One thing that makes summer epic is the right summer camp. And you might be thinking ... But where do I start? How do I determine what’s “right?” There are so many camps! And so many factors to consider!
All true. And we feel your pain. So we’ve assembled a handy guide to make preparing for camp go more smoothly, so your kids can have the best summer ever and you can stay relaxed.
Follow these 5 steps to put your child on the path to a safe, more-amazing-than-ever summer camp experience:
1. BE REALISTIC when choosing a camp
Every child is different, so the “perfect camp” for them will vary quite a bit. Consider your child’s comfort level with strangers and new experiences before choosing a camp; ideally, camp will challenge and inspire your child, not terrify them.
If this will be your child’s first camp experience, it might be better to choose a camp with a wide range of activities. A summer intensive in, say, soccer or theater might sound great to your child in March, but interest might have waned by July. A well-rounded camp program might be a safer first-time bet.
Finally, be honest with yourself about the costs and commute. Affordability is an important factor for many families, and if camp start times just don’t mesh with your work schedule, cross it off your list.
2. Register ASAP
Some camps fill up by spring, so don’t wait until late May to start researching summer camps. With that said, if you waited this long, don’t worry – many local camps don’t even start their registration process until spring. Some parks and recreation department camps even let you register children in person the day of camp. (Call ahead to find out.)
3. BE SMART about money matters
Camps vary widely in price. Some residential programs might cost thousands per week, but day camp could be as little as $50 a week. Do some research before assuming you can’t afford a great camp for your child.
Most camps offer discounts, so find out which ones you qualify for. Many offer discounted rates for multiple kids, alumni and military families as well as early bird registration discounts. Parents who are members of, for example, a sailing club or arts council, might receive discounts if their kids attend the organization’s summer camp, so be sure to ask. Financial assistance is also a possibility at many camps, so find out if you qualify.
You might also qualify for the Child and Dependent Care Credit, which could get you 20 to 35 percent of camp costs back when you file your tax return. (Residential camps won’t qualify, however, and having a caregiver at home during the day is also disqualifying; learn more at IRS.gov.)
Don’t assume camp deposits are refundable; many are not, and you could be out a few hundred dollars if your child doesn’t end up attending that camp.
4. Get your child’s PAPERWORK IN ORDER
The registration process will go more smoothly if you start gathering the forms your child will need to register for camp now rather than scrambling at the last minute. Camps typically require proof of vaccinations and health insurance coverage. In addition, it’s wise to familiarize yourself with the emergency facilities your policy covers and communicate that to the camp, so they don’t take your child somewhere not covered by your insurance. You might want to consider additional accident insurance specifically for kids away at camp as well.
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Finally, if you’re applying for financial assistance, camps are likely to ask for proof of your income and tax returns as part of their evaluation process, so have those handy.
5. GET THE 411 from camp directors
Once you have a camp in mind, tour the site if possible, but if that’s not an option, ask camp directors these questions via phone or email before you make a commitment:
What’s a typical day at camp like?
Consider whether the response sounds too loosey-goosey or too rigid for your child to thrive.
How do you ensure kids’ safety?
More specifically, find out whether there’s a full-time nurse on staff and whether counselors are certified in CPR. Also important: the counselor-to-camper ratio and how many are experienced adult counselors vs. teens/counselors-in-training.
What’s your staff retention rate?
It’s usually an excellent sign if counselors return to work at a camp year after year, because it indicates that the camp is well-organized and takes care that the staff is well trained and that they’re given the tools they need to do their jobs well.
How do you screen your counselors?
Criminal background checks should be part of the hiring process for people working with kids, even if local laws don’t require it. Ask whether applicants’ references are thoroughly checked.
Camps in Pinellas County
Art Academy Summer Camp
The Dunedin Fine Arts Center Camp programs serve kids from 4½ to 14 years old, as well as volunteer/mentorship programs for teens 15 and older. Seasoned art instructors guide kids in sculpture, painting, digital design, and creating murals. Extended care, scholarships and discounts are available.
Summer Adventures with Grace!
Grace Lutheran provides a Christ-centered summer camp with the opportunity for scholars to explore various science topics with daily investigations, physical activities, hands-on art projects, and weekly field trips. Summer camp is for 2-year-olds through scholars entering 6th grade in the 2022-2023 school year. Space is limited. Registration begins Tuesday, March 1, 2022. Six uniquely themed weeklong camps begin June 13, with the final camp beginning July 25. Extended before and after care available.
