Last Day Magic

I know it’s pretty easy to do on the last day of camp, but our oldest campers had me in tears for most of the afternoon.

When we set up for carnival, it’s a free-range event; the kids play a variety of games which the staff are running in exchange for tickets to spend at the prize booth. Since the campers are free to roam around within the carnival space, we pair up bigs and littles so that the littles have someone to help them with the games and keep track of their tickets.

But that’s not quite what happened.

Instead, we saw Heartwood campers who were not just helpers, but completely devoted to their Sprouts:

Bigs and littles having a snack together.

I watched pair after pair of campers sitting down in the snack area to share a bag of popcorn or other treat and having a chat.

I saw a big helper who didn’t spend any of his tickets on himself, except for a few to buy a freezie. The rest of his tickets all went to buy his Sprout anything his little heart desired – including numerous snacks, “rockstar glasses”, two glow in the dark wands, and a wind-up robot.

All smiles! These Heartwood girls were so excited to buy a special prize for their Sprout.

Another Sprout had a meltdown when he realized the prize he was after had already been sold. The Heartwood camper who bought it immediately offered to resell it, and two others pooled their tickets to pay him back for it. (The kids had the whole issue solved before the staff even knew what happened!)

Two campers knew their Sprout was desperate to win the only PlayDoh set, so they conspired to pool their tickets together to buy it for her.

The best part of watching the Heartwoods take care of their Sprouts was not just that they were so generous with their tickets; it was the obvious joy they took in making our youngest campers happy. No one ever even suggested that they should spend their tickets on someone else; yet it came naturally and beautifully to them , and their faces were glowing as they did so.

Perhaps the most magical part of this whole story is that it wasn’t a last-day anomaly – our campers really are this nice to each other – but the format of carnival just highlighted it in an extra-beautiful way.

Parents of Heartwoods: You should be seriously proud of these amazingly caring, generous, selfless kids.
Parents of Sprouts & Shoots: Please know how loved your kids are by the older campers. As your monkeys get older, they’ll have some fantastic shoes to fill.

We are raising some seriously special kids here, people. These kiddos are giving me hope for the world.


I love our LIT program… but I’m getting rid of it.

LITs aren’t LITs anymore


Maple Key first opened in 2009. Right from the beginning, we were committed to helping kids in Lanark County develop leadership beyond what they were able to experience with us as campers. We wanted to continue to change the world through these amazing kids. And we wanted to provide a way for our long-time campers who love MKDC to continue to be a meaningful part of their camp community.

That’s how our Leaders-In-Training program was born. And we really meant “leaders” and we really meant “training”. We wanted the program to stand for something.

We really meant “leaders”
– We created an application process, so that only teens who were truly committed to the process would be accepted.
– We created a set of standards to which all LITs would be held accountable.
– We reserved the right to dismiss an LIT from the program if they were not behaving in a way that demonstrated positive leadership (but we always exhaust all efforts to help them first).

We really meant “training”
– We created a schedule that allowed LITs to receive an hour of formal training every day (we didn’t just ask them to “help out” and then call it training).
– We gave counsellors an evaluation form to use as a meaningful way of tracking the LITs progress during their weekly “placements” so that ongoing feedback would be part of the norm.
– We implemented a long-term attendance requirement, because we recognized that leaders are not built in a week.

The integrity of the LIT program has always been extremely important to me. I didn’t want Maple Key LIT “graduates” representing us out there in the community if they didn’t exemplify our leadership standards. I didn’t want to start handing out recommendations and certificates like candy – I’ve never been part of that “everyone gets a trophy” mindset. We’ve never guaranteed a “certificate of completion”. We wanted our LITs to be very proud of their recommendation letter, because they knew that it was something that they had truly earned, and not something they were merely entitled to.

I named the program “Leaders-In-Training” after the other camp programs that I witnessed in my early camp career. I was inspired by the high quality and structure of those programs. At the time, I am relatively certain we were the only day camp offering a “Leader-In-Training” program in all Lanark County.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so they say. Over the past few years, there has been an upsurge in “leaders in training” programs in the area. That’s great – I am very much in favour of having as many leadership opportunities as possible for our soon-to-be-adults. But these programs are all very different – despite the fact that they share a single name. Many of these programs would be more accurately described as a volunteer program, or are designed for a much shorter time commitment. I feel like it’s watering down what leadership training is really supposed to be.

