Many of us remember our summer break being just one long playdate with our neighbors and siblings. It was a mixture of water balloon fights, blowing bubbles, capture the flag, sleeping in and ice cream trucks. Today, a kid’s summer break is filled with soccer travel teams, hockey tournaments and art projects. Although it is important to give your child time to decompress on their own terms, summer is an amazing time to offer your kids enrichment and test true areas of interest.
Years ago, the summer camp industry offered limited enrollment options. Today, most camp programs offer four categories of enrollment:
- Entire Summer (which the schedule can conflict depending on your child’s school schedule). This usually has a price break.
- One-week at a time. An ala carte style booking, allowing you to mix up your kid’s summer camp experience.
- Drop-in Day Options – which cost more on a daily basis than purchasing an entire week, but are awesome for parents you get many days off through out the summer.
- Blocks – meaning theme based camps that have a progression for a 2-4 week period. These are nice if you want flexibility, yet a bit of consistency throughout your summer break.
I am lucky that my kids are the perfect summer camp age. In other words, they are all old enough to attend most camps available in the marketplace. If you have several kids that all want different camp experiences it can be challenging, because you essentially become a chauffer and it shortens your productive work day hours. As a parent, we all try to do our best to enroll our kids in programs they will enjoy. Here are some tips when planning your summer camp schedule. I have complied these knowing that camps for the entire summer can be expensive and logistics are challenging when most camps end at 3pm.
10 Tips for Booking Summer Camp
- Make sure their hours fit your schedule. Most camps end at 3pm, but might offer the option to pay extra for late pick-ups. Some camps include late picks up in their prices
- Ask about the camp’s technology policy. Some camps do not permit kids to bring their tablets so they remain less distracted during programming.
- Ask if they plan field trips during the summer. If so, clarify if they are walking field trips or on a bus. Also, find out if there is an additional fee.
- If a camp interested you now, make sure you reach out to see if they offer early bird pricing or have a FLASH sale coming up. Most programs have an amazing discount for early enrollment. This is a great way to save a lot of money.
- Look at the refund policy. If you are taking advantage of early bird specials, most places will not give a refund.
- Many camps today offer drop in days. If you have travel plans over the summer and only need camp for the first part of the week, you can still enroll your child.
- Many camps offer sibling discounts. Ask if it applies to early bird pricing. Some places only give the sibling discounts on regular priced programs since two discounts can not be applied at one time on their services.
- If you are interested in a summer camp program that you have not attended in the past, call that business and get added to their email list. This is important because it will keep you in the loop when sales, deals and extra camps are added.
- Make sure you inquire about their lunch and food policy. Some places require you to provide packed lunches and others include the food in the cost of the camp. You will notice camps can range in price. Many of the more expensive camps include food and snacks. When you analyze this extra cost, you might find that it is actually a value. Also, inquire if lunches have the option to be stored in a refrigerator. This will effect what you pack for lunch.
- Check on the size of the camp. Many of the camps listed here break the kids into smaller groups during structured activities.
Chicago's Most Unique Themed Summer Camp Options
North Side of Chicago / Naperville / Libertyville
If you kid want to learn how to conquer the amazing feats they see on American Ninja Warrior, this camp is perfect for them. UNW is offering a mixture of fitness, strengthening and skill building training. Camp is 9am to 12pm and the cost is $45 a 1/2 day and full day is $90.00.
West Loop, Chicago
Fill your kid’s summer days with fitness classes, active games and speed training. Or, if Nerf bullets are littered around your house sign them up for a Nerf Skills week-long camp. In addition, they have a Martial Arts and Stunt Choreography camp. POW! offers a wide range of active camps with a lot of structure. Their program has a few different themes and they have their camps separated by age group. Camp is from 8am to 5pm and the cost is $400.00/week.
- Fit Kids Camps, 7-8 yrs and 9-12 yrs
- Parisi Speed & Sports Performance, 11-15 yrs
- Nerf Skills and Drills, 8-12 yrs
- Martial Arts and Fight Scene Choreography, 8-12 yrs
Wicker Park / Lakeview, Chicago
If Master Chef Junior inspires your child, The Kid’s Table is offering various cooking camps throughout this summer. Imagine coming home from work and your child has prepared dinner for you! Camp is 9am to 3pm and the cost is $400.00.
