Summer Camp Ideas and Alternatives

Updated on August 08, 2017
F.B. asks from Kew Gardens, NY
12 answers

We both work full time. DS now 6 had been going to the summer camp program at his former day care until last year. He loved it but aged out. This year we had him enrolled in a local Day camp. Light academics in the morning, the pool in the afternoon twice a week, the playground in the afternoon twice a week and a field trip every Friday. He is miserable and dreads going.

The program itself seems sound, but he is lumped in with kids as old as 11 who are a little rough and tumble and a little intolerant of my son a bossy talkative 6 year old. The staff has been very accommodating.

But in any event he has closed his mind to the prospect that it could be fun and we need to find something different.

Thanks in advance for your ideas and suggestions.

F. B.

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So What Happened?

Our son is enrolled in a very small private school whose students aren't local to us. So asking what they do isn't an option.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I get a babysitter in the summer, plus a family membership (including babysitter pass) to the closest pool and science center. It's great. Every day they have their choice of going to either of those places, the park, or to the free programs at the library. The kids love it.

I always get college students. Sometimes I've known them in advance (neighbors). This year I didn't know anyone so went through and found a great sitter.

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Boston on

My two oldest sons had a similar age gap to your kids, so like you, I had one in daycare year-round while the older one had aged out of daycare. With a month left of summer, do you have any other options for this year or are you thinking of next year?

If for next year, I'd see if your daycare provider would agree to scaling back for the summer and hire a sitter. At one daycare, we were able to hold our daycare spot by continuing for the summer but just for 2 days a week, which cut our expenses while we were also paying for a sitter at home. At another, we were actually able to take the summer off because they had kids to fill those slots for just the summer. Then, we had a sitter at the house watching both (and when I had my 3rd son, all) of the kids together.

A lot of families I know will string together a series of day camps so that if their kid doesn't love one, it's only for a couple of weeks and then they move on to something else. I worked from home for a few years so I had a little more flexibility and put them in a swim and dive camp for 2 weeks, a camp through our rec department for a couple of weeks, a camp at our Y for a week, and a nature camp for a week. They liked the rec dept camp the most so we did that the following summer.

For next year, look for camps that group the kids by age. Many will have, for examples, grades 1-3 together, then grades 4-6, then older kids (if the program goes older).

Honestly, we cobble a plan together every summer and none of them has been perfect. This summer, my 11 and 13 year olds are home with a sitter and their friends are all in camps, so they have no one to hang out with but each other and are "too cool" to do a lot of outings or activities with the sitter. Summer childcare is never easy.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

Any child care center should accept kids through age 10-11. I'd enroll him in one that picks kids up from his school and keep him there year round.

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answers from Norfolk on

Our son used to go to a summer camp run from his taekwondo place.
They had a taekwondo class every day, played games (dodge ball, running around games, obstacle course), and they went some where every day - a playground, mini golf, library, trampoline park, etc.
And they have a wide range of ages - everyone enjoys playing together.
Nothing academic - they wanted to tire them out and they were great for that.
Our son was/is always reading and enjoys building kits - so he was learning - just not with workbooks, pencil and paper or worksheets.

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answers from Springfield on

In our area there are many options. The park district and YMCA both offer summer camp options that include lots of time outdoors, a schedule with activities, daily time in the pool and, I believe, field trips. There are churches that have daycamps that have a regular schedule with lots of activities and field trips each week (but no swimming pools).

Some of the in-home daycare providers are able to accept school age kids during the summer. I know some people really like that option, but I've always been a fan of the larger camps. They usually put kids in small groups according to age and have the ability to have lots of activities.

This might be a good time to start talking to other parents - neighbors, friends, people from church, coworkers. You could start making phone calls to camps, but it might be better to wait until January or February to do that.

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answers from Portland on

Some camps just aren't good fits. I always found the camps where the kids were grouped in an age group such as 5-7 were good. Sometimes they end up lumped together at lunch time, etc. but to be hanging out with 11 year olds at 6 - not so good. I hear you.

None of my kids would have enjoyed the academic part (even very light academics).

I found the camps that were the best were camps such as our local rec center provides. They have about 6 camps per week - you can choose which one suits your kid's personality. So for example there was a baking one (they'd do a new cupcake every day), there was a Survivor one (every day they acted out activities like on Survivor), hockey camp, Sports camp, etc. It would change weekly too - so a lot of kids went all summer as daycare. They would do swim in afternoon, and played outside too.

So maybe check your rec centers. Here there are also camps at the big swimming pools that have gyms attached - same idea. So check out sports places.

Our area had a listing of camps - from there we found a drama camp that suited one of our kids.

A lot of the private schools and daycare centers have summer camps. They tend to rotate them too - and kids grouped max to 2 year age difference. They do science weeks, Lego week, etc.

We did a soccer camp, hockey camp, etc. You would just have to look up the local league and see what's offered.