So, in keeping with the uniqueness of our program, our future leaders deserve a unique program NAME to match. As of now, the MKDC “leaders-in-training” program ceases to be, and will be unveiled under a new name. I don’t want there to be any confusion about exactly what we do – and the new name for our program will make things crystal clear.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog post, when I unveil the new program name…


10 for 10: MKDC Celebrates Ten Successful Years Serving Families With Free Giveaway to Community Organizations

Finding safe and positive ways for children to expand their real-life social network can be a challenge. For over ten years Lanark County, Ontario’s Maple Key Day Camp has been doing this to rave reviews.

MKDC is giving away 10 weeks of camp to celebrate 10 years in business. Do you know an event or fundraiser we could sponsor with a week of camp?

Lanark County’s Maple Key Day Camp specializes in building kids’ confidence through highly creative nature-based programming. In their own facility since 2016 and recently passing the decade in business milestone, the camp is more well-loved by the community than ever and are returning that support with a special give away of ten weeks of camp to local community organizations that support children.

“It’s been a long, stressful road to get here,” says Kristen Widenmaier, the owner and director of Maple Key Day Camp. “To finally be operating in our own beautiful facility after 10 years is a dream come true, and we want to give back to the community that has so lovingly supported us.”

Maple Key has pledged to donate a free week of camp to a kid-centered community initiative for each year of they’ve now been in business. “We’ve already committed a couple of weeks,” says Widenmaier. “Jumpstart is an important source of funding for many of our campers, so when we heard that Peter Larmand had chosen them as the recipient of the proceeds of his kids’ fishing tournament, it was a no-brainer for us to donate a week of camp to support it.”

There are still some free weeks available before they meet their target, so charities and fundraisers are encouraged to contact the camp for more details.

Maple Key’s program serves campers aged 4 to 12 and also provides an intense leadership training program for kids 13 to 15. They strive to provide an experience as close to an overnight camp as possible without the added stress of living away from home.

Maple Key Day Camp is also very proud to provide quality employment for young people in the surrounding area who are interested in pursuing a career in a related field such as education or social work.

Both parents and children continue to praise the camp for its ongoing positive nature.

A parent of a 2017 attendee, recently said in a five-star review, “Maple Key is more than just a place to send your kids. It is outdoors. It is community. It is creativity. It is challenging. It is original. It is confidence-building. It is FUN! Maple Key is a family who cares about every single child that comes through their doors.”

For more information about the “10 for 10” free program for community groups or to enroll a child for the summer visit or call Kristen at (613) 464-2468.



Family Day Breakfast Recipe

Baked Oatmeal

Let me start by saying you are going to want to double this recipe. Or possibly triple it. The original version that I adapted said that this serves 6 people. I don’t know what size these people are, but all I know is that one batch of this stuff only just barely feeds the four of us because my kids (despite the fact that they are still tiny) EAT IT ALL. They scarf down the first helping and then beg for seconds. And thirds. Basically they eat until there’s nothing left and my husband has to have cold cereal.
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup walnut or almond pieces (or just leave them out)
  • 1 1/2 cup frozen fruit {any mix of berries or peaches work well}
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Notes / Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F and generously spray the inside of a 10-1/2 by 7 inch baking dish with cooking spray and place on a baking sheet.

In a large bowl, mix together the oats, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, nuts, fruit, and chocolate. (You can save some of the fruit to put on the top if you like).

In another large bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, butter and vanilla extract. (If you’re like me and only make things that use one bowl, dump the oat mixture into the dish and then mix your wet ingredients in the same bowl.)

Add the oat mixture to prepared baking dish. Pour the milk mixture over everything. Gently shake the baking dish to help the milk mixture go throughout the oats.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until the top is nicely golden brown and the milk mixture has set. For an extra tasty top, sprinkle a tablespoon or so of extra brown sugar or drizzle with maple syrup. Serve alone or with a dollop of greek yogurt.


Share the Love



If you are a happy camp family, one of the best ways that you can support Maple Key is by leaving an honest review online for others to see.

Did your camper love their time at MKDC? Do they hero-worship the staff? Are they counting down the days til their return? Have they picked up a new hobby or developed increased confidence as a result of being at camp?

Your honest reviews help other families find us, and help us share the magic of camp with new campers.

Review us on Google

Review us on Facebook

Review Us on Yelp


One week is fun, but two weeks lasts forever

How did you plan your child’s summer calendar last year?

