Figuring out summer camps can be a big headache. That's especially true if this is the first summer your kid's ready for camp, but no less daunting for those have done it, as your kid grows up and you also learn the hard way what NOT to do.
It's not just about childcare coverage, many parents also want to expose kids to new things, or help them develop a passion. Most people pick a few different camps for their kids, and a couple have even shared with me their big summer camp spreadsheets. It's work! :)
Okay, first, the options:
Public Summer Camps - Public summer camps are often affordable and fun for the kids. In Cambridge there usually plenty of spots to go around, except for one or two of the most popular ones. In Newton there are a variety, including some you have to sign up quickly (signup for all the camps starts after the Camp Fair, on Sunday 1/29).
In Cambridge, they typically cover at least 7 weeks of summer, run all-day, and are quite affordable (around $225/week in 2016). They are usually run by the different community schools, e.g. the MLK Summer Camp. Signups starts after Summer Camp Night, usually in early March.
General camps - Like the public camps, usually have are a mix-bag of fun activities for kids with games, sports, and swimming, and field trips.
Coding/STEM camps - Coding camps are getting more popular now. They are typically more expensive, at $600-1000/week. Note a couple of them offer a bit of discount before 1/31.
Overnight Camps - Many of these are a bit further out, and are a great way to get kids to do stuff outdoors and build confidence. Those usually cost a lot more, from $1000 to $2000 a week. They typically take older kids like 7 or 8+.
Besides your family's vacation schedule, here are a few things to consider when you pick a summer camp:
Age - Most camps specify age range. Note when they give the grades, it's for the entering grade, so if your kid is in K now, look for camps that start at Grade 1 or lower.
Commute - Many people tend to pick summer camps near their home or work. Remember, there's no school bus in the summer. And if you pick different camps for your two+ kids, the commute problem gets tricker.
Schedule - Though many camps run on a week-by-week schedule, many run by 2-week blocks or other multi-week blocks. So if you're planning a few different camps, make sure schedule-wise they'll fit.
Pickup/drop off times - Most summer camps don't last the whole working day, many are 9-3 or 9-4, and some are half-day. But some camps you can put together two half-day choices to make a full day, and many camps offer extended day option, which can vary from $25/week to more than $25/day. So be sure to to take that into consideration when you tabulate the cost.
Which camps are your kids' friends going to? This is usually the biggest factor for whether or not your kids will like the camp you sign them up for. I hope to make it easier to share this info in the app, which would also help you with pickup/drop-off sharing.
Kids' interests/stamina - Multi-sports camps like MIT's can be fun if you have an active kid, but it could also be pretty exhausting if you overdo it. I've heard some kids love a week or two of it, and hate it after a few weeks.
Ready? Check out our brand new Summer Camps Tab. I'll add a lot more camps in the next few weeks. You can also submit camps and birthday parties yourself. (Thanks Gong Ke and Veera.)