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A Parent's Summer Camp Guide

It's that time again, as parents begin their search for summer entertainment. Here's your guide to local summer camps.

Shhh…can you hear it? Shhhh…you hear that? It’s the sound of hundreds of heads exploding. Do you hear it? Oh, maybe not quite yet, but you will—trust me, you will. 

In a few months you will hear heads exploding all over town. You do not want to be one of those heads—it will hurt, I promise. If you have school-aged children and you don’t plan on being their source of entertainment the entire summer, it’s time to start looking for summer camps. And if you wait until it’s too late and all the good camps are all filled up, that will be you—an exploding head. 

Take my advice and start sifting now, there is a nice variety of local camps available to choose from and something that is sure to appeal to your child’s personality and interests. 

So, here we go—and don’t expect any silliness here, because summer camp is serious business. Right now is the time that parents with forethought are securing spots at the most prestigious summer camps, knowing full well that the most popular camps fill up quickly. 

They had the registration date on the calendar, registration forms filled out weeks earlier, the check written, and the dates blocked out on the calendar (are you taking notes people?). You can be one of those people, because I have the goods on the top camps in town (some well-known and some not-so-well-known little gems). Among the more popular camps, and yes—more cha-chingy—are Tom Sawyer, Shi’ini, and Summerkids. Both Tom Sawyer and Shi’ini pick campers up from home, which is a big plus in my book. I’ve actually escorted my little camper to the van in my pink PJs with coffee in hand. The kids love riding in the vans because it is the closest most kids get to riding in a school bus. Now with these camps, you have to have plenty of Tide on hand because part of the joy is getting covered in mud—literally. 

offers its Explorers Summer Day Camp where kids can explore art, gardens, do hands-on projects and more.

If you were like me and didn’t make a big deal about coloring in the lines, you may now find yourself with an art-challenged child. Center for the Arts, Eagle Rock has an 11-week summer camp that is generally taught by local artists and explores various aspects of the arts including cooking, yoga, and theater. Pasadena’s Wisdom Arts Laboratory offers 4 individual weeks of art camp, Armory Center for the Arts has weekly classes in which you can sign up for several that span throughout the day, and our own Paintbox Kids usually offers a wide variety of weekly sessions that focus on art, science, media, and more  although they do not have anything currently listed for summer on their website. Purple Twig in Eagle Rock is joining forces with Bloom School of Music to offer a comprehensive arts program with eight sessions of age appropriate themes. 

For the child who has been bitten by the acting bug, Theater 360 in Pasadena offers five 2-week sessions for kids involving dance, theater, and singing. For a shorter day of theater-making, Occidental College Children’s Theater offers their Summer Institute of Fun with four morning sessions for younger kids and five afternoon sessions for older kids. Another local theater camp option is Performing Arts Workshops (PAW), voted best summer camp in 2010 by LA Parent Magazine. They have four sessions with a focus on specific theater productions. I have also heard great things about La Canada’s Summer Acting Camp that offers two 3-week sessions of comprehensive theater courses at La Canada High School. 

A few other camps in the area worth mentioning are Rose Bowl Aquatics Center Anderson Adventure Camp H2O that offers a traditional camp experience with an emphasis on swimming opportunities and field trips; Child Education Center also offers a traditional camp experience with themes, field trips, and collaborative programs with Altadena Stables and Descanso Gardens; Pasadena Educational Foundation (PEF) provides a variety of academic and artistic classes through its Summer Enrichment Program and students can catch a ride to CEC after class; for budding writers, check out Los Angeles Writing Project Young Writers’ Camp on the campus of California State University – Los Angeles for students entering grades 1 -12; children’s performer Melissa Green and Sue Bell, director of Giggles and Grass Stains, supply an abundance of creativity with their popular summer camps in Griffith Park, chocked full of arts and crafts, performance opportunities, nature exploration and more; and to satisfy the developing scientist in the family, Sally Ride Science Camp at CalTech offers experiences for girls grades 4 – 9.  I have to say, I was severely disappointed in the lack of science camps in our area.  If our readers have the dibs on a great local science camp, I would appreciate the info. 

One of the least expensive summer camps is offered by the Girl Scouts, right here at Camp Mariposa. You don’t have to be a current member (you pay $12 for annual membership when you sign up for camp) but you do have to be a girl.  

And for even more options, if none of those appeal to you, you can always check out our local attractions like Kidspace MuseumLos Angeles Arboretum, LA Zoo, and Descanso Gardens, all of which offer summer camps.  In addition to those your local parks and recreation centers offer summer camp sessions which often have availability closer to their start date (Farnsworth, Loma Alta, Victory Park, Sierra Madre, and San Marino).  

Many of these programs serve most ages, many offer full and part-time days and/or weeks. Please don’t, “I can’t believe you didn’t mention…” me for not mentioning the obvious favorite summer camp of yours, leave it in the comments below for everyone to check out.

Now, I have given you plenty of time and plenty of options, so keep that nice pretty head of yours coiffed to perfection and reserve your spot in your favorite camp. You look much better with that beautiful round thing sitting on your shoulders. Happy Camping!

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