What most parents do when they plan summer camp is book a different program for each week of the summer. Booking lots of different programs is the best way to keep your kid busy and happy for the whole summer, right?

Maybe… maybe not.

The truth is, bouncing your child from place to place may provide much in the way of novelty, but doesn’t allow the most important, lasting benefits of summer camp to take root. Social connection takes time. Self-confidence is not built in a week. For most kids, it takes a good portion of the first week just to become accustomed to the people, surroundings, and the routine of a new place. For children who have more difficulty adapting to new situations, changing camp every week can be downright stressful.

According to studies completed by the Canadian Camping Association, a camper’s self-confidence and emotional intelligence increase in relation to the length of time they spend at a single camp – whether that is from session to session, or from summer to summer.

It’s not until your child has gotten settled, and has made connections with their cabinmates and counsellors, that they feel comfortable enough to try new things and take healthy risks. Would you like them to continue in this comfortable environment long enough to increase their confidence? Of course you would. The alternative is to immediately bounce off to the next thing, and start over somewhere else.

Of course I understand that not everyone is able to send their kids to camp for the entire summer. But if you are being strategic about when and where your kids will attend, you can maximize the benefits of their experience.

In a world full of social media and instant gratification, summer camp is a place where deep, lasting connections are still possible. The best way to foster those connections is to give them ample time to grow.


Major: Adventures in Buccaneering

Avast, ye land lubbers! It’s time to get yer sealegs.

In this crazy final major of summer 2018, ye will learn skills such as navigation, “gunnery”, swordplay, tactics, & teamwork – and discover the difference b’tween a pirate and a buccaneer. Perhaps we’ll find some buried booty? Grab yer parrot and yer eyepatch, it be a week t’remember.

Click here for more majors offered this summer.


Family Day 2018 Roundup

Family-Day-1Monday, February 19th is Family Day! We’ve put together some links & ideas to activities happening in and around Lanark County. Whatever you choose to do, have a great day with your kidlets!

Go Ice Fishing For Free – Ontarians can fish without buying a licence this Family Day weekend, February 17-19, as part of Family Fishing Weekend.

Pond Hockey Challenge – 1-3pm @ Glen Tay Outdoor Rink (Ball hockey, sleigh rides, bonfire, hot chocolate & more!)

Winterlude – Family Day is the last day!

Go Swimming

  • Carleton Place Pool: Public Swims 1:00-2:30 pm, 6:30-8:00 pm
  • Perth Pool: Public Swim 1:00-3:00pm (Family Day Beach Party)

Visit a Sugar Bush

  • Wheeler’s – go for a hike or snowshoe on one of their lovely trails; then you’ve really earned your pancakes! (And don’t forget to visit the animals, too)
  • Fulton’s Pancake House – Horse drawn rides, face painting, musical entertainment and much more!

Skating / Take in a game

  • FREE Family Day skate with Blue Wings Players! 1:00 pm at the Perth Arena
  • At 3 pm the PERTH BLUE WINGS take on the ATHENS AEROS at the Perth & District Community Centre, 2 Beckwith St. East, Perth.
  • Public Skate at the Smiths Falls Community Centre, 11am – 2pm

Looking for more ideas for family outings?
Check out the Perth/SF/CP Family Activity Map


Major: Cirque de Maple

It’s a week full of juggling, balancing, clowning, and magic. If you’ve ever wanted to be an entertainer or just the life of the party, our guest instructor will help you get there! We’ll round out the week with a mini circus performance for the other campers on Friday.

(Disclaimer: No, we’re not doing it in French! It was just a cool name.)

Instructor: Adam Zimmerman has been a featured entertainer at the Puppets Up! festival since it’s inception. With a degree in Theatre from the University of Ottawa as well as Certification in the Art of Clown from Advanced Studies – USA Virginia, he is a talented and versatile performance artist with skills in clowning, circus, balloon sculpting, puppeteering, music, and more. Adam is currently working on a new puppet production featuring giant mechanical dinosaurs.


Click here for more majors offered this summer.


Major: 1st Responders

First Responders combines elements of fire fighting, police work, and paramedicine for a action-packed week at camp. Campers will undergo physical and tactical training, learn some basic child-appropriate first aid, practice safe fire-building and extinguishing, and complete some exciting surprise scenarios.

Click here for more majors offered this summer.