17 unique summer camps in Toronto

Make 2018 a standout summer by signing your kiddos up for the camps of their dreams! From special effects 101 to pirate training, we’ve rounded up the most awesome summer camps in Toronto.

A boy jumps while riding a broomstick

Photo: NOT Sports Camp

1. Not sports camp
Active kids who want to move around and be outside in the summer but are tired of the traditional soccer-baseball-football sports camps may be more interested in the NOT Sports Camp offered by U of T. Campers play nontraditional games like Capture the Flag, KIN-BALL, inner tube water polo, dodgeball and even Harry Potter’s favourite sport, Quidditch—so grab your brooms and jump on. Organizers say that the camp is for both athletic and not-so-sporty kids. The only requirement is that you like to play games and have fun. NOT Sports Camp runs sessions for kids ages 10 to 12 and 12 to 16.

`Join the NOT Sports Camp team at utoronto.ca

2. Princess or superhero camp
Performing Dance Arts has themed its summer camps around princesses and superheroes. Princesses partake in two magical dance classes every day and spend the rest of their glamorous time dressing up, learning proper princess etiquette at tea parties, playing games and making royal arts and crafts. Superheroes tackle hero stunts and dance moves, make their own masks and capes, work their way through obstacle courses and debate the merits of their favourite comic book heroes and villains. Both camps are designed for three- to seven-year-olds and run in Vaughan and Etobicoke.

Sign up to save the world at performingdancearts.ca

Photo: The Second City

3. Comedy camp
Is this thing on? Budding performers looking for an alternative to theatre camp may just find their niche on stage at The Second City. Kids from seven to 17 won’t just hone their improv skills but also work on their communications skills, creative thinking and spontaneity. They will develop confidence in their own imagination while working as part of a group to create sketches. All camps are taught by experienced instructors and actors from The Second City. At the end of the week, family and friends are invited to laugh it up at a final show.

Mic check at secondcity.com

A group of kids practice applying special effects make-up on each other

Photo: SPFX Kids

4. Special effects makeup camp
As if kids don’t get enough cuts and scrapes throughout the summer, a new camp being offered for the first time at Artscape Youngplace will make parents do a double take. Campers ages nine to 13 will be immersed in the art and trade of special effects makeup. Film and TV industry experts and makeup artists will teach campers how to make and apply fake blood, scrapes, scratches, broken noses, scars, squeezable pimples and other gross effects. From zombies to werewolves, campers will create effects straight out of the movies and have their work captured in a professional photo shoot on the final day of camp.

Get all the gory details at spfxkids.com

Three kids press pasta

Photo: Rooks to Cooks

5. MasterChef Junior camp
Aspiring chefs will really sink their teeth into this one as they work through essential kitchen skills, recipe development and, of course, cooking challenges. The Mystery Box Challenge (just like on TV!) is a standout. “Campers will have the afternoon to open their baskets and work in groups to prepare an appetizer, main course and dessert, all to be judged by their chefs,” says camp founder Shai Mandel. “The emphasis of our MasterChef Jr. program is to learn to cook from your heart rather than recipes.” This camp is ideal for kids who already have basic cooking skills. And the best news for parents is that campers prepare daily snacks and meals as they go, so no packed lunches are required.

Get cooking at rookstocooks.ca

A group of kids play a table-top role-playing gane

Photo: Harbourfront Centre Camps

6. Tabletop games camp
Harbourfront Centre has a long list of specialized camps—everything from fashion and hip-hop to soccer and camping—but its Tabletop Games Camp stands out from the list. Instead of video games, campers embrace face-to-face participatory gaming. They will learn the basics of design for different types of games (tabletop, board, card, miniature and role-playing) and begin to develop their own game concepts as well. If you have a Dungeons & Dragons fan in your house, Harbourfront Centre also offers a camp dedicated specifically to this role-playing game.

Game on at harbourfrontcentre.com

Three young men with their arms on each other's heads

Photo: City Scouts

7. Urban adventure camp
Nineteen-year-old Riley Millican launched City Scouts last year, leading 15 campers (ages 10 to 13) around Toronto on his own for four weeks. This year, he will have three more counsellors and accommodate 200 campers over the whole summer. This weekly program aims to build confidence, awareness and independence by having campers navigate Toronto on transit and on foot. Last year, campers enjoyed taking part in “scavenger hunts in the St. Lawrence Market, challenging each other to try unique foods from a Chinese market, building a fort on the beach, making box armour and much more,” says Millican. The camp provides cameras and other tools for capturing adventures within the city as campers get themselves from place to place and discover Toronto’s best from east to west.

Adventure awaits at cityscouts.ca

A group of windsurfers on the water

Photo: Toronto Windsurfing Club

8. Windsurfing camp
Take advantage of the fleeting hot weather and get your kids on the water while you can. The Toronto Windsurfing Club (TWC) offers a summer camp for kids who want to learn to windsurf. There are three skill levels to choose from (beginner to advanced), offered for kids ages 10 to 17, and all courses follow CANSail Windsurf, the national training standard for windsurfing from Sail Canada. Campers will learn basic sailing concepts, seamanship and water safety. They will complement their training with other games and activities, both in the water and out, and enjoy a weekly windsurfing cruise and picnic at Ward’s Island Beach. Note: TWC recommends that campers commit two consecutive weeks to complete the beginner- and intermediate-level courses and four weeks for the advanced course.

