7 On Your Side: Summer camps for kids


Many families go off on vacation for a week or two, part of the summer. But what about the rest of the time? Kids get bored hanging around the house and parents say children actually like structured activity. That's why summer camps are so popular. But they're filling up fast this year, and they can be expensive.

It's almost that time when the final school bell rings, kids are set free, a whole summer stretches before them.

"That's where the panic comes in, because you want to make sure they're doing something productive and interesting," Julie Kase said.

The San Francisco resident says it takes a lot of planning to fill the days for her 12-year-old daughter Holly.

"She does need to be occupied while I'm working, she needs to be doing activities she enjoys because it makes my life easier," Kase said.

Like Kase, millions of families rely on summer camps to provide children with enriching activities and a place to go while mom and dad are at work. However, camps are filling up.

"A lot of camps are full, but there are still a lot of camps that have availability," said San Francisco resident Nina Thompson.

Thompson works for GoKid.org, a nonprofit that helps families find activities for kids. She says there are still openings, but there's another consideration -- the cost.

"Anywhere between $300 to $500 a week," Thompson said.

7 On Your Side, however, found there are plenty of bargains, even camps that are free.

For example, San Francisco police run a youth fishing program. Off-duty officers take kids, rods, and reels out on the Bay or ocean, and it's absolutely free.

Also, "Handful Players" of San Francisco operates a free musical theater camp during the summer.

And the nonprofit organization "Aim High" operates camps throughout the Bay Area offering academics, art, and sports. All absolutely free.

There are also dozens of low-cost camps that also offer scholarships. You'll find many at your local recreation and parks department.

For example, the City of Oakland has more than 200 day camps costing as little as $60 per week. The City San Jose runs more than 40 day camps that cost just $139 per week. And the City of Vallejo has a variety of day camps for as little as $75 to $100 per week.

"They have sibling discounts if you sign up for multiple weeks," Thompson said.

Also look for coupons like these offering discounts on a variety of Bay Area camps. Most of all, Thompson says camp activities vary widely, so ask your children what they want to do.

"My favorite thing to do at camp was probably laser tag with my friends," San Francisco resident Holly Kase said.

Fellow San Francisco resident Grace Cookston adds, "It's like a dance one, that teaches you all kinds of dances."

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