Summer provides the ideal opportunity for families to reconnect and make memories together, but it can also be a time of boredom for children and frustration for parents.
The difference between a summer filled with memorable moments and one that is frustrating and exhausting comes down to planning. Families that take the time to discuss their expectations and make a plan for what they want their summer to look like are more likely to have the summer of their dreams than those who decide to just wing it.
Here are some ideas for fun family activities and getaways for families who want to plan their best summer ever.
It doesn’t take a lot of money to spend time together as a family; it just takes some time and a good plan.
CLOSE TO HOME
Many special events and free activities are taking place this summer in commemoration of the centennial celebrations of the City of Red Deer and the Town of Sylvan Lake.
A listing of the Red Deer activities can be found at www.reddeer2013.ca. Highlights of upcoming Red Deer events include a homecoming festival, a floating light installation known as River of Light and a downtown family barn dance. Information on other community events such as Canada Day, Westerner Days and Pioneer Days can also be found on the website.
Sylvan Lake will celebrate many of its centennial events and activities on June 14 and 15. Highlights include a Parade of the Century, Dance of the Century, a Drive in Movie and 100 minutes of music. For full details, visit the Sylvan Lake Centennial facebook page called Sylvan Lake 100th Birthday Celebration.
But summer fun isn’t limited to those two municipalities. Festivals and summer events will be taking place throughout Central Alberta in each community. For information, visit the municipal websites of each community and mark your calendars with the parades, rodeos and festivals your family is most interested in attending.
Learning is fun
Learning should not stop just because summer break begins. Studies have shown that children can benefit from some structured learning activities during their time off school and that these can actually prevent the academic regression that sometimes occurs during the long summer break.
Participating in fun, educational activities with your child can help them to develop a love of learning that may start them on the path of becoming a lifelong learner.
Museums and historic sites are great places to learn and with interactive exhibits and special events, a visit to a museum or historic site can be fun, too.
For $75, you can get an annual family pass (www.history.alberta.ca) to get into all of the historic sites, interpretive centres and museums operated by the government of Alberta.
To make the most of it and make it the most fun for your kids, check out the websites of each site and consider visiting on days when special activities are taking place. For example, you can plan a visit to Head-Smashed-in-Buffalo Jump when they have native drumming, dancing, storytelling and bannock samples. A visit to the Royal Tyrell Museum might include a summer activity such as fossil casting or a fossil prospecting hike.
Be sure to take a picnic basket and make a day of it.
Great outdoors getaways
If you have never gone on a family camping trip, the thought of such an expedition can be intimidating.
Parks Canada is in the process of developing a new type of accommodation called the oTENTik to help families get away to nature without having to worry about dirt and bugs.
The name is a takeoff of the word “authentic” and the units are a cross between a tent and a cabin. There will be 10 built in Banff National Park and 10 in Kootenay National Park and it is expected they will be ready for use this July. Each unit sleeps six people and comes with mattresses, a wood stove, pots and pans, a table and chairs, a propane barbecue and a fire pit. The 10 oTENTiks in Banff National Park will also have electrical outlets.
The units will rent for $150 a night in Banff National Park and $145 a night in Kootenay National Park and will operate on a first-com first-served basis this year.
In 2014, they will be added to the Parks Canada reservation system, along with an additional 10 oTENTiks in Jasper National Park.
For more information, visit the Parks Canada website: www.pc.gc.ca.
Private tour operators also offer a no-muss, no-fuss camping set up. A personal favourite is Sundance Lodges in Kananaskis. For $84.50 per night, you can rent a trapper’s tent or a large tepee with beds for four people. They can also supply bedding, cooking utensils, a camp stove, towels and other supplies for an additional charge. For more information, visit www.sundancelodges.com.
Send the kids to camp or go with them
For many children, summer camp is one of the highlights of their summer break. Kids can learn new skills or further develop existing skills and abilities in various areas of interest.
It’s important to plan ahead and choose the camp that will be of the most interest to your child.
Some institutions even offer family camps, where parents and kids can have fun together and meet other families in the process. One of the most well-established family summer camps is the Royal Tyrrell Museum’s Encana Badlands Family Science Camp. The camp allows parents and kids to prospect together for fossils in the Badlands, make casts of real dinosaur bones, dig in a simulated quarry, take a behind-the-scenes tour of the Royal Tyrrell Museum, and enjoy campfire activities while sleeping inside a real tepee. The cost of the three-night/four-day camp is $195 for kids (five to 15 years) and $230 for adults (16 and older). For more information, visit www.tyrrellmuseum.com.
Hot tax tip: Some summer camps are tax deductible and qualify for the Children’s Arts Tax Credit (CATC) program or the Children’s Fitness Tax Credit (CFTC). For example, the Encana Badlands Science Camp qualifies for the CATC and parents can claim the entire amount of their child’s camp registration as a deduction on their income tax. The tax credit typically applies to youth camps only and not to family camps. The summer camp must fit the requirements for the tax credit as stated by Revenue Canada.
Debbie Olsen is a Lacombe-based freelance writer. If you have a travel story you would like to share or know someone with an interesting travel story who we might interview, please email: DOGO@telusplanet.net or write to: Debbie Olsen, c/o Red Deer Advocate, 2950 Bremner Ave., Red Deer, Alta., T4R 1M9.