January 21, 2016

10 tips for choosing summer camps

by Summer camp planning tips

These tips can help you organize your schedule, save money and make the most of your child’s summer.


My son was a kindergartner last year, so last summer was our first year experiencing summer camp. My husband and I both work full-time, so we needed camp throughout the summer.

Whether you want to sign your child up for just a few weeks to add variety (and give you a break!) or you need camp for the entire summer, here are some considerations for choosing a program:

  1. Research now: Some summer camps begin registration as early as February, so now is the time to determine which programs interest you. I found that posting on Facebook was a great way to get feedback from friends about many local camps they recommended.
  2. Location: Nashville offers many amazing camps, but you need to keep in mind what will be convenient to your home and/or work. This will help you narrow down what camps make sense for your family.
  3. Times: Pay attention to start and end times for summer camps. Some offer extended care, which is helpful for working parents, while others have more limited hours.
  4. Transportation: Depending on camp location, you might need to do some planning for getting to and from camp, whether that is a different parent handling the drop-off/pick-up, coordinating carpools or using a camp bus service (if offered).
  5. Budget: Camps vary a great deal in cost, so having a budget in mind will help guide what summer camps make sense for your family. We decided to have one “splurge” camp, which was offset by some more affordable options.
  6. Variety: Because of the diversity of summer camps available in Nashville, consider planning a variety of camps for your child. This will make for a more engaging and interesting summer. For instance, in the same summer my son did an outdoor camp at Warner Parks, an art camp at a small studio in Bellevue and a science camp at a local school.
  7. Stay organized: As you gather information about summer camps, it is important to stay organized. A system that worked for me was creating a Google document that had information about the camps we were interested in, dates, registration information, web links and names of friends who had recommended them. I also printed a calendar and used pencil when trying to figure out what camps would work certain weeks.
  8. Ask questions: Don’t be afraid to reach out to the camp director before and/or after registration if you have questions. I always found directors to be eager to provide information and help.
  9. Join friends: While your child will make friends at camp, nothing beats a familiar face. If possible, coordinate your camp plans with friends. We found that our son loved the weeks that he had a buddy at camp.
  10. Be excited: Camp offers so many wonderful experiences for your child and truly makes for a memorable summer!

Jessica Turner is a mom of three, author and member of Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s content team. She also blogs at The Mom Creative.

What considerations would you add to this list? Any local camps in particular that your family has loved? Please share in the comments.

Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt offers a directory of summer camps by medical condition. Click here for the list.

Early Childhood, Middle Childhood, Winter

4 thoughts on “10 tips for choosing summer camps”

  1. campnavigator says:

    Great post, perfect summer camps guide!! These are the good camps tips and guidance for the parents, students while choosing a camp. Thanks for sharing it!

  2. Ivy Baker says:

    This is some really good information about summer camp. My niece has really been wanting to go to a camp this summer. So, I like that you pointed out that it would be smart to do a lot of research before choosing a place. I would want to know that my niece would be safe at where she was.

  3. Tomas Killington says:

    My wife and I are wanting to help our son be more social. He really enjoys outdoor activities, and we thought a summer camp would be really good for him. I didn’t realize how important it is to determine what transportation services are available to ensure your child gets to and from the camp safely. I’ll be sure to remember this consideration moving forward.

  4. kylewayne182 says:

    I found your tip about directors being eager to provide information very useful! My brother wants to find a summer camp for his 13 year old son but needs to educate himself more on the subject. I think I’ll talk to him about talking with some local camp directors to know more about them.

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