One of the fun things about being a working parent is trying to cobble together a childcare plan when school is on break. Why-oh-why aren’t all schools year-round? I have been busy scouring all of the summer camp guides (thanks Santa Barbara Family Life Magazine for your recently published list) and am piecing together a schedule (at great expense, I might add) week by week. Another wrinkle is that most camps are not for a four-year-old and many are only for older ages. Here are my top choices that I am considering for camps based on schedule, timing, location and pricing:
Santa Barbara Zoo Camp (one of our favorites): Ok, we LOVE the Santa Barbara Zoo. We use it like a park and often just go there for an hour or two and picnic on the lawn with a view of the ocean. It is a GREAT community resource. Membership is reasonable and includes free parking which is a win in my book! We have also been enjoying Zoo School (starts at age 3.5 if fully potty-trained) during the school year and Zoo Camp during breaks. The counselors are fun and very sweet with the kids and the junior counselors are adorable. My four-year-old loves being with the “big kids.” They do a lot of walking, singing camp songs, crafts, science projects and have very cool animal encounters. Not gonna lie, I was super grossed out when I learned they were petting a cockroach (11 years in New York City will teach you that cockroaches are NOT our friends) but the kiddo thought it was pretty cool. This camp offers lots of learning disguised as play. You can sign up for a half day (9am – noon) or full day (9am – 3pm) with the option to add on a purchased lunch (or just pack your own). There are also early drop off and extended day options for a fee. I am negotiating a discount for my readers so follow me on Instagram at @hooterholster for details.
Dance Camp: There are many to choose from but, based on my research, we will be trying out the Momentum Dance Company Camp Twirl classes for tiny dancers ages 3-5 years old. There are a lot of options and the classes are 9am-4pm with optional early drop off which is great for working parents. I have an extreme “girly” girl, so the classes like “Twirltopia Princess Academy” are right in her wheelhouse. When I reached out to them to register they very generously offered a $25 discount to my readers. Follow me on Instagram at @hooterholster and get the discount code!
Nature Adventures Camp through the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History (scholarships available): There are many different options available – some at the Museum and some at the Sea Center. According to their website, they prioritize hands-on, minds-on, and hearts-on learning. Whether it's bugs, inventions, sharks or wizarding, campers weave together science, art, and literature into fun learning activities in a safe and caring environment. Again, I have no personal experience with this camp as they start at age four. The website is easy to use (not always the case) and camps run for one week each from 9am-3pm each day. They do list scholarship availability and I have emailed for information about this. Unfortunately, the process is mail-in-only rather than online. I am planning to sign up for one of the camps and I think my daughter will really enjoy it.
YMCA Preschool Camp: We are specifically looking at the Montecito YMCA Camp based on location but the Santa Barbara location has options as well. I emailed with the Preschool Director and they currently have openings from June 10-August 23rd. M-F, from 7:34-5:30. There are part time and full time slots. Space fills up quickly and there is no online registration available for the preschool programs. There is also a $120 registration fee on top of the camp fee and you must register for a minimum of two consecutive weeks. Not sure this will work for us based on timing but seems like a great option!
Some of the other camps that I like but either don’t fit with our schedule or are already full include Wilderness Youth Project (we are waitlisted) and Kindermusik with Kathy music camps (not full-day for the younger kiddos). Kathy has generously offered a $20 discount for my readers when you mention my name.
So, for all you parents out there trying to get a handle on summer plans and schedules, I feel your pain. I hope my research and suggestions help you. Please comment and let me know of other camps and options for care that you find. They say it takes a village, right?
*Please note that none of these organizations are paying me in any way and are merely my personal selections based on A LOT of research.
Carey Bradshaw, Author (& Nursing Aficionado)
Carey Bradshaw is a working mom just trying to balance it all. She runs Hooter Holster by Carey Bradshaw and Creative Butter. In her (scant) free time, besides perfecting her hands-free pumping bras, she loves yoga, reading, volunteering with All for Animals, and just being outside in the sunshine. Carey lives in Santa Barbara with her husband and business partner, George, their volunteer therapy dog, Buttercup, and their rambunctious and lovable toddler.