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Low-Cost Summer Programs

March 13, 2014

By Kevin Rutter

Children run through a field holding hands and smiling.

Summer seems like a long way off, but it is never too early to start planning things for your children to do when they are off from school. This is a critical time for kids to engage in activities to supplement their learning at school, learn something new, socialize with their peers, and play.

Growing up, my mom gave me the brochure for summer activities at the local park district and told me to choose one myself or she would choose one for me. I am glad she did because it got me out of the house to meet new friends, exercise, and learn about things I would not have encountered in my daily routine.

As a teacher, I am currently getting letters and emails regarding low-cost summer opportunities for my students from a wide variety of institutions. There are many low-cost summer programs available in your community. Here are some places to start looking:

  • YMCA. They offer day camps, specialty camps, and overnight camps, in addition to daily activities for children.
  • Park districts. Many park districts offer summer day camps that include field trips, learning activities, and sports. They can even cost less than $5 an hour per child!
  • Reading camps at the local library. Your child or teen can join others to read together and discuss books. All they need is a library card.
  • Church camps. Ask your church if they offer youth programs in the summer. These are usually free or discounted compared to other organizations.
  • Local colleges. Local colleges and universities offer various programs for children of all ages, from early childhood daycare to teen theatre programs.

There is an equally large assortment of activities to choose from and different levels of time commitment ranging from a couple of hours on the weekend to overnight summer camps away from home. Do not be scared of these longer overnight camps, as they can be incredible experiences for your child.

Over the years I have had several students who were accepted into really amazing summer camps, only to have the parents say no because they were too afraid to let them go overnight. I strongly encourage parents to let their child attend these types of trips for the experience after checking with teachers, counselors, and program administrators about of the details of the camp including itineraries, safety, and ways to communicate while away.

Summer is a great time to step away from school for your child and great opportunities are out there to expand horizons and develop skills. Feel free to use my mother’s motivational technique: your child chooses an activity outside of the house or you do!


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