Summer is here and there are nearly 630,000 B.C. kids looking for ways to spend their vacation days - that’s enough kids to fill BC Place more than 10 times over. As parents, it can be a challenge to find safe activities for your children, while also allowing them to enjoy their holiday from school.
If you still don’t have plans for your kids this summer, or your plans have fallen through, here’s some information that might help:
Looking for a summer program for your child?
- Keep your children physically active by checking out your local community centre for a wide selection of day camps and special events.
- Check out www.camps.ca/british-columbia-camps.php to find a summer camp that will further the growth of your child and meet his or her needs.
- The HealthyFamiliesBC blog (www.healthyfamiliesbc.ca) and the ParticipACTION blog (http://blog.participaction.com/en/) have additional information on activities for families and kids of various ages, as well as healthy lifestyle tips.
- Even when you’re home with the kids, encourage outdoor play. It helps children connect with the natural world, develop motor skills and physical endurance. Sunlight is the most important source of Vitamin D, which helps support the immune system and plays a vital role in developing strong bones.
Looking for quality child care and other early years and family services?
- There are also 26 provincially-branded BC Early Years Centres located in communities throughout the province that offer one-stop, convenient access to information, services and referrals for families with young children: www.mcf.gov.bc.ca/early_years/centres.htm
- The Parents’ Guide to Selecting and Monitoring Child Care in B.C. describes child care choices available to B.C. families, and provides information to help parents decide on the child care arrangement that best suits their child and family needs: www.health.gov.bc.ca/library/publications/year/2011/Parents%27_guide_to_selecting_and_monitoring_child_care_in_BC.pdf
- Care Resource and Referral (CCRR) programs are an excellent source of information on child care services in your community and can provide you with referrals to local care providers and information and applications for government subsidies for child care. For more information, call 1-888-338-6622 or visit: www.ccrr.bc.ca
- The Child Care Map provides a comprehensive list of licensed child care centres throughout the province: www.mcf.gov.bc.ca/childcare/programs_map.htm
- Before making a decision, parents should take time to conduct additional research, gather information and visit the facility where they wish to enrol their child or children.
- For more information on B.C.’s range of programs and services designed to ensure children get the best possible start in life, visit: www.mcf.gov.bc.ca/early_childhood/
Did you know Child Care subsidy is available through the summer?
- B.C.’s Child Care Subsidy Program provides funding to eligible low-income families to help cover the cost of care, including during the summer months. Subsidies increase to full-day rates for eligible school-age children on days when school is not in session.
- The Child Care Subsidy program supports about 24,500 children each month in B.C. with subsidies ranging up to $750 per month.
- For more information on eligibility and how to apply for the subsidy, contact the Child Care Subsidy Service Centre toll-free at 1 888 338-6622 or visit: www.mcf.gov.bc.ca/childcare/subsidy/
Are you getting the most out of your tax returns?
- Introduced April 1, 2015, the BC Early Childhood Tax Benefit is a tax-free monthly payment of up to a maximum of $55/month - or $660 per year - for each child under the age of six.
- Benefits are based on the number of children in the family and the family’s net income.
- To receive the new benefit in 2015, parents need to file their annual income tax returns, starting with the 2013 tax year, and apply for the Canada Child Tax Benefit.
- For more information on available tax benefits and credits for families with young children, visit: www.mcf.gov.bc.ca/child_protection/pdf/tax_benefits.pdf
Is your child ready for Kindergarten?
Discover Your School provides an easy to use tool to help parents access a wide variety of information about their school. Explore B.C. school profiles - learn what factors contribute to their success, discover what makes them unique and find ones that will best match your child’s interests and goals: http://www.discoveryourschool.gov.bc.ca/
For most schools, the Kindergarten registration process begins in January or February for the following September. But there are plenty of other ways you can use the summer months to help ensure your child is ready to start school:
- StrongStart BC is a no-cost, early-learning drop-in program that helps prepare children for success in Kindergarten. Contact your local school district to see if there is a program that offers summer hours near you: www.bced.gov.bc.ca/schools/
- Use community resources such as public libraries, parks and recreation centres to enhance children’s learning and healthy activity.
- Limit the time your children spend looking at TV, video games, computers and personal electronic devices at home. Encourage regular breaks (every 30 minutes) and try to keep screen time under two hours per day.
- Establish the habit of eating a nutritious breakfast every day.
- Set a good example by making physical activity an important part of your life. Involve the whole family in fitness activities. Go for bike rides, explore local hiking trails, play outdoor games, or head to your local recreation centre for family swims or skates.
Is your child ready to stay at home alone?
- There is no specific legislation or policy, federally or provincially, that dictates when a child can be left unsupervised.
- Because every child is different, parents must use their best judgment when deciding whether or not their child is ready to stay home alone.
- Here are some general factors parents should consider before leaving any child unsupervised:
- How long will you be away? As a guideline, it’s best not to leave children under the age of 13 unsupervised for a period of longer than a few hours.
- Who will they be with and what will they be doing? Will they be alone or with friends? Is there a neighbour or other responsible adult nearby? Do they have access to a phone?
- Stay in touch with your child and ensure he or she knows who to contact in an emergency.
- Know your child. Some children are more mature than others. Make sure your child is ready for the added responsibility and is prepared to account for his or her own safety.
Government Communications and Public Engagement
Ministry of Children and Family Development