I know in calendar time we’re in the midst of Spring -- we just celebrated Easter, in gardens and yards across California, flowers and trees are doing their best to impress.
BUT, as working parents know, it’s also time to start thinking about summer. For some working parents, that means it’s time to search, find, and register for various summer camps (registration is happening right now); for others, it might be traveling across the country (or the world!). Today we’re going to focus on summer camps.
There are also camps where the children go and stay there for the week (or more), camps similar to this one. For the purpose of this discussion we’re mostly talking about “commuter” camps, where you drop the kids off in the morning, and pick them up in the afternoon/evening
Here are some tips for easy-peasy, no-stress summer camp planning:
Keep it Simple (and don't over-schedule)
The average summer break is about 10 weeks. I would recommend the following structure: Camp #1 (2+ weeks) → Family Trip → Camp #2 (3+ weeks) → Second Family Trip → School Starts
Our family breaks it down by:
Camp #1 (start of summer until just before the 4th of July holiday) → One week family trip during the 4th of July week (+/- a few days) → Camp #2 (3 weeks) and, if needed, Camp #3 for August just before school starts again
In 2019 we signed L up for 6 different camps, and it was a huge mistake. Not only was it a challenge figuring out the specific requirements for each camp; it was also a logistical nightmare. Each week, my husband and I (and sitter) plotted out new routes for drop-offs and pick-ups and the timing of each camp. Let’s just say I wouldn’t do that again.
Keep it to 2, maybe 3 camps max and save yourself from the craziness of having different camps at different places in different weeks.
Also, consider that your child has to adjust to each and every new camp - learn the environment, get to know the schedule and the counselors, make new friends…. Think about how many times you’d like your child to deal with changes in one summer
Check the Hours
Does the camp run 9-4? Or 8-3? If it ends at 3:00pm, is there after-care provided on site? It might not seem like a big deal when you register, but you may reconsider the decision to sign up for a camp that starts at 9:00 am when you also have a recurring 9:00 am meeting. Make sure that the camp hours work for YOU and not the other way around
Convenience is KEY
The first year we did summer camps, I asked friends who had experience with camps to share their best practices. A common theme was, “this one camp was super fun, BUT the commute was brutal!” Picture yourself on July 12th…. How far are you willing to drive each morning to drop off your kids at camp? If you have 2 kids - how long are you willing to drive 2 kids to 2 camps (if they are not at the same camp)?
There are SO many camp options, consider finding one that’s close-ish to your house/workplace. You’re going to be doing this drive DAILY in the summer. Look for camps that will make your life EASIER, not harder. Pick camps that are respectful of your time and your priorities, and it’s okay if it’s not the bestest camp ever.
I would also check if the camp offers lunch. That summer where we had L go to 6 camps? One of them didn’t offer lunch so we packed lunches for him and he never once ate the packed lunch. Instead, he came home each day starving and exhausted. After that experience, now I only sign up for camps that provide lunch. You may have a child that LOVES home-cooked food, in which case, find camps that specifically don’t provide lunch/snacks.
Find a Friend
This was one of those things that made sense until it didn’t. If your child has a bestie at school, feel free to check with their parents and see if you can sync up your camp schedules! But, different kids do well at different camps, and just because the bestie LOVES sitting in front of a computer for 7 hours a day, it doesn’t mean it’d be the right fit for your child. Yes, definitely ask, but do what works for your child and you.
Lastly, summer camps are for your child
Remember that your child may be very different from you. You might regret never going to a robotics camp, but your child loves music. You might wish for your child to become a tennis pro, but your child really wants to play all day.
I have heard of parents utilizing camps as a way for their child to learn a new skill, for example, biking, or swimming. While it could be a great use of your child’s summer break, I think it would be wise to talk with your child about these goals and make sure you’re on the same page.
When looking through camp offerings, look for ones that you know your child will enjoy, without a lot of convincing/arguing/haranguing. Remember, it’s just ONE camp, for ONE summer, in your child’s long life.
In the beginning of this blog post I recommended two camps AND a family trip - more on that in the next post!
If you’d like some help researching, selecting, and booking the right camps for your family, let Be Merry help you
L at CSMA's Hands-On Art Day. CSMA offers wonderful art & music camps in Mountain View
This was "mommy camp" day. L and I went to Roaring Camp and took the train to Santa Cruz and back
At Club Rec Junior Camp at the Mountain View Community Center. IMHO the Mountain View Rec camps are some of the most underrated camps. They're organized by the Mountain View Parks & Rec department and are a lot of fun for little ones. They offer games & craft projects in the morning, lunch is provided, and in the afternoon they play sports & games outside). These camps were the only ones open last summer (during COVID).
At one of the Galileo Camps
Camp Galileo offers camps in multiple locations. This one was in downtown Palo Alto which turned out to be too far for us