Camp Galileo by Chiara Shine

You’ve barely resurfaced from Spring Break and now planning for summer camps is in full gear. It can be daunting, especially for parents of younger kids who are new to the ‘circuit’. Gone are the days where most kids just went to the local Y day camp all summer, and, although available, kids seem to head to sleep-away camp much less frequently than back east. So what is an overscheduled parent to do? Many create an elaborate patchwork of camps, one week here, two there, perhaps a family vacation squished in somewhere.
Feeling overwhelmed yet? A good place to start is Sign Up for Camp. Started by Bay Area mom Jennifer Silva, the site was born out of frustration with the ad hoc system and the hassle of coordinating it all. The site is easy to use. You plug in your zip code, age of your child and how far a radius interests you, and voila, a comprehensive listing of camps in your area pops up for you to research and contact. You can save camps that interest you to your calendar and coordinate and share with other parents…it’s one stop shopping.
Word of mouth is truly still the best way to find a great camp. Talk with other parents in your neighborhood; create email groups to share information and scheduling.
Prices range from the affordable Park and Rec Camps which run less than $100 a week, to more high-end ones, which can set you back $400 or more for a week. Park and Rec camps such as Glen Canyon’s Silver Tree Camp can be a bit like Lord of the Flies, but paired with a more focused camp like Camp Galileo, which offers art, science and outdoor fun, your child can get a real mix of styles and attention.  There are 21 Camp Galileo locations in San Francisco, Marin, East Bay, South Bay and the Peninsula. Camp Edmo also offers an educational day camp model (with emphasis on the arts and science), and serves locations in SF, Marin, and the East Bay for K-5th graders. If you want an old-school day camp, the YMCA will do the trick. More than 14 locations are served including SF, San Mateo and Marin. Looking for a camp for your preschooler? The Bay Area Discovery Museum offers themed camps for preschool and pre-K kids (as young as 3) but they fill up extremely fast.
Many schools offer summer camps, Synergy School, for example,  in the Mission District of the city, offers a great mix of structured activities and free play and the cost runs about half of the more posh camps. Don’t forget Zoo Camp and the SPCA Camp for animal lovers or Lego Camp for your budding architects. Basically, there is a camp for most every niche; soccer camp, circus camp, rock climbing, cooking or Shakespeare camp (the deals for locals  in certain ZIP codes at this drama-focused camp are truly outstanding). Don’t you wish you could go to summer camp?

—Darya Mead