I'm not one of those parents who starts signing up for summer camps in January. I also wasn't one of those parents who stressed out about finding the right preschool or nanny for my kids. I'm pretty relaxed about those matters and believe that things will fall into place as necessary. As a result, we've had great camp and preschool experiences and I've never been stuck scrambling for spots for my kids.
One of the most talked-about camps in my area (the San Francisco Bay Area) is Camp Galileo. They are known for their emphasis on science and for running their camps like week-long schools. Activities are programmed around a theme and you receive feedback about your child at the end of every day, almost like a mini-report card. Counselors who didn't really know my girls gushed about their friendliness and helpfulness.
Most parents would view this as a positive, but at times, it seemed like overkill, especially having to show my ID upon checking my child out everyday. Perhaps this was only an inconvenience to me (albeit a slight one) because I also had to juggle a wiggly baby in one arm while digging in my purse for my wallet. If you are concerned about safety, however, this is no small thing. I've heard plenty of horror stories about teen camp counselors not being the most "aware" when it comes to kids and I felt my kids were safe at all times.
Counselors at Camp Galileo seemed to be college-aged and many had been counselors for years. I really appreciated that stability and the fact that older means (a little) wiser) When Wallie forgot her lunch in the car (I didn't realize it until I picked her up), they took care of it and she was given a sandwich and fruit.
The girls (ages almost 7 and 9) loved their Camp Galileo experience. Wallie is artistic and loved being able to spend days "creating" even though she was also learning about ancient civilizations. Bunny is athletic and the fact that there were lots of opportunities for movement (including water play on a hot day) appealed to her.
What I liked best about their camp experience, though, was that having just moved from one city to another, it was an opportunity for them to make new friends. Thankfully there is a Camp Galileo program in our new town. Counselors made efforts to connect the girls with kids from their new community and that has helped to ease their transition tremendously. Instead of heading into this new school year full of anxiety, they are excited to see their new friends again.
Back to my original point about not scrambling for camps, surprisingly, at least in our Camp Galileo program, there seemed to be plenty of spots available. My gals were able to attend camp for free (see disclosure below), but even if they hadn't, when I registered my girls there were plenty of spots available in the week we wanted, and counselors were great about letting parents know that spots were available in the coming weeks. (See? Don't stress! It always works out.) If you've been hesitant to sign up for Camp Galileo because you thought you couldn't get in, check their website. There may even be spots left for the last weeks of August before school starts. Camps also have before and after care--perfect for working parents.
Over all, our experience with the camp was positive. The girls had a wonderful time and have been bugging me weekly to go back. Isn't that the best recommendation of all?
Disclosure: Camp Galileo offered my girls free camp attendance in exchange for my thoughts about their camp experience. Camp is a personal experience—all opinions expressed here are my own.