Get on board at torontowindsurfingclub.com

A girl helps her friend balance in a hanging hoop

Photo: Toronto School of Circus Arts

9. Circus camp
Ever feel like you’re living in a circus? Send your climbing monkeys to circus camp at the Toronto School of Circus Arts (TSCA), where they can climb, flip, swing, hang upside down and perform to their hearts’ content. There are three specialties to choose from: Aerial and Ground Arts (a great introduction for all skill and fitness levels), Aerial Only (for more experienced campers who are looking for bigger challenges) and Flying Trapeze (the superstar of any circus). The TSCA is one of only three schools in Canada that offers instruction in flying trapeze, which takes place 28 feet off the ground—perfect for thrill-seeking campers.

Flip for circus camp at torontocircus.com

A boy stands at a wooden lectern

Photo: Debate Camp

10. Debate camp
If you have a kiddo who makes a point of trying to argue his way out of every small chore and finds pleasure in verbally challenging you, turn those moments into a lifelong skill at debate camp. He will learn proper debating and public speaking techniques, develop strong persuasion skills and participate in two or three rounds of debate each day, so hopefully he won’t have the energy to challenge you when you ask him to put his laundry away when he gets home. This is an empowering camp that teaches kids of all skill levels how to speak to a variety of audiences.

Speak up at debatecamp.com

A young boy holds up Pokémon cards he made

Photo: Pokémon Designer Camp

11. Pokémon design camp
Put your kid in the designer’s seat at this creative camp. Once your little camper learns the mechanics and strategies behind Pokémon and their battles, he’ll learn how to draw the characters and create his own from start to finish. There will be lots of time for other Pokémon-inspired activities, which vary depending on age. The camp is open to kids ages six to nine, and games and tools are tailored to different technical abilities.

Get in the game at brickworksacademy.com

12. Pirate camp
Six- to 10-year-old swashbucklers will thrive at Lions Pirate Training Camp, a new offering from York University this summer. Campers will partake in all kinds of pirate-themed activities, from swimming (and going overboard) and walking the plank on a slackline to working on orienteering skills following a treasure map and getting up close to birds of prey. The pièce de résistance? Martial arts and fencing lessons. “I’ve never seen a more engaged and focused group of campers than when we handed them swords,” says Jaclyn Ziemniak, manager of recreation programs at York University, of the campers who first tried fencing in last year’s Warrior Camp, which will also be offered for 2018.

X marks the spot at yorkulions.ca

13. Minecraft camp
The world of Minecraft is elaborate and extensive. This camp is designed to build on kids’ Minecraft knowledge and show them how to do even more with the game than they realized. Your kid won’t just game; he’ll also learn about computers, servers and programming concepts. Best of all, campers will spend the week with like-minded Minecraft lovers, playing, building and working together in the game. Who says video games are solo activities? This camp focuses just as much on communication and conflict resolution as it does on Minecraft. By the end of the week, your child will be able to design, configure and build a better world through Minecraft.

Immerse yourself at makerkids.com

Three images of kids learning about and testing technology

Photo: V4Lab

14. Virtual reality camp
Who should design the City of the Future? The citizens of the future, of course! Students ages 12 to 16 are invited to learn about and use augmented and virtual reality in this two-week camp. They will create a physical model and autonomous robot vehicles and show off their concepts for the City of the Future at the end of camp. This program is offered by Ryerson University’s Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Science and Digital Media Experience Lab and is ideal for teens interested in design, technology, art, science and engineering.

The future is now at ryerson.ca

15. Aviator camp
The Art Gallery of Ontario offers a variety of art camps with specific themes to pique all interests. Aviators, for kids ages eight to 10, concentrates on all things winged: Campers will make paper airplanes, examine flying inventions of the past and design blueprints for their own flying creations. They will also explore the original (and most beautiful) flyers: birds. Campers will sketch and paint their feathers, wings and flight paths. Choose between one- and two-week camp options, which include painting, drawing, printmaking and sculpture.

Swoop on over to sign up at ago.ca

16. Spider camp
The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) has been running summer camps for more than 75 years, but that doesn’t mean that they’re tired or boring! For summer 2018, be prepared to get up close and personal with eight-legged creatures as part of the ROM’s latest and greatest exhibit, Spiders: Fear & Fascination. Campers will see spiders—and other spaces and exhibits around the museum—in a whole new light as they explore art, culture and nature through a variety of courses. This camp is like a backstage pass to the ROM for kids ages five to 16.

Your week at the museum starts at rom.com

17. Opera camp
Over the course of this camp with the Canadian Opera Company, kids will learn to create operas and perform them on a real stage. There are four companies divided by age group, starting at grade one all the way up to grade 12, and campers will work with a professional composer, designer, accompanist, vocal specialist and drama specialist. Kids will be truly immersed in the world of opera and work on building confidence through a series of playful exercises.

Sing it at coc.ca

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