We've barely put our sweaters away, and yet it's time to think about summer camps. That's because if you want to secure spots in some of the better ones, you have to enroll now or soon.
As that classic art house Bill Murray film, Meatballs, implores: Are you ready for the summer?
If you don't have your plans nailed down by April, you often are out of luck, Chuck.
Some parents are legendary for their ability to piece together a fabulous summer for their kids, such as a schedule full of sports, animals, camping and music. The other option is to choose the less complicated and more economical route of a summer-long program at a city recreation center, St. Petersburg College's College for Kids or the YMCA.
Most camps cost an average of $120 a week, but some run more than $200 a week, and the city-sponsored camps are typically the least expensive. That's why you see parents camping out at midnight the night before sign-ups to secure their kids a spot.
But resign yourself to the fact that you need to start thinking in March about where to send your kids because even in early April, it's too late for some of the better ones.
We have a number of interesting choices at our online list of summer camps, from creating a salt marsh nursery (tampabaywatch.org), to learning to cook (idsyes.com) or putting on a musical at American Stage (americanstage.org).
Here are some tips from experienced moms to help with your search:
• Consider your children's personality and interests. If they are not into sports, they are not going to like an outdoor sports camp. Try to find a camp that they will have an interest in and is within your budget.
• Learn about the counselors. Find out who they are, how old they are and what kind of training they have.
• Ask questions such as: What is your counselor-to-camper ratio? What are your hours of operation? What activities do children engage in on a daily basis? Is there a pool or some other way to cool off or get out of the sun? What happens if your child is sick for a week; can you get a refund for days missed?
• Prepare your child by talking about the summer day camp experience, especially if it's his or her first time at camp. Talk about the positives, including the activities he or she will enjoy, and the prospect of making new friends.