As the days begin to grow longer, summer stretches out before us with the promise of bike rides, ice cream and, of course, camp. 

Some of my fondest memories of my childhood are of summer camp. I remember the joy of mastering a new skill, making new friends every year, and thinking my counsellors were the epitome of “cool.” In fact, the time I spent at summer camp was a stepping stone to a career in education and a lifelong love of physical activity. Which is why, over the years, it became clear to me that when you have a positive experience with recreation as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that has an enduring impact on your physical, mental and emotional well-being.

When my own children turned camper age, I set out to find programs with great staff that would make them feel the same way I did. But how could I possibly ensure the quality of a program before enrolling my kids? The prospect seemed daunting, but learning about HIGH FIVE made it easier. HIGH FIVE is a quality standard used by organizations across Canada to deliver programs that are child-focused, safe and welcoming. Their five principles of healthy child development ensure that staff members are trained to deliver quality programs where kids participate fully, make friends, learn skills and have fun.

After choosing a program at a great HIGH FIVE-registered organization, the first day of camp finally arrived. As we drove to the program that morning, all three of us were excited but nervous. For my kids, it came from a place of not knowing what to expect. For me, it brought back memories of being a new camper. Except it wasn’t my experience to live. This time, my children had a chance to explore, connect and be engaged all on their own. I watched them walk away, hand in hand with their camp counsellor, with mixed emotions, hoping their camp experience would be as special as mine was to me.

Needless to say, pick-up time came faster than I anticipated and I quickly realized that my fear of letting go was all for naught. When my children came running towards me, new friends in tow, smiles from ear to ear, I knew without asking just how great their day had been.

Since that camp experience, I’ve always tried to ensure that I enrol my children in programs where staff is HIGH FIVE-trained and I haven’t been disappointed yet. HIGH FIVE-certified staff know their impact as a caring adult and ensure that the needs of children are prioritized and that play is an integral part of every program plan. In fact, looking back, it seems that all of my most positive experiences with recreation as a child involved what I now know are HIGH FIVE Principles!

Childhood is actually such a short period. As parents, we have these few precious years to nurture, cultivate and inspire growth in all areas of our children’s lives. Investing in your child’s recreation experiences is the best way to help them stay active and connected to their communities for life.

Jen Goeres is an educator and HIGH FIVE Master Trainer. Over the last 12 years, she has instructed over 900 recreation professionals and has played a key role in program development and community engagement at the City of Calgary. Jen is passionate about creating positive experiences for children in recreation programs. 

Photos: Jen Goeres and HIGH FIVE

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