The popularity of circus arts has skyrocketed. MSA Circus Arts gives kids the opportunity to learn juggling, trampoline, silks, trapeze and even clowning! Setting the clowning around aside, your child will learn basic tumbling, handstands and the foundation of circus athletics. Every three-week session builds into a show for the parents to watch. Camp is from 9am to 3pm for kids 6yrs to 15 yrs old and the cost is $250.00.
West Loop, Chicago
So many kids love being center stage. If your child has a flare for the dramatics, check out the Chicago Children’s Theatre. Their programs range from a girl-powered Shakespeare program to a performance camp for younger kids ages 3.5 to 5 years old. Camp times and prices vary. Refer to the website. But check out some of their themes for the summer. Most camps are 9am to 3pm or 9am to 12pm and range from $275 to $475/week.
- GRRL Power, 9-13 yrs
- Play Time, 3-5 to 5 yrs
- Camp Red Kite, 8-14 yrs and 15-22 yrs
Lincoln Park, Chicago
With the popularity of DIY videos on line, kids have become very crafty. Children learn to hand sew and machine sew. Their camps include the fabric, supplies and materials. This is a great opportunity for a creative child to progress their skills and have amazing work to show to keep by the end of the summer. Check our their awesome themes. The Sew Crafty Studio offers an half-day option but they have and full day camps which range from $500-$600.
- Passion for Fashion, 6-8, 8+ yrs
- Fashionable Draping, 6-8, 8+ yrs
- From Paper to Pattern, 6-8, 8+ yrs
- Vintage Made Modern, 6-8, 8+ yrs
South Loop, Chicago
If your kid knows how to bust a move, immerse them in a hip-hop dance program that will make them feel like a music video dancer. Kids will participate in hip-hop classes, which will include choreography, strength and stretch training. For the natural dancer in your family, give them structured training to look like an on-stage dancer. Camp is 9am to 5pm for kids 7-14 yrs and costs $350.00 to $400.00/week.
Lakeview/Lincoln Park, Chicago
If Transformers, Bumblebee and Megatron have captured your kid's attention, maybe it is time to let them build their own robot. Robot City offers a great mix of robot building and mechanical engineering fundamentals. Their camps also expose kids to cubelets, motors and generators. Camps price includes materials and robot kits. They run from 9am to 4pm. There are half-day and full-day options. The cost is $250.00 to $450.00 per week.
Gold Coast, Chicago
Shows like America’s Got Talent and The Voice have inspired so many children to dream of being a performer. Porchlight Music Theatre is an award-winning program that gives your child a taste of what it is to become a Broadway Star. Camp is from 9am to 3pm and the cost is $650.00 for two weeks.
Hyde Park, Chicago
For the kids that are huge Harry Potter fans check out The Laboratory summer programs. Their programs challenge the young mind hoping to become an inventor, engineer or architect. They have had wide success with their Harry Potter series and evolved their concept this year. Camps are 9am to 3pm and cost about $465.00/week.
- Science of the Wizarding World: Finding Fantastic Beasts, 8-12yrs
- Camp Half Blood: The Percy Jackson Series, 8-12 yrs.
- Choose Your Own Adventure: Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse, 8-12 yrs
West Loop, Chicago
Allow your young dancer to explore on and off camera choreography. Dancers will learn and perform an adaptation of Sleeping Beauty. Aside from this magical ballet for kids ages 9-16 yrs they also have other programs throughout the summer. Their camp is 9am to 4pm and the cost is $450.00/week.
Lincoln Park, Chicago
Is it hard to tell if your child has a knack for technology, or they just love being on their tablet? Develop their tech-skills by signing them up for a Codeverse camp. Kids learn technology fundamentals in a fun collaborative setting. Codeverse organizes their kids by 1st to 4th grade and 5th to 8th. Their program also includes lunch and snacks. Camps run 9am to 3pm and cost $800.00/wk.