This year, more than 640,000 B.C. kids are looking forward to their summer break.
It’s an exciting time for kids, but for many working parents and caregivers, this means added pressure to find fun and safe activities for their kids to fill the longer days of summer.
Luckily for families throughout the province, local community centres and summer camps are offering opportunities for B.C. kids to make new friends while exploring nature, learning new skills and making the kind of memories that last a lifetime. As Canada’s natural playground, British Columbia offers stunning mountains, lakes, rivers, beaches and forests to explore.
With summer also comes the need to find quality child-care spaces for many families. Government has them covered with a new online Child Care Map that takes the guesswork out of the process of looking for licensed child-care spaces. BC Early Years Centres are also open throughout the province to help support families with children aged 0-6 years to access early learning, health and family services under one roof. Here are some tips to help families welcome the sunshine:
Looking for a summer program or camp experience for your child?
- Keep the kids physically active while making new friends through your local community centre or YMCA’s day camps and special events. Stop in for a schedule or check online.
- Pack a tent or load up the RV to explore one of B.C.’s natural parks: www.hellobc.com/british-columbia/things-to-do/outdoor-activities/camping.aspx?gclid=CPb9ofjupc0CFUiGfgodb0gDDw
- Summer camps bring kids together to enjoy everything from sports to arts and crafts. Find one that best suits your child’s interests and give them the experience of a lifetime: www.camps.ca/british-columbia-camps.php
- Take a road trip and explore the many attractions B.C. has to offer, from amusement parks to water slides: www.familydaysout.com/kids-things-to-do-canada/british-columbia
- Get your kids involved in sports through viaSport multisport camps throughout B.C.: www.viasport.ca/regional-alliance
- Get artsy with camps hosted by local museums and art galleries, including:
- For Lower Mainland families, the possibilities are endless. For family events in and around Vancouver, check out: www.kidsvancouver.com/#
- When you’re home with the kids, don’t forget to encourage outdoor play, which helps connect kids to the natural world, develop important skills and contribute to their physical well-being. Plant a garden together or organize a fun scavenger hunt!
Summer camps and sports for kids with special needs:
- Several B.C. organizations run specific programs for kids with special needs. Visit this site for one near you: www.viasport.ca/sport
- Has your child been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder? There are plenty of summer-camp opportunities for your child, and eligible families can use their autism funding to cover costs. Check out page 14 of the Parent Handbook to see if your child is eligible: www.mcf.gov.bc.ca/autism/pdf/autism_handbook_web.pdf
Looking for quality child care and other early years and family services?
- There are 47 BC Early Years Centres located in communities throughout the province that offer one-stop 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 the child-care options available to B.C. families and provides information to help parents decide what child-care arrangements best suits their needs: www.health.gov.bc.ca/library/publications/year/2011/Parents%27_guide_to_selecting_and_monitoring_child_care_in_BC.pdf
- Child Care Resource and Referral programs can direct you to local child-care providers, as well as information and applications for government child-care subsidies. Call 1 888 338-6622 or visit: www.ccrr.bc.ca for more information.
- Need help finding child care? B.C. families can now access a new, improved online map that takes the guesswork out of searching: http://maps.gov.bc.ca/ess/hm/ccf/
Did you know the child-care subsidy is available through the summer?
- B.C.’s Child Care Subsidy Program provides financial assistance to help eligible low-income families to help cover the cost of child care, including care during the summer months when subsidies increase to full-day rates for eligible school-aged children.
- The Child Care Subsidy Program supports about 20,000 children each month in B.C.
- For information on eligibility and how to apply, contact the Child Care Subsidy Service Centre toll-free at 1 888 338-6622, or visit: www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/family-social-supports/caring-for-young-children/child-care/financial-assistance-for-child-care
Is your family getting the most out of your tax returns?
- Do you qualify for the new B.C. Early Childhood Tax Benefit? It’s a tax-free monthly payment of up to $55/month or $660 per year for each child under the age of six.
- Benefits are based on the number of children in your family and your family’s net income.
- To receive the new benefit, parents need to file their annual income tax returns and apply for the Canada Child Tax Benefit.
- Parents might also be eligible to claim fees paid for fitness and arts program registrations and fitness equipment expenses this summer. To see if you’re eligible, visit:
- For more information on available tax benefits and credits for families with young children, visit: www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/home/featured-services/services/grants-and-tax-credits.
Are you preparing for your child’s transition to kindergarten?
- For most schools, the kindergarten registration process begins in January or February for the following September. There are plenty of other ways you can use the summer months to help ensure your child is ready to start school.
- For example, 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/
- You can also use community resources like libraries, parks and recreation centres to help kick-start your child’s learning.
Is your child ready to stay at home alone?
- There is no 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 that 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 years unsupervised for a period longer than a few hours.
- Who will they be with, what will they be doing and is there a neighbour or other responsible adult nearby?
- Do they have access to a phone and can you be easily reached in case of an emergency?
- Know your child. Some children are more mature than others. Make sure your child is ready for the added responsibility.
Summer in British Columbia is a great time to explore our beautiful province and make family memories to last a lifetime. No matter what your family has planned for the season, these are just some of the many options parents have to ensure this summer gets off to a strong start.