Go Play Outside – My Top 10 List for Summer Camp

We are lucky enough to live in one of the last wild places on the Mama, here in the Pacific Northwest. And yet, living in the middle of Vancouver I still feel too cityfied most days. I’m always on the lookout for opportunities to get my family out into Nature. And although going to a city park for the afternoon is better than watching my kids play video games, it still doesn’t cut it for me most of the time.

Since I’m looking for awesome outdoor summer camps today, I thought I’d share my search with you. There’s are some truly inspiring options where I live – and I’m sure where you live too. It just takes a little digging (pun intended). Here’s a little dirt to get you inspired.

The Vancouver Aquarium: Incredible Camp Experiences

AquaCamp | SpiritMAMA BlogAquaCamps  offer your children a fun, educational experience never to be forgotten. Our camps are filled with hands-on activities, animal observations, crafts and time to run around outside to fully engage your children in an environment that encourages active learning. Children will learn about local and exotic animals, life cycles, food webs, adaptations, ecosystems and sustainability. 

The Van Aquarium is in the middle of Stanley Park as well. Kind of like Central Park in New York, Stanley Park is our first and largest urban park, right on the sea in Downtown Vancouver. Kids will learn about the marine environment then run wild in the bush all day and get dirty.

One thing – the Aquarium houses beluga whales. Although I don’t agree with or endorse zoos, the Aquarium is also an important marine science centre that regularly conducts research on the marine environment and rescues wild animals, including whales. Our coast wouldn’t be as well cared for without them. So it’s a double-edged sword that each individual has to wrestle with for their family – as far as whether or not to support them.

Forest School

A quickly expanding trend in education from the Netherlands, forest school takes the classroom outside. In Vancouver there aren’t many options but the schools are always packed! I hope to see many more of these schools open up in the future.

Fresh Air Learning
Enjoy a summer of play-based exploration and excitement in Vancouver’s Pacific Spirit Park or North Vancouver’s Princess Park. Our summer camps are for children ages 3 to 6.

Soaring Eagle Nature School
Using city parks as our venue, we go on adventures in small groups, and learn about plants, mammals, tracking, birds and survival skills. Our trained instructors are there to support students as they deepen their connection to the natural world, as well as their sense of place. While these explorations and adventures are happening, students are also gaining invaluable skills, such as: common sense, problem-solving, community and team building, effective communication, expression of gratitude, as well as reverence for nature, and respect for self and others.

This one in particular looks awesome with a few options to choose from including, Ocean and Forest Camps, Young Sprouts Camps and Ninja Camps for older kids.

Cool Kids Doing Cool Stuff

Pedalheads Mountain Biking
Kids Mountain Biking Camp | SpiritMAMA BlogCombining exciting adventure with the great outdoors, this unique program offers kids the opportunity to discover the fun of mountain biking and trail riding in a safe environment. During the week-long camps our experienced instructors focus on teaching trail riding skills in a fun and progressive manner so that riders of all levels will be riding with confidence. The camps will vary from those first discovering mountain biking to those looking to work on advanced skills like drops, skinnies and log rides.

Fox’s Grandma was a professional mountain bike athlete who rode many races and even won once or twice. Needless to say, he’s really good on his bike. Probably in his blood 😉

Mountain biking is so popular here that there are a few camps to choose from:

Escape Adventures
Endless Biking

The Hive Climbing Gym
Hive Climbing Gym | SpiritMAMA BlogExplore climbing over five days with fun lessons, games and activities that not only help to improve climbing but also encourage personal and social development. Content is built upon experiential and play-based learning principles for healthy well-rounded youth. Each camp includes a half-day of outdoor nature activities as well as a day of roped climbing on real rock with a guide.

Rock climbing is a great sport for kids. It’s mentally and physically challenging, non-competitive and generally outdoors on a mountain. For all of these reasons in our experience it attracts really peaceful and resourceful people.

Like mountain biking, rock-climbing is part of the culture here, with some of the best outdoor climbing in the world just 45 min up the coast in Squamish.

On the Mountain

Grouse Mountain Summer JR Camp
Forest Camp | SpiritMAMA Blog
Our signature Grouse Mountain Junior camps take campers on a journey of wonder and exploration. The camp utilizes the mountain as a playground, inspiring juniors to get outdoors, connect with nature, make friends, and experience ‘only here’ activities. 

I am so excited about this camp! The location is at the top of our local Grouse Mountain, a popular winter ski destination. At the top there is the lodge, restaurants forests and a lake. Bonus: the only way to get there is a gondola ride!

Just a few highlights:

  • Orienteering
  • Building a shelter
  • Camouflage skills
  • Explorer hike
  • Mountain craft
  • Snow machine visit
  • Lumberjack Show
  • Songs, dances and stories with First Nations Elder
  • Make a kite or hot air balloon
  • Birds in motion demonstration
  • Take home photo with our resident owl

Definitely in the top 5.

Mt Seymour Eco-Adventure Camp
At Mt Seymour, we believe that nature is an essential ingredient in the healthy and holistic development of all children. We re-introduce kids to a simpler, more connected way of life where they are encouraged to engage their senses to the fullest, delight in the beauty and teachings of the old growth forest. We are proud to offer a technology-free and commercial-free nature immersion camp experience, no Ipads, video games, trading cards or netflix! Kids develop practical skills and confidence through guided challenges and discoveries while developing a deep reverence for the natural world.

Our highly trained and mature instructors draw out kids’ passions through nature-based activities like:

  • Making fire by friction
  • Learning edible & medicinal plants
  • Exploring natural mysteries
  • Tracking wild animals
  • Building survival shelters
  • Discovering the language of the forest
  • Learning earth based crafts, stories, songs and more

No screens? Soooo speaking my language.

At the Farm

FarmWonders Summer Day Camps
Explore, run, draw and create in our beautiful Children’s Learning Garden; observe beehives and in-season crops on “field trips” around the farm. The theme of each of our one-week camps will be learned through a variety of exciting recreational activities, crafts and hands-on experiences.All camps will include forest adventures, planting, eco-crafts, popsicle making, and, of course, a chance to harvest, cook and eat fresh garden produce!

Time on the farm with animals is also an important part of a good outdoor education/recreation. This excellent program has different themes each week, from Forest to Fields to Critters.

Young Farmers – Southlands
Campers will discover the wonder of life on the farm while learning basic skills such as caring for hens, goats, horses, honey bees, ducks, and other mysterious farm fauna, and germinating seeds and growing, and harvesting seasonal produce. Campers will also learn traditional farm skills such as wild-crafting, construction, carving, wood chopping, fire building, and cooking and baking. 

I love the wildcrafting and husbandry in this program. And learning to build a fire is super cool.

Are your little ones going outside this summer? Love to hear your plans in the comments section.

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