What's big here are canoeing/kayaking camps. Kids as young as preschool can go.

It's usually only a portion of the day they do the actual water sports - the rest is activities and playing outside.

We had a few hit and miss tries - one of my kids hated art camp. But art galleries sometimes have camps. I wonder if there is a listing or directory for your area that you could get a hold of, and talk to the directors to make sure it would be a better fit? Good luck

Sometimes big kid camps can be exhausting - I found age 6 hard because they were the little ones at camp, and it's a long day.

Worst comes to worst - would you be able to hire a teenager to watch him during the day, and have them take him out? I did that all through my teen years. I was a summer time nanny.


answers from Los Angeles on

Do you have a YMCA where you are? They usually have the kids grouped by age in their day camp and sleep away camp programs.


answers from Santa Fe on

We got our babysitter, an upper high school girl, to be a summer nanny some summers. We would give her a "schedule" of things to do each day...more like suggestions. Our kids loved this because they could meet up with friends, have playdates, meet at the local pool, go to museums, the water park, the free Wednesday kid movie, the nature center, biking on a trail, playing tennis at the park, have down time at home, etc. I did give a daily list of things to do though so they did not sit at home all the time! Then a couple times during the summer they were signed up for week long camps...a science camp, an art camp, a nature camp, a soccer camp. It worked out well! You could even ask around to see if another family wants to do this and have your summer babysitter watch your son and a friend or two at the same time.
PS - Do you have any stay at home mom friends? When I was at home I sometimes watched a friend's child for them when they were at work. Then they returned the favor for date nights and other kid-sitting later! Also many times a friend and I took turns watching each other's kids. We still do this actually...this is a good suggestion if you have a friend who works part time and if you can work part time. Who are your babysitters? Do you know any teen boys and girls in your neighborhood who would like to have a job for the end of the summer? For example, my son is 13 and is too young to work yet a good age to babysit. What about college kids home for the summer? Does your neighborhood use the app Nextdoor? People where we live use the Nextdoor app to ask around for babysitters etc. It can be a great way to reach out to many neighbors. is a website where you can also look for a nanny for a short period of time. I did this once...I found a really nice young woman getting a degree in Childhood Development and wanted a nanny job. I did interview 2 other people before I found her. Good luck!!!



answers from Miami on

Hard to believe 6 years have gone by since he was born, B.! Time flies!

How many more weeks have you paid for? Hopefully it's coming to a quick close...

Have you talked to his camp counselor supervisor? I would do that, if you haven't. You said that the staff had been very accommodating, but have you asked them to help him like being in camp more? What part of the day is the worst for him? The playground? The field trip? Perhaps they could find an alternative for him for a little bit.

If nothing can be changed, hopefully he'll get through it without crying every day. Next year, hopefully you can find another alternative. I agree with the idea of finding someone to stay with them and take them places. Maybe you have a friend in a similar circumstance who would be interested in splitting the costs of someone.

Personally, I wouldn't do the large camps until your child is older. I think that summer camps are good for older kids, especially if there are water sports available, like a lake or a river. I especially liked the camps that had a lot of outside time.

I was a stay-at-home mom when my kids were older, so I chose different types of camps to give them variety. That might not be possible for you, but if it is, it might help. It's great to have summer bridge activities (and very important to keep from falling behind), but an hour a day is enough for a 6 year old. Something different from school is helpful.


answers from San Francisco on

Most of the working parents I know always hired college students to take care of the kids for the summer. They signed them up for a few weeks of camp here and there, but mostly the college kids would take them to the pool, the park, have playdates or just chill at home. It makes for a much more fun and relaxing summer than being in a full day program, all day every day.
If you can find an available student at this point (it may be too late) is that an option?



answers from New York on

For next summer, when he is 7, he would be a nice age to try sleep-away camp. There are a few great YMCA camps near NYC that do a good job of diving kids by age (Frost Valley is one, kids in cabins are the same age, do activities together). It's a really fun program, and age 7 is a good age to try it - and if he likes it, he does not have to "age out" til high school.



answers from Columbus on

My son attended a day camp at a local child care center this summer and loved it. It wasn't the day care he attended as a toddler/preschooler, and the day camp and afternoon program are housed in a building that is completely separate from the early childhood program. So he never sees the 'babies' and doesn't feel like he's being treated like a little kid. Although there are learning experiences (mostly STEM related), everything is done in a fun way so that kids don't really even realize that they're learning. And they have field trips two to three times a week. They accept children through 5th grade, but they're always separated by age. He has a few hours in the evening to play with his neighborhood, which is just about the right amount of time. It's been a sweet summer for him.

I'd look at other day camp programs that are run by other child care centers. Enchanted Care, Goddard, KinderCare, and the Y all have programs for his age. Call them and ask them to send you their summer activity calendar.

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