Summer Art Camp
Weeklong summer camps offer a variety of fun, hands-on activities that encourage creative thinking, original art-making, and playful collaboration. Check website for specifics such as weekly camp themes (camps divided by grades 1-3 and 4-6.).
Located in Palm Harbor, Florida’s largest Christian summer day camp – a ministry of Palm Harbor United Methodist Church – offers the perfect camp experience for your rising kindergartener to 8th grader. Campers participate in a fun field trip plus a special onsite activity and a fun spirit day each week. And on non-field trip / special activity days, students will enjoy activities like STEM, art, creative writing and reading, music and drama, game room, life skills, sports and recreation and more. Each week is uniquely themed. Camp start dates range from June 6 to July 29.
Clearwater Community Sailing Center Summer Camp
Kids 5 to 17 of all experience levels are welcome to come sail the seas with experienced counselors at this full-day camp in Clearwater. One program includes kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding, another windsurfing, another still copiloting two-person 420s. Discounted registration for CCSC members.
clearwatercommunitysailing.org/summer-camp-program/ , 727-517-7776
PGA Junior Golf Camps
With a low student-to-instructor ratio, Certified Professional Golfer Association players help intermediate to junior advanced golfers 9 to 16 years old reach their personal best, during full-day sessions at Hunter’s Green Country Club in Tampa and Countryside Country Club in Clearwater.
Authentic Martial Arts Summer Camp
Kids learn about fitness and nutrition in a setting that emphasizes anti-bullying behavior, building good relationships, learning martial arts and learning responsibility. Camp is offered on two campuses, in Seminole and Largo. Specific details on 2022′s summer camps will be posted online in May.
Bayside Sports Academy Gymnastics Day Camp
Young gymnasts from 5 to 13 years old can tumble through the summer for full or half days of gymnastics camp in St. Petersburg. Campers improve gymnastics skills, play games and can choose from different specialty camps, such as ninja, circus arts, and trampoline & tumbling. Late pickup until 6:30 p.m. available.
Tampa Bay Watch Summer Camps Estuary EDventures
This program is a fun-filled, hands-on learning adventure focused on marine ecology. Campers participate in boating trips, snorkeling excursions, species collection, habitat exploration, and exciting marine science labs and activities. In June, July and August for ages 6-8, 9-12, and 13-15.
Summer Watersports Camp
Eckerd College Waterfront Program offers a range of instruction in watersports for kids ages 5 to 17. Watersports range from windsurfing, sailing, wakeboarding, and water skiing, to exploring marine life, saltwater fishing and more in weekly classes separated by age and interest. Taught by area professionals in nearby Frenchman’s Creek or Boca Ciega Bay in St. Petersburg. Choose from half-day (9am-noon, 1-4pm) and full-day schedules. 10% discount on multiple classes.
Camp Wai Lani Girl Scouts Camp
Zip lining through pine trees, stand-up paddle boarding, canoeing, archery, STEM and the performing arts are just some of the interests girls can explore at Camp Wai Lani in Palm Harbor, offered by the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida. Day or residential programs are available for girls in first through 12th grades.
Girls Inc. Science is an Olympic Sport!
Girls Inc. 2022 Summer Camp will welcome girls from throughout the Tampa Bay region to enjoy programming that includes investigating science in athletics. Girls will learn how athletes train and develop their skills in a world where physics reigns. Curious?
Camp Dunedin offers full- and half-day camps for ages 4-17 from May 31-Aug. 5. Camps include age-specific camps for preschool, kids, tweens and teens, as well as specialty camps including archery, baseball, theater, cooking, skateboarding, multi-sports, nature, tennis and many more. Registration beings March 9.
dunedingov.com/city-departments/parks-recreation/camps, or call 727-738-2920
Central Park Performing Arts Center Summer Theatre Camps
Intensive three-week camps for children and teens interested in musical theater and entertainment. Performing and theatrical production explored. In-person registration required. Scholarships available. For kids ages 9-13 and 13-18.
Universal Rock School
Partnering with Country Day School in Largo, Universal Rock School offers a unique summer rock band camp experience to students entering kindergarten through 9th grade. Camps are led by experienced instructors and focus on games, activities, and lessons based on the elements of music. Camp participants are also given the opportunity to play instruments in the rock band and learn songs to perform together throughout the week. Weeklong classes span from June 13 to July 25. Register online with Country Day School: www.countrydaylargo.com/summer-programs, 727-657-6419 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Camps in Hillsborough County
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay Camps
Day campers of all ages learn about wild animals and their care during an amazing summer at Busch Gardens in Tampa. Kids in 5th grade and up who are interested in careers in zoology or veterinary science can register for the residential camp program. Downloadable handbooks for the 2022 day and residential camp experience will be available on their website in March.
