Have you signed your kids up for summer camp yet? No? Now that I’ve been doing this for a few years, I feel like I have achieved “summer camp flow” with my 4th grader. In today’s competitive world, camp sign-ups begin in January and I highly recommend that you register now for popular camps.

Lessons Learned After Four Years of Summer Camp
During our first summer here on the Peninsula, I was working 40 hours a week, so finding full-time summer camp options was a necessity. That summer, my kid went to camp all day, every day and loved it. But when I looked back at his summer, I realized he didn’t have any “down time” to just sleep in and hang out. I vowed to build in some lazy summer days the following year.

In January of the next year, I started to plan earlier. I began with an email to the grandparents, requesting a week or two of their summer be made available for Grandparents Camp! This simple idea was a win-win for everyone. Free childcare for us, grandparents got to hang out with their only grandchild, and the child got to sleep-in and be spoiled rotten—everyone loved it!
The lesson for the following year was that my child doesn’t need a different camp every week. New people, location, and activities every week is as exhausting as it sounds — for both the parents and child. If we found a camp we liked, we signed up for at least two weeks. Extra points if the camp focused on an activity or sport, because repetition is always appreciated with sports. You can also look for more traditional camps that run for two weeks sessions, like Jefunira Camp on the Peninsula, (come meet Jeff, the owner of Jefunira Camp, at Parents Place Family Fun Day on May 1).
Pro-tip #1: Try not to schedule anything the last week of summer before school starts. I learned the hard way that family vacations that end the day before school starts make for a difficult transition to school.
Pro-tip #2: My friend suggested I create a Google doc to organize my child’s summer days. Ahh! I keep a list of all the camps my son has attended from previous years in it. My friend also uses her Google doc to keep track of submitting the camp expenses for tax purposes and for her Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account (FSA) that she has through her employer.

Summer Camp Guides
Currently I have the luxury of working half time here at Parents Place, so I don’t need full time care for my son. No matter what your situation is, here are some resources for finding the right camp for your child:

  • Activity Hero – Easy to use search engine for camps sorted by child’s age, dates, and location
  • Bay Area Parent – Information and reviews of camps sorted by: Outdoor Camps, Best Day Camps, Best Technology, Best Overnight Camps, etc.
  • Parent Press – Camps listed by topic or city
  • San Francisco Summer Camps – Camp listing by arts, sports, academic or specialty
  • Marin Mommies — Camps listed by location, grade or activity
  • 510 Families – For East Bay specialty camps listing

These days I still start planning our summer camps in January, but I don’t stress about it anymore. Every year gets easier as kids get older. Plans for this year include two to three weeks of Grandparents Camp, two weeks of sport camps, two weeks of a traditional camp experience, and maybe even a sleep away camp!

Happy camping everyone!