summer camp

Options are seemingly endless for summer day camps and mini-camps for kids as young as toddlers. With camp registrations underway and deadlines quickly approaching, it’s tempting to jump at the first cool camp you come across, just to make sure you secure a spot.

Do yourself and your kids a favor by taking a few minutes to consider these 5 factors before you choose. Not only will it make it easier to decide which works best for your child and your family, it’ll save you a whole lot of money!

Things to consider:

1. Is your child happiest indoors or outside?

Sending a homebody, who finds Zen in the A/C with a stash of art supplies, to “tough it out” in the Great Outdoors might make for (at the very least) unpleasant drop-offs for you both. For years to come, you’ll hear about the number of mosquito bites she suffered! The reverse is just as true. Some kids would choose to be outside even in the dead of winter. If one of them belongs to you, indoor camp probably isn’t the best bang for your buck.

2. Your child’s interests.

It might be obvious that a week of karate isn’t a fit for your princess, but give some thought to whether your child would have more fun with active play or something quieter. Traditional summer camps and sports camps are great for burning energy, but some kids have more fun with more low-key activities, such as crafting, science, learning a foreign language, music or cooking. If you want to get them moving indoors, check out local options for dance, gymnastics/tumbling or theater. Need something to satisfy the child who loves trying new things, check out this list of really cool, not-so-ordinary camp options for NYC area families. Even if you don’t live in NYC, the list might give you a few options to look at finding close to home. You’ll score big points with your adventure-lover.

3. Your schedule.

Little kid summer camps seem to fall into one of a few scheduling categories: they provide all-day care for your child, are a half-day option (mornings or afternoons), or are designed to cover the time after school or daycare and before you get home from work. Decide which you need, and if you have some flexibility with the decision, think about what works best for your child. Will naptime be affected? Is a full day away from home a bit too much for his attention span and stamina?

4. Can you recruit a friend to join and carpool?

Most kids are thrilled to have a buddy join them at camp. It makes it infinitely more fun. And it’s wonderful to have another parent or sitter to share the carpooling. If your car is big enough or you can manage multiple children on public transportation, get a handful of kids to go together. Better yet, coordinate with your pals to book a babysitter who can take care of transportation for the whole group.

5. Cost.

We all knew kids aren’t cheap, but who knew summer camps are so dang expensive!? Yikes! Unless your budget is endless, you need to factor costs into your decision before sending your four-year-old to a few weeks of half-day camps that amounts to the cost of a really great get-away weekend with your spouse. If you’re looking at full-day options for the entire summer, the decision is even costlier. Costs in the SF Bay Area are roughly $5,000 for a 10-week program.

If you’ve given these factors thought and decided summer camp might not work this year, why not hire a babysitter to entertain the kids and give you a regularly scheduled break? There are plenty who would love to help you – log onto UrbanSitter.

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