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DIY Summer Day Camps: Save Money, Have Fun!

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As a working mom, I’ll never forget the full-blown panic I experienced when my neighborhood summer day camp told me I didn’t make the lotto drawing. I mean, after two years, wasn’t I grandfathered in, for Pete’s sake? You can imagine their answer. (sigh)

So, I’m a fixer. If you are one, you know what I mean. If you’re not, I’m sure you’ve been the victim of one. I called a few other much-less-convenient and much-more-expensive options and struck out. Not to be deterred, I asked our kids about their day camp experience

Come to find out, the kids there were not their favorite, the activities and crafts were repeated each summer, and I questioned the value I was getting for the hefty price I was paying. Once they walked me through the basic structure of their day camp week, I was confident D.I.Y. was the way to go, but thought: how can I improve it for my kids, me and the camp itself?

When I thought about how to pull it off, I immediately thought of a nanny, but let’s face it, nannies are expensive. Next in line was their favorite babysitter, but she had just started college and I doubted she wanted to give up her entire summer to watch our kids. However, my kids liked two days from the neighborhood camp best: field trip day and the day they got to do sports. Sure enough, she was willing to give me two days for those purposes. I pitched her a daily flat fee of about half of what I was paying for both kids at camp and then said I’d reimburse her for expenses. She was in! (wahoo)

This is going great! One other element of traditional summer day camp I thought was important was social interaction. However, like me, our kids like who they like and forced social situations were less than ideal. Social interactions can take lots of forms. In my case, I turned to my neighborhood stay-at-home parents, who also appreciated having a plan when their kids were turned loose for the summer (a day with the grand parents could also be an option). In this case, these folks didn’t want my money, but I talked them into letting me pay for everyone’s activity for the day, which was still less than what I was paying for day camp.

I was willing to give our kids one free day each week when they could lay around and veg out, in the form of playing video games, binging on Netflix or whatever. My one catch was I also added a daily education component. It drove me crazy how “dumb” my smart, wonderful kids were the first few weeks of returning to school. This approach fixed that issue. The best part, it was all flexible to my needs.

In the end, my kids loved this approach to day camp so much that they did it for four years, until they outgrew the need for a camp. Just recently, I launched a website to share my idea with fellow working parents, who don’t like the perils of traditional day camps and prefer a more affordable and customizable solution that their kids actually like better. Here’s hoping it could be a fit for you, too…www.diydaycamp.com.

Kim Pearman is a working mom of two in Denver, CO. After hearing so many of her fellow parents’ day camp woes, she felt compelled to share her awesome (cough) solution. “Cheers to all the innovative parents of happy kids out there!”

 

 

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