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Summer Camp: Have You Started Planning?

Last summer was my first time navigating the maze of summer camps. It was like working a puzzle trying to figure out what would work within the schedules of two full-time working parents and also that of close friends. My son had an enjoyable summer biking, doing art, playing basketball, with the grandparents, and being bored with a babysitter. Though I found coverage for my grade-school aged child, I longed for the days when childcare was year round. What I want more than anything for this summer is to drop my kids off at the time and same place every day knowing that they will have fun-filled day full of play and fun activities (art, music, biking, swimming, etc.). Piecemealing care together is not my cup of tea nor is keeping track of different camp hours and location. On top of this is cost. Camps cost on average $250-$300 a week, which can become unaffordable quickly especially with two grade school kids this year. Have you started planning for summer camp? What are your strategies? Do you choose by activity or convenience? Location? Cost? Or have you decided to avoid it and go for some type of childcare swap?

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Yes, I've started looking already. I have a spreadsheet I've been keeping for four years listing both weeks and camps my child did, and costs, names, and focuses of a bunch more for research. If you are looking for the same place with a variety of activity and a good time range, definitely check out the community centers. Sellwood, for example, offers price cuts for doing more, early drop off and late pick up, swimming every day, and themed weeks. This year I'm paying a lot of attention to time and location, since I am working again. Cost is also a factor - my daughter loves OCAC camp, but it is very pricy now. And of course, I make just enough that we don't qualify for scholarships. I do make use of a dependent care spending account, so the use of pretax dollars helps a bit.

This is a huge issue for us as well. Both my husband and I work part time, and we have our schedules arranged around our daughter's first grade school schedule. In the summer, we need 1-2 days of care for about three to six hours per day. We have no desire (or the funds) to do full-time (or even half-day) camps every week through the summer; we really want her to have some "free" summer vacation days each week plus 1-2 days of structured activities. She is an only child, so a babysitter or nanny is not ideal; we would prefer a social group. However, in the last three years I have searched high and low for this kind of camp and have found nothing we can do only a few days a week. If anyone knows of something like this, please let me know!

We don't do summer camp as child care -- but will be signing up for Girl Scout camp. We love Girl Scout resident camps -- truly rustic, true nature experiences, great staff. Registration just opened for resident camp, and your daughter doesn't have to be a Girl Scout to sign up! http://www.girlscoutsosw.org/CMS/camp/resident_camps.aspx for resident camp, and http://www.girlscoutsosw.org/CMS/camp/day_camps.aspx for day camps.

Our neighborhood PSU elementary school's regular after school care also offers all day "summer camps" during the summer, with themed weeks. I assumed everyone's regular elementary school had the same? Nevertheless, my 1st grader does not want to do the summer camp at school; last summer my husband and I only convinced him to go one week when it included a field trip to Oaks Park. Otherwise we scheduled a summer camp every other week at OMSI, Zoo, local arts center, soccer, etc. and it was a real pain juggling a different schedule/location every other week; the non-camp days = days with daddy, who is a college professor with flexible summer schedule. I'm back to full time work this year, so planning this summer is an even larger challenge. And yes, I have started plotting possible summer camp schedules as many programs released the dates early this year.

We've got our daughter signed up for 4 weeks of Forest Secrets camp at Tryon Creek State Park. The four weeks are scattered throughout the summer. My husband is a teacher, so we don't have a childcare issue in the summer, but we do need to find activities for our daughter to do for fun, education, and socializing. For members the camps are $190/week from 9-3 with extended care 8-5 available for $5/hour. We've found the educational programs at Tryon to be really high quality and fun.

In the last three years I've started to feel that the ridiculously long summer break in Oregon has become my personal parenting nemesis. My son is in second grade and my husband and I both work full time, so filling nearly 12 weeks of summer involves a ridiculous round robin of camp planning that necessitates a spreadsheet to figure out weeks of camp, weeks my husband or I are on vacation, and a week my son spends with his grandparents. Not only is it complicated it's so expensive. I MISS daycare so much every year about this time when I realize it's time to start figuring out what to do for the summer. My son loves the various camps he goes to, but for his parents summer has become stressful and expensive and just too long.

As soon as February comes I start thinking about summer! With 2 working parents, my daughter really needs to be in school/camps/classes year round. I used to feel badly but now that we've done some of the fun summer camps I think it's a great way for her to meet new kids, learn new skills and have a lot of fun.

I think we got the formula right last summer. We're going to duplicate it again: 1 week of zoo camp, 2 weeks of Kool Kamp (ice skating at Lloyd Center), 1 week of Science Champions (last summer she built a robot, this summer we may do the one where she builds a rocket) and the rest will be with Tualatin Hills Valley Recreation District. We did their camps at Garden Home Rec Center and it was great. Lots of play time, lots of structured activities. A field trip every week and a whole afternoon of swimming every week.

