What are YOU going to do with your kids this summer? We’re trying to figure it out!

My soon-to-be 12-year-old is adamant that, this summer, he’s not going to a camp.

Even though, from our recollection, he’s very much enjoyed most of his camp experiences. (Talk about someone indulging in revisionist history!)
There were the somewhat costly but intriguing ID Tech camps offered at St. Mary’s College, which he attended over a couple summers and where he said he made friends and learned to create his own computer games.
He also mostly very much enjoyed the Sports Camps offered through the City of Walnut Creek. Over the past few summers, he played soccer and basketball, then hung out at the Clarke Swim Center at Heather Farm Park. He was also introduced to lacrosse and golf. He was intrigued by lacrosse, but golf very much struck a chord with him, and golf is the sport that–for now at least–has captured his interest.

He has tried to make a very impassioned case about how he just wants to relax this summer, to chill… And not go to camp!!! He talks about wanting to spend time with his friends and  “hang out.”
The “hanging out” part gives us pause. Especially when we’re talking about a young male of a certain age.
Then again, I grew up mostly never going to a day-, half-day or sleep-away camp.  I did a lot of “hanging out” over the summers. Back when I was growing up, that meant, for me, watching lots of old movies on TV, and other “bad TV.” It’s true that the selection of bad TV available to me when I was growing up is nowhere near the scope and potential badness of “bad TV” now available to kids.  Cable was barely a concept back in the Stone Age of my youth. 
To give myself some non-media-engrossed cred, I  did spend a fair bit of my aimless summers just relaxing, wandering the neighborhood, reading books, and doing other things that parents of a certain bent now view with nostalgia and as useful to developing a balanced happy life.

But it’s 2010, and we’re all so neurotic about making sure our kids don’t miss any opportunity for potential growth and accomplishment. Also, I’m a working parent. …  But, the older my son gets, the more I wish I was not a full-time working parent; the more I wish I could just be around, so he could kick back over the  summer, be kinda lazy, watch some bad TV (including with his mother) and meander around with friends.
Back to the summer camp question: I wouldn’t mind giving my son a break. After all, he’s been doing this summer camp routine, as a substitute for part-time or full-time day care since he was five. Then again, I know he’s at the age when he actually needs more supervision–not less than he was five years old. So, we’re debating whether he’ll go to camp, or if we can find a camp that would really appeal to him.
So, what are your kids’ summer plans? Camp? Maybe you’ve heard of some really cool and unusual programs? If so, please, please, share that information with other readers–and maybe even me! 
Again, the City of Walnut Creek’s Recreation Division has a good record of running summer programs, and we’ve had a very good experience with it, their counselors, and their supervisors. Also, as kids get older they become eligible to earning summer jobs as “recreation leaders”–err, camp counselors. My son has this summer employment future interests him.
Recently, I learned about a new grass-roots website, Sign Up For Camp. “It is a consolidated listing of camps in the Bay Area, and it’s fully searchable,” says a representative who contacted me. This site, founded by a San Francisco mother of two, “also allows parents to review camps and share their camper’s schedules with one another. It promises to save busy parents hours of time.”

So, check out Sign Up for Camp, and see if it’s useful. Or, if you have other recommendations for resources for me and other readers, please let us know!

26 thoughts on “What are YOU going to do with your kids this summer? We’re trying to figure it out!

  1. You might try swim team. Then there is some organized activity everyday, and lots of time to hang out, too. Even better if he gets a “job” for a couple hours every day, too. You may have to pay his wages, unbeknowst to him to secure such a job, as the boss will really be “watching him”, but he will get some spending money, and work experience. Maybe a neighbor needs some yard work or other chores.

    Full time camp is really hard at this age.

    Good luck!


  2. Dear Crazy, I clicked on the “grass-roots website” Sign Up For Camp.

    I was interested in Boy Scout camp and I tried various searches, but there were no hits. I think that's a little strange. Why are Boy Scout Camps not listed in a “grass-roots website”? Is it because too much grass has made the site politically correct

    It's further interesting that you don't mention boy Scout camp as a possibility for your son. But that really wasn't an option for you, now was it?

    The Boy Scouts of America have helped turn boys into men and leaders of men for a hundred years. When a young man has attained the rank of Eagle Scout, he can look with pride at that accomplishment for the rest of his life.