Girls & Boys With Confidence Camps
Weeklong camps focus on self-confidence, self-esteem, and positive character-building topics. Whether your daughter or son is confident or struggles with shyness or low self-esteem ... kids LOVE these camps. Every day they focus on a new confidence-building theme with discussions, activities, indoor and outdoor games, and different creative art/science projects. Full-and half-day camps in Tampa, Lithia, Apollo Beach and Lutz. Register at girlswithconfidence.com.
girlswithconfidence.com , 813-404-8726
Staffed by Corbett Prep’s experienced directors and counselors, CAMP IDS provides extraordinary experiences in sports, visual arts, performing arts, academics, recreation, language, and numerous STEAM options in an exciting and supportive environment. The campus is located on Lake Lipsey, providing an idyllic setting for a memorable summer experience. Divided into six weekly sessions that run from June 13 through July 22, from 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. daily. Campers may participate in either full- or half-day camps. For students entering PreK3 through 8th grade.
Archeology, Pirates & Explorers, and American Girl Camps
The Tampa Bay History Center offers three themed camps in separate one-week sessions in Tampa during June and July. During these fun and educational camps, kids 7 to 11 years old dive into mermaids, myths, pirate lore, prehistoric fossils and archeology, in full-day sessions from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Extended care is available. 10% discount if you register before the end of March.
Summer at Ms. Lisa’s Dance
Potty-trained tiny dancers (3 to 6 years old) and girls up to 13 learn ballet, hip-hop, jazz and musical theater routines at Ms. Lisa’s Dance camp in South Tampa. Campers also enjoy arts and crafts and face painting, and are given time to shine on performance Fridays. See website for details and information about camps for tweens/teens.
mslisasdancestudio.com/ , 813-253-5472
Patel Conservatory Summer Programs
Students ages 3 to college age who love the stage can immerse themselves in performance, theater productions or intensives in one- to five-week camps at Patel Conservatory in downtown Tampa. Options include a two-week Broadway intensive, ballet intensives, opportunities to perform in a chamber orchestra and private music lessons. Call to register, 813-222-1040.
MOSI 2022 Summer Science Camps
From launching rockets and building robots to designing video games and extracting DNA, real science is coupled with exciting experiments, simulations, explorations, and inventions to help kids discover their inner innovator. For kids who have completed kindergarten up to those who have completed 8th grade.
MOSI members get 25% off. Camps span from May 31 to Aug. 1.
mosi.org/summer-camp/ , 813-987-6000
Summer Film Camp
Film buffs are in for an unforgettable summer at the Tampa Theatre’s film camp. Open to children in third through 12th grades, kids dive into moviemaking, learning about storyboarding, filming and editing. A half-day stop-animation camp is also available. Equipment is provided and campers leave with a completed three- to five-minute film. Two full and six half-day camps span June and July. The link to register online is on the webpage.
Camp Imagination at Glazer Children’s Museum
At Camp Imagination during June and July, learners ages 5-10 imagine, discover, and connect to the world around them during 8 different camps. With imaginative weekly themes, there’s a camp for every kid. Register your kids to play with purpose and embrace curiosity this summer at Glazer Children’s Museum. Three weeks in July are autism-friendly.
Florida EcoAdventures Travel Camp
Campers ages 8 to 16 kayak and/or snorkel every day, swim through underwater tunnels, dig for fossils, play wildlife bingo and build memories to last a lifetime! Learn about wildlife identification, kayaking/snorkeling techniques, free-diving techniques, ecology, environmental conservation and water safety. Kids can sign up for one day or for two whole weeks. Camps span June 6-27. Ten campers maximum per class.
LaFleur’s Gymnastics Club’s Summer Fun Camp
The goal at LaFleur’s is to get kids moving and keep them moving! Their unique camp structure allows kids to work in integrated, age- and gender-appropriate groups that rotate to new stations around the facility every 15 minutes. This structure allows all kids to visit all stations of the gym every day of camp. Your child will work on sportsmanship, agility, strength, hand-eye-coordination, and so much more. Half and full days, June through August, ages 4 to about 11.