I run a nanny agency and Care Givers Placement Agency places nannies throughout the summer. http://www.cgpa.com

You can hire a nanny for all summer or for just the weeks your kids don't have camps. It's a great alternative. Call me at 503-244-6370 if you want to discuss summer nanny options!

Like Alaska, the first poster, I keep a spreadsheet with all of the camp possibilities, costs, dates, etc. and what we've done in years past. We need full time all summer care, so we generally end up going with Vermont Hills Family Life Center or YMCA camps. They are both around $160/week for full time care. I have tried mixing it up some years with different camps for different weeks, but my son felt too jumbled with that - he prefers consistency, so this year we'll just pick one and stick to it. I love all of the other fun sounding camps out there, but at $250/wk it's just not affordable when you need care all summer.

It's not too early to plan at all! I run Friends of Tryon Creek's camps (I look forward to meeting your daughter this summer, toots!) and we've had registration open for a week or so now. Our programs tend to fill up pretty quickly, especially the 4-5 year old camps. I know that camps can be expensive and we try to keep ours as affordable as possible. We also give many scholarships each year, as do most camps.

It's all just so expensive! I really like for my kids to do some summer sports camps, but we have to do either very short (hour or two long each day) classes through Portland Parks & Rec or sign them up for something pretty intensive. Our elementary school does offer summer care, but I really don't want my kids spending so much time indoors.

Last summer we cobbled together some fun camps--one week at Camp Collins, one week at Camp Scrap, a few different classes through Portland Parks and Rec--and scheduling it all was very hard.

Last summer my 7 year old son and 9 year old daughter joined Summer Rocks at Sound Roots School of Music and had a blast! We have already signed up for at least one week this summer and may even add more. They have 8 one week sessions this summer and I think they have early bird pricing until March. The kids get to make a band and perform at a show at the end or the week. They group them by age and skill level and my kids were totally beginners and still loved every minute. It is a nice alternative from the traditional camp thing and reasonably priced. Their website is www.soundrootsmusic.com.

My kindergartener is going to go to the YMCA camp through the PPS this summer. She already goes there for after school and for vacations, and it is part of the package I pay for all year. I think the price is reasonable and I don't have to worry about where she will be from week to week. They have lots of fun outings and the camp is at Woodstock school, which has a great playground. She has lots of familiar faces there from school and it's led by counselors she is already familiar with.

NE family,: We did a couple of weeks of gymnastics camp at Rose City Gymnastics last year and I think they had a per day rate (both full and half), so it would be possible to sign up for just one or two days each week. I don't think they have their schedule out this early, but I'm sure if you called them to ask, they could tell you if they expect to have that option again this year.


I thought camps were supposed to be ONE action-packed, memory-filled week to compliment a summer just being a kid, exploring your surroundings at a kids' pace. I worry about these kids being over-camped. Each week is meant to be go, go, go, not taking into consideration that this kid may be on her fourth or fifth camp of the summer. I like the idea of each partner taking one week off and perhaps swapping with another household and together you can have childcare covered for a month at a fraction of the cost.

Uh oh, now I've panicked....not sure I'm glad I looked at this site tonight (kidding...sortof) Sigh. Having a hard enough time w/what schl he'll go to next yr, let alone the camp scene.

Grace (and little sis) REALLY wants to do a few weeks at Willowbrook this year. It is amazing but unfortunately in Tualatin. Anyone want to carpool? I am in close in NoPo.

This is our first year for camps and we have already started looking at stuff. We actually did a few last year to mix it up. We are lucky that the aftercare provider at our school has a great program with field trips, plus our school is right next to a park and a library. They have themed weeks as well. We will mix it up with some camps for experiences and so he can be with non school friends. I also know from last year that he wants/needs at least two weeks of "summer break" where we just do fun stuff together and/or travel. Will do Tryon Creek, a sports (soccer?), camp and something else, maybe OMSI or Zoo or SWCC.

This is our first year having to deal with this. I know about the community center programs. Can anyone recommend a website(s) that has a list of other programs to check out? Thanks!

@ in NE: what do you recommend to people who do not have a partner to swap off with?

Last year I sent my son for 2 weeks to Canoe Island summer camp in the San Juan Islands. He had such a good time! It was great because this camp offered a multi-level fee structure and I paid the tuition level I was comfortable with. They also have scholarships and financial aid. It's a French Camp, but there is no need to know any French to go there. The food is very healthy, and my son learned to cook, and to kayak, did some fencing, archery... lots of sports. And the executive director was the director of OMSI for like 25 years before coming to Canoe Island. He is amazing.
Now my son really loves French and wants to go back. The website is www.canoeisland.org


I never start thinking about summercamp until the end of july rolls around and my kids are driving me batty. That being said,i don't. Like the idea of kids being in" camp" (aka childcare) all summer long.one, maybe two nonconsecutive camps works well for us, mixed with random activities and outings. I am fortunate to not have to be working during the summer months though.

