First of all, if you find a blog post or influencer on social media promising you stress-free summer camp planning, do not click. In fact, block those people. There is no such thing. Unless you happen to be the unicorn of a parent with the unicorn of a kid who is happy going to one camp all day, all summer long. And if that's you, you hit the jackpot.
Now for the rest of us…
It’s January. There is ice on the ground. You are begging your kids to wear long pants and put on a heavier coat every morning before school. Yet, it’s already time to plan and register them for summer camps. It’s insane.
And like everything else as a parent these days, our culture seems to want to make it harder for us every year. They open up registration even earlier each year. (Some opened up in December. Seriously?! Because we need that on top of the holidays?) They rarely keep things the same as last year, so you always have to look to see what’s changed. Did they make it half a day? They started at 9 am instead of 8 am? Did they drop the lunch being provided? They changed the location?
We all have our different strategies. Some plan early. Some intentionally start planning late because that weeds out options for you, so you take what’s left. And some don’t plan at all and just wing it. It all works; it’s just a matter of what feels good for you.
For our planners out there and especially those with multiple kids, varying ages, and different interests, we feel you. And we’re here for you. At Sherah, our mission is to empower moms and to revolutionize how to keep the busy modern family running more smoothly.
So let’s do this….
Pick your planning device - Some do their annual spreadsheet or a Google doc that can easily be shared with their partner or other parents. Some have their trusted paper journal so they can physically see week by week throughout the summer. Some have a coffee meeting with fellow parents to plan it out together. Sherah provides an awesome spreadsheet to our members that helps them plan out their summer by the week or by kid - whichever they prefer.
Review last year’s summer schedule - Think back to last summer and try to remember what you really liked about it. What did you not like so much? What did you wish were different? How have your kids, their interests, and your family’s needs changed in the past year? Has anything with work demands changed?
Know your goals for this year - After thinking back over last summer, be clear on your goals for this year. Maybe you need more actual coverage so you can focus more at work. Maybe you need less coverage because the kids are growing up. Want your kids to try a new sport? Many families this year are tightening their budgets. And some are trying to be more intentional about family time. We’re all different and that’s okay. Know what’s right for your family and don’t be swayed by all the mom text chatter about what they’re doing this summer.
Write down a few options for each week - To get started, jot down a few options for each kid for each week. It could be a repeat of what they did that week last year if they liked it. Then you can check to see if it’s being offered again that week. It could be a suggestion for a new camp that someone else mentioned to you that their kid is attending. It could also be that you are taking a vacation that week and don’t need coverage. Start to plan out your options at a high level.
Dig in and look up each camp - Go the website for each camp you’re considering - both the repeats you’ve done before and the new ones you’re considering - and confirm this year’s details. Write down what weeks they’re available and add the weeks that work for you to your planning document as options.
Time to start making decisions - Here comes the tough part. Cutting it down to exactly what you want your summer to look like can often be hard especially if you tend to be a perfectionist, Type A, empathetic mom. Yes, most moms. Start by looking at the weeks where there is a clear winner. Mark that a winner - bold it, highlight it, whatever it takes. Then take the alternates for that week and either delete them or see if they fit well in another week that doesn’t have a clear winner. Don’t forget that if you book multiple kids in the same camp, it will make your life much easier. Plus you sometimes can get a multi-kid discount!
Take a step back and look at the forest - Now that you’ve culled down the list to what you think you want each week for each kid, it’s time to step back. Go back to your goals for this summer - for your family, for yourself, for each kid. Did you achieve them? More together time? More coverage so you can focus at work? Stay within a budget? Make tweaks where needed.
Review (or don’t) with others - We all differ on how much we want to take others’ opinions into consideration. If you have a partner or spouse, maybe they like to be included. Kids always like to be asked, but do you really want to ask them? That’s up to you. Just know they WILL have opinions. Another thing to consider is sharing your schedule with the parents of your kids’ friends. See if their kids want to join your kids, plus see if you can carpool together to make life easier.
Time to register! - Now that you’ve finalized everything, it’s time to click all the links, fill out your kids’ names, gender, DOB, allergies and your credit card for what feels like thousands of times. Be careful because this is where you can get tired, start moving too quickly, and suddenly you’ve signed up your preschooler for the 6th grader’s advanced robotics camp. This only leaves you with yet another task of calling the camp and getting it all fixed on their end.
Add to your calendars - Personal calendar. Work calendar. Spouse calendar. Grandma’s calendar. Family calendar. Add all the camps to the right people’s calendars with the drop off time and location, pick up time and location, type of camp, and whether you need to pack a snack or lunch. Include as much as you can in the calendar invite. You will thank yourself later.
Manage your expectations - Last and definitely not least, remember to manage your expectations. Things are going to go wrong. You’re not going to get your kid into that amazing new drama camp. You’re going to miss a deadline. Someone is going to hate a camp that you thought they’d love. Your kid is going to cry if their bestie isn’t in the same camp. You’re going to feel like you overpaid for some of the camps. It is what it is. Do your best and let the rest go! As you well know by now, this is parenthood every single day.
That’s it! Easy, right?!
We know that with these tips and steps, it’s still not easy. But we hope you find it easier and less stressful. We also hope you realize that you’re not alone in this journey.
And if Sherah can help you with this and all of your other tasks as a busy family, just let us know. We’re here to take as much off your plate as we can so you have more time and energy for more important things. We’ve got you!