I love the freedom of our summer schedule since we get a short reprieve from our hectic, regimented school days. I also love the flexibility to explore different activities, locations, and interests with the kids. Summer camps are a great way for kids to have fun AND learn. Traditional summer camps (1 week long or more, children stay in cabins, full of a variety of activities) are wonderful opportunities to create lasting memories, but they can also be expensive, far away, and stressful for parents and kids who aren’t ready to spend that much time apart. Luckily, there are usually plenty of kids summer day camps in your local area. You just need to know where to look to find them. Here’s a list of places to check.
Parks and Recreation
A good place to start looking for day camps in your area is with the local parks and recreation department. Often, local parks or community centers offer different types of camps during the summer. My kids have attended sports camps, Lego camps, and camps that had different activities each day – all through our local parks and recreation. These are great camps if you want to keep your kids close to home and don’t want to spend a lot of money.
Many local school districts offer summer camps at area schools. Our local school district hosts several different summer camps for younger kids at the high schools (e.g. cheer kiddie camp, youth basketball, piano camp). My oldest son used to volunteer to help with the youth wrestling camp each summer at his high school. Not only are these camps affordable, it’s a great way for you to get to know coaches and staff that your children will likely interact with in a few years when they are in high school. Check first with your child’s guidance counselor and then with your school district’s superintendent’s office.
Some local businesses will also provide day camps, though they are often very specialized. For example, our local Wacky Bear Factory runs a summer camp in-store where kids gets to learn the inner workings of the store and learn the basics of running a business. Many of our local art and pottery stores offer kids summer camps where kids learn about different art styles and materials and get to create fun projects. In addition, most of our local dance, gymnastics, and sports centers hold camps throughout the summer. I’ve found that it’s the small mom-and-pop businesses that usually offer the best summer camps. They have to be innovative to compete with big box stores and they often have a deeper connection to the community.
Specifically, check with:
- Sports-related businesses: Gymnastics centers, field houses, dance studios, gyms, martial arts studios, etc.
- Art-related businesses: Local performance theaters, art studios, make-your-own pottery stores, music shops, etc.
- Farms and orchards
Many churches run a week-long Vacation Bible School at some point during the summer. You don’t usually have to be a church member to register your child in Vacation Bible School so if you aren’t a regular churchgoer, don’t be put off. Obviously, there is typically a strong religious component to these camps, but if you can find one that aligns with your own beliefs, these are wonderful experiences for the kids. Usually there is a variety of activity from arts and crafts to physical activity.
Many towns and cities across the country have a local YMCA. This organization wants children to grow and learn in a safe environment. For that reason, they often provide day camps during the summer break. This is meant to benefit the parents since you are able to go to work and know your kids are looked after while you are gone. For the kids, they get to meet new friends, participate in supervised activities, and get some good physical activity in. The plus side, is the day camp might be free or offered at a low cost. Another benefit is that many YMCA’s have workout facilities so you can exercise and be on-site for at least a portion of the time your kids are at camp. This is a great way for families who are trying camp for the first time to make the transition with the least amount of anxiety.
Boys and Girls Club
The Boys and Girls Cub is similar to the YMCA though it tends to be less faith-based. They sometimes offer day camps with indoor or outdoor activities and games, or specific programs, such as teaching a certain type of craft, creative writing, or a fun sport for the kids to play. Check with your local Boys and Girls Club to see what types of day camps they have available.
Last, but definitely not least, check with your local mom networks to find out what camps they recommend. If you aren’t already connected with a moms group, you can easily find them by googling “[your city] moms group” or by searching Facebook for “[your city] moms.” Moms love to help one another so they’ll gladly offer recommendations and advice once you connect with them.
I hope you’ve found at least a couple of new ideas for summer camp options that work for your family. If you have an idea that I haven’t mentioned, please share it in the comments!