    That feeling cannot be compared to the dubious challenge of creating yet another computer game…


  3. 7:54 a.m. Actually, we were wondering if there some volunteer work he could do.

    8:03 a.m. I know that the Scouts are a great organization. My son just doesn't happen to be interested. We've brought it up to him.

    As for your saying that creating a computer game is a “dubious” distinction. I disagree. First of all, different kids are into different things. Second, I'm not at all techie or into computer games, but people who are extremely good at this sort of thing do possess a lot of technical skill and creativity. Actually, these days, “dubious” or not, those people are in a position to run the world. Those kinds of skills don't just go into making entertainment, but a lot of other important applications.


  4. When I think back about my summers as a 12 year old, it's the unscheduled hanging out times that I remember most fondly, not the camps. Don't discount the social skills kids develop when hanging with the pack or the potential for discovery when they're walking along the creek and watching the tadpoles or lizards.


  5. The best bargain in town – and has been for years – is Arts,Adventures and Academics. It is an excellent summer arts program for kids run by Civic Arts with the help of the City of Walnut Creek and the Walnut Creek School District. Kids get to choose from an enticing menu of arts and fun classes, including performing arts and martial arts. Don't know whether city's budget woes will affect this wonderful summer program. My sons were not the athletic competitive types so they opted out of swim team by 4th or 5th grade. When my oldest son aged out of the Civic Arts summer program he spent one summer as a student volunteer and then the next summer was eligible for a paid teacher assistant slot. We sent the younger boy to ID Tech Camp. It was hugely expensive and he did not like it all that much. Most of these summer programs are for only 1 week and cost a bundle. That's why the Civic Arts program is better.

    Do you or your husband have any relatives you could send him to visit? Cousins? That's a great way to give kids a change of scene, a break from mom and dad and the opportunity to bond with other family members. Also helps foster a little independence and self-reliance. It is okay if they get a little homesick and miss you. Nice for them to know sometimes how good they've got it. So the Civic Arts program which runs like 4 to 6 weeks in the mornings, a little volunteer work in the afternoons, a week or 2 visiting cousins in Michigan and then a week of family vacation with you somewhere. And you've got it.


  6. Thanks for this post… As a working single mom I am always looking for a good summer camp that wont beak the bank!. Here are a few that I have found:

    http://www.caladventurecamps.org – my daughter (9 at the time) attended their skateboard camp last year and enjoyed it- they tour the local skate park and get instruction on all levels- most of the kids where over 10 but younger ones attended too. She had a good time although she came home with some “colorful” sayings. They even offer drop off and pick up for a reasonable price. In addition they have some really good sport camps too hosted at the JCC- last year she took full contact football- they had pads and everything.. very cool. This year its baseball.

    Every summer she attends camp at “The Academy for Martial Arts” studio (Behind the Dutch Girl Cleaners on Mt. Diablo in WC) we are members, but you do not have to be a member of know Tae Kwon Do to participate. This year they are offering a camp for the first two weeks of Summer for kids 9 and up- they are going to do some REALLY cool stuff like repelling in Mt. Diablo and other rock climbing/ extreme sports type things… They don't have anything about it on their website http://www.TAFMA.com – but if you give them a call or drop by the studio they can give you what you need.

    I have also heard of- but have not attended the Sierra Ranch camps in Lafayette- http://www.siennaranch.net/Summer_Camp.html it looks like they have some great outdoor camps for older kids- archery, outdoor challenges… it’s a little pricy for my tiny budget but it could be great if you are looking to mix things up.

    I hope this helps you out- I am looking forward to some new camp ideas myself.


  7. Why don't you listen to him and not push a Camp.

    If you don't start to value what he wants in life he pre-teen annoyance with his moms pushiness will turn into full on teen rebellion.


  8. My daugher's only 3 – so we'll be picking lemons, oranges, pears, peaches and plums throughout the summer.

    Oh, you probably already guessed that! 🙂

    BTW, Soccer Mom:
    Your son would qualify for one of the grant opportunites for volunteers that I've recently written about. Money for college? Good Luck! Have a pleasant day. Happy writing and happy harvesting.


