For all of you parents who need to figure out what your children will be doing when school is out in June, here is some wisdom about scheduling summer camps from Parents Place’s Community Outreach Coordinator, Elina Koretsky.

Lesson #1: Register for the most popular camps in January.

Yes, as crazy as it may seem, there are some wonderful camps that fill up almost as soon as registration opens. If you are hoping to fill a couple weeks of your child’s summer with a popular day or sleep-away camp, now is the time to get organized. Also, some camps offer early-bird discounts when you sign up before March.

Lesson #2: Build in down time.

During my first summer living 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!

If you don’t have grandparents who can help, consider asking a family who you love to host your child at their house for a few days. My son loves hanging out at his best friend’s house.

Lesson #3: Don’t do a different camp every week.

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.

Lesson #4: Sign up for the same camp for multiple weeks.

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.

Lesson #5: Explore the camps that will be the best fit for your child.

Summer camps offer your child a special time to dive deeply into an interest. Is it soccer, art, sailing, nature, Harry Potter, or animals? There are hundreds of wonderful summer camps in the Bay Area as well as overnight camps in the region. Do a little research and your child can tap into fun opportunities that might not be possible during the school year.

Lesson #6: Attend our 3rd Annual Parents Place Summer Camp Fair in Palo Alto! Sun., Jan. 26, 10am-12pm

Parents Place Summer Camp Fair is a unique opportunity to engage with more than 20 summer camps, located on the Peninsula and beyond. This is the only event in the area that connects you with multiple regional and independent summer camps, including sleepaway camps and special needs camps, in one convenient location. Make a personal connection with camp staff, explore the variety of flexible options, and discover how to maximize your child’s summer camp experience. Fee: FREE!

Happy camping everyone!

Elina Koretsky is the Community Outreach Coordinator at Parents Place in Palo Alto. For more information about the event, please contact Elina at [email protected] or 650-688-3056.