Cedarkirk Residential Summer Camp
Campers are organized into “family groups” that foster a supportive atmosphere at this Christian sleepaway camp on the Alafia River in Lithia. Kids entering the second through 12th grades canoe, swim, zip line and much more, strengthening their faith while having a blast, in camps spanning June and July.
USF Soccer Camps
Grouped by age range and gender, kids and teens 5-19 improve their ball control and technical skills in training sessions with professional coaches at the University of South Florida Soccer Camps in Tampa. Programs accommodate all skill levels, and there’s a separate futsal (indoor soccer with five players per team) for ages 7-16. Full-day camps and weeklong residential programs are available in June and July.
The First Tee Summer Golf Camp
Beginner and advanced young golfers improve skills and learn to be better people at The First Tee Summer Golf Camp in Tampa. Campers 6 to 18 participate in games and contests and are given time to reflect during this Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA camp. Golf clubs are provided and financial assistance is available.
Rockatar Music Academy & Studios Summer Music Camp
At Rockatar Summer Music Camps, students ages 4 and up learn both music and singing, play a variety of musical instruments, jam, create music, write songs, form bands and have fun! Each weekly camp session ends with an exciting music concert for friends and families. Camps are half days from June 6 to Aug. 1.
A special place in Land O’Lakes for special kids: campers with superpowers like autism, Asberger’s, developmental delays and Down Syndrome are welcomed at Camp Idlewild and valued for who they are and what makes them unique. Programs enable campers to explore new interests, strengthen their skills and expand their comfort zones through adapted activities such as nature walks, swimming, arts and crafts, sports and games, treasure-hunting adventures, hiking, dancing, music, drum circles, drama, yoga, canoeing, paddle boating, boat rides, archery, storytelling, campfires and much more! Themed weeklong camps begin June 12; the last one starts July 31.
Florida Aquarium Aqua Camps
The Florida Aquarium is proud to offer innovative themed camps for children ages 3-14 in a safe learning environment. Science-themed Aquacamps feature hands-on learning, animal encounters, aquarium tours, field trips, and so much more. Every week throughout the summer, campers can experience a different theme! Early drop-off and late pick-up available at no extra cost. Plus, there are lunch options.
Camps in Pasco County
Kids Athletic Camps
Three-day half-day sports summer camps for students 6-17 years of age. As of this writing, camps focus on cross-country running, basketball and girls volleyball. More will be added in the coming weeks. Camps start from May 31 to July 27 .
phsc.edu/academics/kidsCall Pasco Hernando State College at 727-816-3342 for more details.
2022 Creative World School CampTastic!
CampTastic is all about fun, new friends, lots of laughs, games and crafts, explorations and experiments, virtual field trips full of imagination ... and all the extra oomph that campers love! Every day of each weeklong camp brings campers ages 6 to 12 new and exciting activities and learning adventures, starting June 6, until Aug. 5. The four Pasco locations include two in Land O’Lakes, one in Odessa and one in Wesley Chapel. Save a spot at creativeworldcamp.com or call 813-996-3100 (LOL), 813-780-1415 (WC), 813-497-1100 (O).
PROtential Sports – Teaching Life Through Sports
Action-packed, full-day summer camps rotate between multiple sporting activities, including swimming, which is offered daily. Your child is given the opportunity to participate in many engaging and fun-filled field trips including, but not limited to, laser tag, roller skating, bowling, waterskiing, horseback riding, and much more! They also offer a children’s favorite – a trip to Busch Gardens theme park, which always promises a full day of excitement and entertainment for ages 5 to 15 years old. Camps operate out of multiple locations throughout Pasco and Hillsborough counties.
New Port Richey Recreation & Aquatic Center Summer Camp
An engaging camp experience keeps kids active and entertained June 13 to July 29 with fun indoor and outdoor activities including arts and crafts, guest speakers, games, swimming, demonstrations and field trips (at additional fees). This affordable camp runs from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily. Registration begins in April.
Summer at the Lakes
An active summer awaits kids of all ages with both camp and summer school programs at Academy at the Lakes. Recreational camps include arts and crafts, robotics, sports games, survival camp, and more; academic classes are available as well. Parents may choose half or full days, and one or all eight weeks.
summeratthelakes.com, email@example.com, 813-948-2133
Suncoast Stables and Riding Academy Summer Camps
Tiny Tots Camps, Mini Camps and regular summer camps are available between June 1 and August 1. Themes range from Fairytales and Disney to Water Mania and Heroes/Villains, and more. Ages 4-8 and 8-12.