I feel so naive. I grew up on the east coast with 8 weeks of daily summer camp. Got on a bus, headed out to the woods, had a great time doing arts and crafts, cultural stuff, swimming, canoeing, etc. came home. Does that not exist here?

@ sarah: not without a HEFTY prcetag!

Julie ! Canoe Island, what great memories ... I went there as a kid and can't wait until my kids are old enough to go there! Magical.

Sarah: Camp Collins

@ in NE: That sounds wonderful, but not everyone has a partner, not everyone can get a week or two off work, and even covering a month with shared child care duties leaves 7 weeks of summer to figure out what to do. I agree that it would be great to not have the summer full of camps, but that's just not realistic for a lot of people. Many of us have already blown the vacation time that we may or may not get from our jobs on the week long Thanksgiving break last year, the 2 week winter break, or the upcoming spring break. The fact is that there's just too much time out of school, in my opinion. I would love to have more weeks of school but have it less stress on the kids - more free time there. But no one wants to pay the taxes to make that happen, and we're still stuck in this agrarian summer break schedule, though very few kids need the time off to help on the farm these days.

I plan to have my children (4 and 7) attend most of the day camps offered by In a Child's Path on the farm. The staff there is great and with consistant farm work and a different theme each week I know my kiddos will have a blast exploring, feeding the animals, doing art and making jam!! The price is pretty reasonable. Their website is www.inachildspathfarm.com.

I don't have to rely on summer childcare. My kids do a couple of things for fun or to give dad and me a little long overdue adult time. We do love Camp Namanu, Tryon Creek and Omsi for fun and educational choices.

If you are looking for the same place with a variety of activity and a good time range, definitely check out the community centers.The food is very healthy and my son learned to cook, and to kayak did some fencing, archery.

Thanks, mamas for all the great ideas. Our PPS elementary doesn't have a summer program, we we're fending for ourselves. Willowbrook looks amazing and it wasn't on my radar -- too bad it doesn't cover the whole summer. So, for my 6 year old (who will be entering 1st grade in the fall), I'm looking at some montessori schools in SW Portland to carry us through the 10 (or so) weeks of summer without too much stress. We'll take one week off in July and labor day weekend and that will probably be about it. Hopefully boredom won't be an issue, if so, I guess I'll wing it.

This is our fifth year or so managing the summer camp puzzle. We rely on camps, as we are a two-FT-working-parent household. We will have a rising 6th grader and rising 2nd grader and are not planning too much in the way of camps. We will probably aim to do 1/2 a summer of camps. The other 1/2, I think we will put them on their bikes/skates and tell them to go forth and play with other neighborhood kids! We will also do more drop-in play time at the Community Center (Peninsula). Older elementary kids (age 8-15) can play ping pong and other games a the center, and drop-in is free.

YWCA's Camp Westwind in the City was awesome for us last year.

Thanks again PDX Mamas! Its my first year trying to figure out summer camps for my daughter who will be entering 1st grade in 2011/12. I work M-Th and my husband works full time so we need the care. I am currently looking at OMSI, OCAC, the zoo, trackers NW and some theater programs. But most for this age are 1/2 day. Fortunately her school runs a summer long camp program that is all outside at a neighborhood park. So we will have her there on days she is not at a specialized camp. Anyone recommend any music, art camps?

Check out: www.Gilchristartcamp.com.
This summer we are having 13 camps! Bead making, soap making, encaustics, clay, acrylic paint, drawing, candle making, mosaics, collage, group pantings, outside games and activities etc. Camps are filling fast so check out the site and register soon!

I thank thee that I am none of the wheels of power but I am one with the living creatures that are crushed by it.

When my daughter was younger AND I worked, we did the Y one summer. Once I was laid off, she and I just spent the summers together. My husband worried about her development, but I tried to keep her busy with crafts, etc.

Now she's older and I work from home, so other than a short term camp, I probably won't do anything formal this summer, either. For what camps cost, we can take a really nice vacation---which makes her much happier, anyway.

My friend with TWO kids decided to do this awhile back (and she works away from home). She never regretted it.

We didn't use to micromanage and structure our children's time so aggressively. I think making kids find some creative fun isn't such a terrible thing.

I had planned for my little boy on where I want him to go to summer camp very early this year. I checked which places is best and he even picked the one that he likes. Yes, it is expensive but this better than having to hear him say "I'm bored" every 2 seconds. He chose the one with a lot of outdoor activities to choose from. :)

summer camp info: http://www.militaryschools411.com/military-camp/

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