  9. DVC has a program called “College for Kids” which my son did last summer. These are basically academic offerings (with a few sports) and they're offered on the DVC campus. Many of the teachers are regular DVC instructors. Think of it as summer school for kids who like school. They have a wide variety of class choices. My son took band and Japanese. It's structured in 2 “terms” that last about 6 weeks each. Practically speaking a child could take 2 or 3 different classes per session. We only did one session because I signed up too late for the first one.
    The cost is super affordable I was unemployed last summer and we were watching every penny. Things are better now and I can afford more expensive camps but I think my son is going to want to go back to DVC.


  10. I say buy alot of Doritos and Pepsi, get the expanded cable option, and invest in a number of video games.

    Your son will thank you for a perfect summer.


  11. My mom used to drop me off at the local public golf course everyday during the summer on her way to work. I had a few friends whose parents did the same thing and we'd play 2 rounds of golf every day. Back then a Jr. pass for unlimited summer play was $50/month. Mom would pack me a lunch and some snacks (or give me a few dollars to spend at the snack bar if I was lucky) and we'd play 18 holes, eat lunch, then play 18 again. It was great exercise, and being out there everyday got each of us to really appreciate and get good at the game. It paid off for my parents too; not only did we stay out of trouble, but all those summer days spent playing all day as a 12 year old helped me and 3 of my friends get full ride scholarships later on. (2 Cal 1 Stanford and 1 U of A) I'm Still playing 30 years later and loving it. The memories of being outside and playing golf all day each summer are some of the best of my life.


  12. Soccer Mom:

    You wrote that your son is into golf right now. That's your answer!

    I'm assuming you do not belong to a country club, so check into junior golf programs at public courses; he could have a blast spending all day on the links.

    I would check Boundary Oak in WC, and Diablo Creek in Concord. I believe they both have junior programs that involve lessons, green fees, etc.

    I spent many, many summer days on golf courses as a kid. I wish I could do that still.


  13. Some camps are more fun than others. We used to camp at Camp Fox on Catalina Island when we were kids. Even the boat ride over from San Pedro was fun. Great times, the kids love it.


  14. Michelle Obama is making a significant effort against child obesity and you want to stick your kid in front of a computer screen for a week or so to create computer games. I don't know if your kid is prone to pudginess or not, but this is path to it…


  15. Hello there,
    Another reader e-mailed me with another suggestion:
    “Your son might be interested in ARF's program for middle schoolers, the All-Stars .. they have some kind of camp, and then the teens can become volunteers there. More info is on their web page. I volunteer there and see lots of the young people socializing with the cats and dogs, and they seem to love it.”

    I have heard great things about this camp–as much as I have, uh, made little jabs at Tony La Russa, Animal Rescue Foundation's founder. My jabs aside, I appreciate this reader letting me know, and it's another thing I'll be checking out…


  16. SM,

    My friend sent her kid to ARF's summer camp. Mom reasonably assumed that the girl would be walking and feeding animals, and cleaning cages. You know, general care of the animals.

    Instead the girl spent all of her time washing windows and other basic janitorial duties. My friend was EXTREMELY disappointed with ARF, and would not send her child there again. This happened the summer before last.


  17. My kids swim year round, so we go to swim meets and swim regularly every day.

    In addition, we subscribe to several academic enrichment websites, and print out worksheets, so the kids don't slip academically during the summer.

    There are tons of activities that aren't organized such as going to the park, amusement parks, bicycling, and a myriad of other things.

    We push our kids so much during the school year, I like to give them some free time and space during the summer.


  18. Packing up and leaving not so sunny liverpool and spending the summer letting the kids feel some proper Californian sun in the bay area…thats the plan.


  19. Thanks for the mention of Sign Up For Camp (http://www.signupforcamp.com).

    Would your son enjoy an overnight camp? Wanderers has an overnight Sonoma Coast camp (really camping)that sounds really great to me.


    Camp Roughing It is pricey, but looks like a great outdoor camp experience for kids. It has a shuttle pick-up in Walnut Creek.

    If he likes iD Tech, but it's too pricey, you might try Camp EdTech or Galileo Summer Quest, which have movie-making, animation and other tech/creative projects.

    Just for the record, we have no political correctness issues with scouts – my son is a boy scout. We've been trying to get as many camps as possible on board. We're still young so there are many camps that we just haven't gotten to yet. But there's lots of great examples here.


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