Suncoast Gymnastics Academy Summer Camp
Gym and trampoline playtime keep children active and entertained at Suncoast Gymnastics camp in Odessa. Camp programs are organized in weekly themes such as Nerf Week, Water Week and Trampoline & Tumbling Week. Limited camp is available for 3-4 year olds, and kids 5 and older can attend for half or full days. Late pickup available.
Seal Swim School
Swimming lessons are the backbone of Seal Swim School’s summer camp in Tarpon Springs and New Port Richey, but campers 4 to 10 years old get so much more. Instructors certified in water safety lead kids in games, arts and crafts, archery, science experiments and other fun activities all summer long (4-week or 6-week sessions April to September). Afternoon snacks are provided.
East Pasco Family YMCA Summer Camp
Kids 6-8 and 9-12 make friends and memories to last a lifetime as well as learn team-building skills at the East Pasco YMCA day camp in Zephyrhills. Activities include swimming, STEM, arts and crafts, sports and games, and learning about the outdoors. Camp hours of 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. are convenient for working parents. tampaymca.org, 813-780-9622
Pin Chasers East Pasco
Designed for children ages 5-15, Pin Chasers’ weeklong day camps cater to beginners and more advanced bowlers alike, with plenty of other fun to be had! Children spend the camp learning to bowl, working on arts and crafts with friends, and having fun in the arcades. These camps are great for developing a competitive spirit, as well as teamwork and social skills. Plus, kids stay active inside – safe from lightning and heatstroke!
Word of Life Florida Youth Camp
A residential, faith-based camp, Word of Life is in a beautiful setting in Hudson. Kids of all ages can practice a Ninja Warrior course, ride trail bikes, tackle the climbing wall, enjoy the pool and waterslide, play basketball, volleyball and gaga ball, sharpen their archery skills as well as work on arts and crafts, go tubing and compete in paintball during this heavily religious summer session. Ages 6-18.
From May 31 to Aug. 6, weeklong creative LEGO® camps explore superheroes, Star Wars, Minecraft, Harry Potter, Pokemon and lots more. Campers 4½ to 12 years old explore a different theme each day, creating robotic models, mini figures and more. At Lutz Preparatory School.
Premier Gymnastics Club Summer Camp
Kids 5 and up can learn or improve skills on the vault, floor, bars, balance beam and trampoline in morning or afternoon camp sessions in Wesley Chapel. Themes change each week – safari, time travel, magical and mystical, Disney and more – and campers play organized games, watch movies, get trampoline and foam pit time; and work on arts and crafts. Camps in session May 31 to Aug. 5; no camp July 4-8.
Life Skills in ACTion Summer Palooza “Adventure Awaits!”
Summer camp and academics meet in one place to help your child build the skills needed to succeed in life – skills like self-care, stress management, banking, cooking, social awareness, changing a tire and more. From June to August, themed weeklong camps take field trips to explore space, time travel, the Olympics, Dr. Seuss, scavenger hunts, mermaids and pirates, and more. Ten different camps from May 31 to Aug. 1. Located In Wesley Chapel.
lifeskillsinaction.com, or call 813-575-9100
Get Outta Town!
In Polk County, Camp Frontier offers the classic sleepaway camp experience on their 12,000-acre property just outside Haines City. Campers are surrounded by an experienced staff who are dedicated to making their time at camp a safe, fun, nurturing experience. Over 40 activities are available – including art, archery, waterskiing, beach volleyball, ziplining, canoeing, soccer, paintball, field trips and theme park visits – for kids 7-17. Many kids return year after year.
Summer SCUBA Camp
In Suwannee County, teen campers explore Florida’s beautiful freshwater springs at Earth Immersion in Luraville, near Live Oak. Six camps in all, lasting 7 or 13 days, start June 12, with the last camp starting Aug. 1. No SCUBA experience is necessary; kids learn the ropes with a low instructor-to-student ratio of 4:1. Campers also go river tubing, fishing, hiking and canoeing and help with meal prep and maintaining camp vehicles and SCUBA gear.
In Manatee County, Camp Osprey is a traditional overnight summer camp for kids ages 7-15, located on 204 acres of beautiful woodlands, nestled alongside the Little Manatee River in Wimauma. They provide a unique program of recreation, adventure, creativity, and exploration. From their high ropes challenge course, zip lines, horseback riding and canoeing, to paintball, swimming, and campfire nights ... each day is filled with loads of summer fun and an amazing range of camp activities.