On Your Mark, get set, go Summer!

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

We are fast approaching the time of year when my competitive streak kicks into overdrive. The race is not to nab a major interview for a huge news story or to score front-row tickets to a concert but to get my son enrolled in the summer camp programs of his choice.

There was a time when I scoffed at stories of parents waiting in lines and wheeling and dealing to enroll their children in school or camp programs. I have since come to realize it is no laughing matter.

It is serious business because those long summer days will only get longer the minute your child starts whining about being bored. My family's adventures in summer camp started when Ian was 2 years old. It was a twice-weekly program close to our home in Chicago. We were fortunate enough to have gotten on the list after I met the director at a "mommy networking" event. The benefit of having Ian around other children was immediately evident. I also welcomed the downtime.

These days it's bit more challenging to find a camp that fits. My best advice to anyone considering camp is to connect the camp to your child's interests. I also try to make sure Ian will be exposed to a diverse group of children.

Last summer we tried a sports camp run by the YMCA of Central Ohio. Ian enjoyed it because each day was filled with activity. The only complaints were about the weather. Ian was fit to be tied when he realized it was truly an outdoor sports camp: "Mom, you do realize we are outside all day long, right?" Yes, outside in the sunshine all day.

It does pay to start your search early because most camps fill fast. For working parents, camp can be critical because it is essentially child care during summer break.

Because of some prior reporting I have done on daycare and camp safety at 10TV, I strongly advise you to make use of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) website. Inspectors check camps in much the same way they do childcare centers for safety. You can find out who the counselors are, confirm background checks, and also look at issues like cleanliness, counselor-to-camper ratios and more.

There also is much to be said for word-of-mouth recommendations and visiting a camp before you enroll your child.

We are already considering our options for camp this year. Of course, I have to play it all close to the vest here because I never know how tough it will be to score a coveted spot in a local camp this summer. I am a good sport, though, and wish you and your family the best of luck in your search.

Tracy Townsend is a news reporter and anchor with 10TV News HD.