School Break Camps: Open Thread

School Break CampsDo your kids go to school break camps during winter and spring school vacations? With day care, you usually don’t have to worry — just send them to your regular provider. But parents of school-age kids need to find an alternative child care situation.

Good sources for information about school break camps include local parent magazines and websites, and local parent email lists/groups. Last month I asked about camps in a Facebook group for parents who live in my town and got some great ideas. (They included unexpected options from a chess center and aerial arts studio!) Depending on where you live, you might find school break camps from providers like these:

  • Cultural attractions: Check museums, art galleries, zoos, and other institutions. (Think outside the box: Even our local animal shelter offers break camps!)
  • Kid-oriented businesses: Good bets include martial arts centers, dance studios, climbing gyms, or places like The Little Gym.
  • STEM & arts centers: Your kids could spend a week enjoying photography, creative writing, robotics, Lego building, or Minecraft.
  • Grocery stores: Larger stores may offer kids’ cooking classes during breaks.
  • Libraries and bookstores 
  • Gyms/pools/YMCA 
  • Community centers/rec centers
  • Academic/tutoring businesses 

So, let’s talk about what you do during school vacations! Do you ask family for help or hire a babysitter? Do you ask your nanny to work extra hours? Do you enroll your kids in camp? Do you take time off, or go on a family vacation? Also, how do you find out about camps? When you’ve chosen a school break camp, does it usually fit your work schedule? (Or does it seem geared toward families with a stay-at-home parent?) When do you think kids are old enough to stay at home while you’re at work?

Pictured at top: Lego Club — 2012, originally uploaded to Flickr by Clearwater Public Library System Photos


  1. Anonymous says:

    We picked our school because it has onsite summer camp. I highly recommend this option if it is available. For spring break and other breaks, we send him to a camp at another private school in our neighborhood or have family come to visit.

  2. mascot says:

    For teacher workdays and early dismissal, the school offers “holiday” childcare. For actual holidays and school breaks during the year, it’s a bit of a patchwork. YMCA type camp is good for things like President’s day. His school has a summer day camp program that we will probably use again this year. Grandparents usually step in for part of winter and summer break for a week or so at a time.
    Trying not to panic about our 12(!!!!) day spring break and what the heck we are supposed to do then. It doesn’t line up with the public school breaks so the normal camps don’t work.

  3. Lorelai Gilmore says:

    Every year, on January 1, I wake up and think “It’s SUMMER CAMP REGISTRATION SEASON!” I have a few tips:

    1) Talk to everyone about summer camps. Get recommendations from friends, colleagues, the Internet.

    2) I think it’s helpful to book several weeks in the same place. It’s nice to have a routine and get into the rhythm of always going to one place. We usually do four weeks at a great camp that is walking distance from our house AND has on-site lunch. It’s a no-brainer for us. It feels sometimes like we should be sending kids to multiple camps so they can do other things, but all that variation is hard on kids and mostly hard on parents! So we find what works and do a lot of it.

    3) Schedule kid swaps. We send our kids to their cousins for a week and they come to us for a week. It’s a great way to build cousin bonds and diversify the summer experience – kids get playtime with my sister, and go to camp with us.

    4) Once you have your camp schedule in place, don’t hesitate to let others know your plans. In my experience, people often want to send their kids to camp with a friend and appreciate knowing what you’re doing so they can join you. This can also yield useful carpooling – especially good for camps that require more of a commute!

  4. Meg Murry says:

    I’ve only started thinking about summer camps, and I live in a very laid back town where a lot of the camp programs (that are run by other organizations, not ones that are only camps) won’t get their act together for a few more weeks – usually around mid-March is when all the local summer stuff is nailed down.

    Another source for camp programs are local non-profits that have an educational component – for instance, I am considering signing my son up for a camp program run by the local historical society. However, the majority of these programs are at times like 9-3, so while they keep my kids from getting bored all day, they still present a major logistical challenge for working parents. From what I understand, part of it is the definition of “day camp” vs “daycare” and licensing in my state and that “day camp” can only be for X hours a day (something like 6 – definitely not all day) although some of the groups are getting around it by having one organization do a morning “camp” and another do an afternoon “camp” down the street, and there is a discount if you sign your kids up for both. Or a “camp” from 9-3 plus a separate “class” from 3-5 afterwards.

    I have fairly generous vacation time at my current job, but now I’m in an internal debate about whether I should take that time for spring break, Christmas break, summer, etc or sign my kids up for all the camps and plan to use the time for actual vacation.

    Our daycare has gone back and forth about offering summer programs for school age kids. Unfortunately in our state its a separate license for day camp vs daycare for school age vs about a million different other things, so every year the director has to make a guess as to whether the enrollment will be there to make it worthwhile for them financially vs whether they will lose families with young kids if the older kid can’t come too. So I’d say don’t make your daycare decisions based on which have school age care when your kids are tiny – because it can change multiple times before your kids are actually school aged.

  5. Licensingorbust says:

    Look for information from your state child care licensing entity about the licensing status of summer camps. Many are exempt from any sort of safety inspection and run ridiculously high child:staff ratios. If they’re not inspected by the state in any way, make sure to ask those questions or look for another national designation, certification, or affiliation that speaks to the safety of their staff practices. Interestingly, some of the spendy/fancy ones are the worst offenders because parents assume a nice brand covers for the basics!

Speak Your Mind