8 Alternatives to Sending Your Child to a Pricey Summer Camp
Posted: May 28, 2015
From tapping your local park system to creating your own camp, cheap ideas abound.
Unfortunately, not every parent can afford a traditional summer camp, especially if we're talking the overnight variety in which your kid bonds with a bunch of other kids and plays hilarious pranks on the camp director. (If you've never seen Bill Murray's movie "Meatballs," rent it now.) According to stats from the American Camp Association, the weekly cost of an overnight camp averages about $690, but as any parent who has done a little research knows, the costs can eclipse that, exceeding $1,000 a week.
Fortunately, it's possible to find a happy medium between sending your kids to an overnight summer camp for a week or month and parking them in front of a device all day. So if you're looking for lower-cost activities for your kids this summer, here are some ideas, ranging from different types of day camps to things you simply may have not considered.
Try your local park system. Josh Lindenmuth, chief information officer of a payroll company in Baltimore, says that he and his wife, who both work, have two elementary school-age kids, whom they send to programs offered by their local parks.
"The county and township parks offer full-day programs that cost less than day care, so we actually save money," Lindenmuth says. Additionally, he says, the programs are "well-structured, well-staffed and give our children a chance to play outside for many hours all summer. There are dozens of programs like this in my county, so I always recommend that other parents look for similar programs around them."
Look into a STEM summer program. The United States Patent and Trademark Office, with curriculum developed by the National Inventors Hall of Fame, has a summer program called Camp Invention, which would seem to go against our "no camp" theme, but it is fairly affordable for some parents. There are 1,200 Camp Invention programs, held at schools throughout the U.S., so there's a decent chance one is going on in your area.
For $220 a week, the five-day program runs from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and offers first- through sixth-graders the chance to build three-dimensional video games, design racing karts and learn how to do things like design invention prototypes and ultimately sell them. For more information, check out campinvention.org.
Search Meetup.com. This would require parental involvement, but still may lead to something fun for you and your kids to do during the summer. Meetup.com is designed for people of all ages to find like-minded folks to do activities with. For instance, if you like books, you might use the site to find a book club in your area. And if you're a parent with young children looking to meet other parents with young children, you might find a nature playgroup or a group for parents and kids who like going to the zoo.
Try Blayz.com. If you have teenagers in high school, and you would like them to do something more useful with their time than whatever it is they're doing, this site could come in handy. It can lead you to everything from summer camps to internships and volunteering opportunities, all of which may build your kid's character and his or her college resume. (It's a new site, having started in January. So you may not find opportunities in every state, but it’s worth checking out.)
Seek your local church. Some churches have day camps. At least, that's what Cherie Lowe, an Indianapolis resident and blogger at QueenofFree.net, discovered last year. Her daughter attended three sports-themed day camps last summer at a large church in her area.
"It only cost $50 a week," Lowe says, adding that the camp lasted from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., and concluded with a big pizza party on the final day.