Summer is the season for kids’ day camps, but the day camp registration season starts right now. We’ve got the tips you need to secure a spot in the coveted camps on your wish list.

How to find day camp options in your area

Start with an online search where you type in “[your city] kids day camps.” Begin researching as early as possible, as popular camps may sell out quickly.

Instead of settling for the same old camp as last year, investigate camps that are hosted by:

  • Your city or municipality
  • A nearby university or college
  • The local community center, public library, or YMCA
  • Kids’ activity program providers such as dance, gymnastics, martial arts, theatre, art, or computer coding
  • Birthday party businesses, such as indoor trampolining, pottery painting or LEGO building
  • Common field trip destinations, such as children’s museums, zoos or nature centers
  • Youth sports associations, including team sports, individual sports, and aquatics

You can also collect ideas and recommendations the old-fashioned way — by asking around to friends, relatives, neighbors, and fellow parents at your child’s school or activities.

If you have your eye on a specific camp but registration isn’t open yet, add the date to your calendar or follow their social media feed for updates.

Choosing the right day camp for your child

There are many factors to consider when selecting a camp, including:

  • Set a target budget and stay within it as much as possible. If your child has their heart set on a particular camp one week, you may have to select a more reasonably priced option another week.
  • What are the travel and logistics involved? Is it close to home, or on your way to work? Is it easy to get in and out, with free parking?
  • Each camp will have different drop-off and pick-up times, so check carefully to see how these align with your schedule. If needed, inquire if there is additional supervision available at the start or end of the day.
  • Who is leading the camp, and what are their credentials? Do the on-site staff have First Aid and CPR training? What is the ratio of leaders to participants?
  • It’s a wonderful bonus if a camp’s theme connects to something your child already loves, such as science, nature, performing arts, or technology.
  • Does the camp require any specific equipment, clothing, or footwear? For example, a baseball camp might expect the child to bring their own glove and bat.
  • Skill level. Is any prior experience required? If the camp activity (for example, horseback riding) is something brand-new for your child, make sure it is truly a beginner program, so they won’t be the only rookie in the group.
  • Age groupings. Especially in sport and activity camps, it’s preferable to have age-limited groups (ages 5-6, ages 7-8, etc.). An “all ages” camp could be tiresome for a 12-year-old who will be surrounded by little kids all day.
  • Physical demands. If your child is enrolled in a competitive sports program and has games or practices in the evening, it may not be practical to put them in a highly active camp where they are running around outdoors all day and are exhausted by 3:00 PM. In this case, a more sedentary indoor camp might help conserve their energy.
Day Camp registration tips

Here are a few extra suggestions as you navigate the registration process:

  • Sign up with a friend. Reach out to the parents of your child’s closest pal and see if they want to register for the same camp. Benefit #1: added excitement for your child to be heading to camp with a buddy. Benefit #2: you and the other parent may be able to share the driving duties.
  • Do your homework. Take the time to carefully read all the information on the camp website, including cancellation policies. If you have further questions or want to discuss special considerations for your child, contact the camp director by phone or e-mail. They want your business and will be happy to provide answers.
  • Trust your instincts. It is fine to ask for your child’s input about the camps they’d like to attend, but you need to make the final decisions based on the many factors above. Your child could beg for a certain camp now, but have moved on to a different hobby or interest by the summer.
  • Label everything.Part of camp preparation is making sure you have enough name labels on hand, so your child’s belongings aren’t mixed up or left behind. The Mabel’s Labels Day Camp Label Pack has two bag tags and 39 personalized labels in assorted sizes, to keep everything organized.

The advance work you do now on camp registration will help ensure that your child has a summer filled with learning opportunities, new friends, and fun experiences. Good luck and have a great camp season!


Kristi York is a freelance writer and mom of two sports-loving boys. Her work has been published by ParentsCanada, Running Room, ParticipACTION and The Costco Connection.

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