Spring is in the air and that means summer is right around the corner. Before you head into full out panic mode, make a summer camp plan. By looking at the tasks you need to tackle on a month-by-month basis, you will save your sanity and be well on your way to summertime fun for both you and the short people in your life.
March – What is your overall plan for the summer?
The first step to summer camp planning is thinking about your summer as a whole. Do you work full time and need full day coverage the whole summer? Do you have any travel planned when you would not need camp coverage? Are you looking for just a few hours a day to get the kids out of the house and then you’ll all spend the afternoons at the pool?
A good thing to think about early in your camp planning is what type of camps might be a good fit for your child. Is he more of a "get down in the dirt" kind of kid or will a day spent coding be more his speed? Does she want to focus on honing her soccer skills or would a camp with a variety of sports be more fun for her? Do you want to send the kids somewhere so that they can run around and come home exhausted? This thought process helps to narrow down your focus.
Do you need to coordinate your camp plans with your child’s friends? For some kids, it is definitely more fun when they can spend the week with a friend, especially if they are new to summer camp. It can be overwhelming to head off to a full day of camp with kids they don’t know. Finding out from friends where their kids will be going could help make the camp selection process easier.
If you are starting from scratch or want to know what else might be out there in the world of camps, a camp fair is a good place to start. Bay Area Parent offers an in-person camp fair on February 23, 2019 at Westgate Center in San Jose and an online Camp Guide that’s a must to check out.
City recreation departments also often host their own camp fairs. Here you can meet with camp staff, find out what a day at camp looks like and get an idea whether this camp might be a good fit for your kids. You can also find out when sign-ups begin and if there is an early registration discount available.
Grab a copy of your city’s recreation guide to find out what is being offered. Residents often get preference with early registration and discounted camp price. It’s also worth it to see what’s available in neighboring cities or close to your job.
Don’t forget to use other parents as a resource. You can often get some great tips about unique and little-known camps from parents who have lived in the area and sent their kids to camp before.
Knowing your overall summer plan will give you a better idea of what kinds of camps you will be looking for. You can then narrow down your search to eliminate those camps that don’t meet your criteria.
April – Time to Sign Up
If you haven’t started the camp sign-up process, you will want to get going in April. The more popular camps can be booked up by now, but you can definitely find some park district or YMCA camps that would meet your needs.
A spreadsheet can be a good way to keep your summer plans coordinated, especially if you have more than one child. Here you can list out the weeks of camp, what time camp starts, where it is located and other information such as what to bring and which friends are attending the same camp. Having all this information in one spot can help when you are organizing multiple camp drop-offs and carpooling with friends.
May – Make a Back-up Plan
It is worthwhile to look into drop-in camps if your summer plan consists of a few weeks where you don’t have any camp scheduled or some partial weeks where you might be leaving for vacation on Thursday but have nothing for the kids to do at the beginning of the week. Steve and Kate’s Camp has locations around the Bay Area that offer single day drop-in without any advance notice. Sticky Art Lab in Berkeley also offers single-day camps. Some athletic clubs and private pools offer camps with drop-in options, so ask around to see what might be available near you.
June – Gear Up for Camp!
School is out and camps are starting. You should receive e-mails from the camps that give specifics like what time to show up, what to bring (e.g. water bottle, lunch, sunscreen, hat) and what to expect on the first day. Closed-toe shoes are always a good idea if your child will be running around. Make sure that all clothing and items brought to camp are marked with your child’s name to ensure they will come home at the end of the day.
Put the kids at ease by talking up the first day and how much fun they will have. Some kids might want to know what to expect in terms of the schedule.
Make sure the camp is aware if you will be having a non-parent like a babysitter pick your child up from camp, as they shouldn’t release your child to someone other than a parent without your permission.
Is there a special schedule for the last day of camp? Some camps have a family sing-along or campers perform skits for the parents on the last day. Ask about this so you won’t be surprised and miss all of the fun.
By following these steps, you will be well on your way to an organized (and fun) summer of camp!
Kate Loweth is the Silicon Valley calendar editor for Bay Area Parent.