Inexpensive summer camps

Send a Kid to Camp

by Tricia Goss

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Summertime is drawing near and your children are begging you to let them go to camp this year. Perhaps you have fond memories of your own summers singing around a campfire, swimming in a lake, or hunting those infamous snipes. Or maybe you always longed to go to camp yourself, but were never able. Either way, you realize it would be a terrific experience for your kids as well as a break for you! You just don't know if you can afford it. Before you say no, look at these ideas, which can help make your offspring's summer dream a reality.

Seek out scholarships. If there is a particular camp your child wants to go to, call them directly to inquire whether they offer scholarships. Some camps offer financial assistance to families living on a certain income. Others give aid to kids who reside in urban areas. Specialty camps often cut the cost for campers who fit specific criteria. For example, if your child is a local tennis star, she may qualify for a tennis camp scholarship.

Membership has its benefits. Are you a member of the YMCA or YWCA? Members typically are entitled to discounted rates. Even if you are not a member, Y's generally offer terrific, low-cost camps. Do you belong to a church? Call the church office and inquire whether your congregation is affiliated with any camps. Oftentimes, churches will help foot the bill for their member's kids. Is your child a scout? Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Camp Fire, and other scouting councils offer fun, affordable camps to their members.

Barter. Do you have skills that might benefit a camp? Offer to work as a nurse, arts and crafts teacher, or swimming instructor in exchange for your child's tuition. Consider what talents you have to offer, or contact the camp and ask them what abilities they would profit from. This is a great idea for those parents who are not quite sure their kids are ready for sleep away camp, as Mom or Dad will be close by.

Get a job, kid! If your would-be camper is a teenager who enjoys younger children, talk to them about becoming a camp counselor. Not only would they gain tremendous life experience, the satisfaction of helping others, and job experience for their resume, but they'd also get to enjoy camp life and get paid for it!

Take turns. Perhaps you can afford to send only one of your brood. That's okay! It can become a tradition in your family that every child goes to camp the year they reach a certain age. Be sure to give some one-on-one attention to the kids that stay home.

Take it day by day. Find out whether your child's school, your city's Parks and Recreation program, or a local non-profit agency has a day camp your kids would enjoy. Day camps are typically very affordable and give kids camp experience without having to leave home. Day camp is ideal for kids (or moms!) who aren't yet ready for sleep away camp.

By doing your research and using your imagination, your kids could be sitting around a campfire telling spooky stories, eating s'mores, and singing Kumbayah. Even better, they'll be creating memories to last a lifetime.

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