Last year, was my son’s first year of pre-school and thus, my first experience with summer camp. I felt overwhelmed by the process even though, at 4 years old, he only had a few options. This summer, he turns 5 so the camp opportunities multiplied as did my stress about getting it right.
I decided I needed a process in place that would keep the whole family organized for the summer. I started with a spreadsheet (as we organized geeks like to do). On the top I listed each week of the summer and input our planned vacation and other critical dates to consider.
Then I started my research. I looked on-line to find all the camp options available for his age that I thought would be of most interest to him. On the spreadsheet, I listed the camps that were offered during those weeks. For example, his school camp is offered every week of the summer whereas “Frog and Toad Clay Camp” and “Lego Camp” are only offered one week each. Once I had all the camps laid out by week, I had my menu of options for the summer.
Time to consult with the camper. I told my son about each of the options and he chose those that were of most interest to him. (He liked all but one). Next, it was time to coordinate with the moms of his best buddies. I was able to send the chart to them and ask if they had a preference for camps we might do together and weeks that would work for them. Once I had their input, I could adjust the chart and choose the right camp during the right week until I had just one option per week. I marked the chart with the chosen camps of the other kids as well so I can coordinate things like carpool.
Now that camp was planned, I needed to register for the right sessions. I went on-line and downloaded all the required forms for each camp. I completed all the registration at once so I would be sure it was all done. If you schedule doesn’t permit a stretch of time for this, do as many as you can and mark them as complete once you finish each one. I then made a copy of all the required materials to keep in a folder throughout the summer for reference. This can be save digitally or in an easy access paper file. I took the originals and mailed them in with check or registered on line with credit card payment.
Now my son is set for a really fun (and exceptionally busy) summer and I didn’t have the stress of signing up haphazardly or late and having to find other options. Next spring, I will put the same system in place for both sons as my youngest starts school. I will use the same process but have two separate charts. Until they are a little older they can’t necessarily attend the same camp and who knows if they will have the same interests!
If you live in the Tampa Bay area, feel free to contact me and I can send you my form and camp research resources.