been in
operation for over 70 years. As an independent, not-for-profit charitable organization, it offers traditional camping programs as well as leadership development. The site hosts an Outdoor Education Centre, and over twenty-four activities. Camp Couchiching is also the founder of the Pathways Program, designed to integrate children with special needs, and it offers some financial subsidy programs. Over 100,000 people have participated in the history of this camp, which prides itself on being “welcoming, happy, and engaging for all.”


Providing traditional overnight camps for children and teens since 1921, Camp Kawartha (near Peterborough) offers a focus on environmental awareness, education and stewardship. Located on a 186-acre waterfront property featuring forests, fields and wetlands they offer summer camp programs for boys and girls aged 5 to 17. Campers learn about sustainable living practices and protection of the environment along with more traditional activities like swimming, sailing, canoeing, and archery.


Located near Bracebridge, Camp Muskoka welcomes boys and girls aged 6 to 16. Established in 2001 the camp is dedicated to helping children believe in themselves and lists its values as: fun, respect, honesty, accountability, and integrity. They use a “Choose Your Own Adventure” approach with more than 50 activities on offer, from yoga to horseback riding. Activities are offered at a variety of skill levels, and each week ends with a theme day and a dance party.

Camp Wanakita is billed as “…the place to have the time of your life.” Located on 1000 acres on the shores of Koshlong Lake in the Haliburton Highlands this traditional camp has been in operation since 1953. Offering a wide variety of activities and programs the camp accepts kids from ages 7 to 16. Both technical and social skills are fostered, with an emphasis on providing a safe environment for campers to take risks and grow.
Summer camps represent a growth opportunity for kids and a “rest and re-unite” opportunity for parents. In either case, camps allow both parents and kids a chance to breathe, stretch their wings, and test out whether absence truly does make the heart grow fonder.

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by Charlotte Ottaway

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