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A Parent’s Survival Guide to Summer Camp Registration

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It’s the first week of April, which can only mean one thing. Summer camp registration is upon us! The cutthroat competition of registering your child for camp is here, Moms and Dads, and if you blink, you’ll miss it.

April 1 marks the gut-wrenching, heart-racing, palms-sweating race to get your children registered for summer camps. Grab a Xanax, your computer and some tissues because this isn’t going to be pretty. There will be tears, mostly yours. Virtual elbows will be thrown, dreams will be crushed, bank accounts will be depleted all for the sake of making your child’s dream summer vacation a reality sure your child doesn’t play video games all summer. Follow these simple steps and you’re bound to be…slightly distressed but ultimately fine.

Step 1. Find the camps

Oh, did you think it was still the dead of winter and summer vacation was just a distant dream? I’m sorry to say but you’re sorely mistaken. Summer camp hunting started mid-February and don’t let yourself be left in the dust, er, snow. Find yourself a nanny or get signed up for camps asap! Sports camps, LEGO camps, Bible camps, spy camp, robotics camp, sleep-away camp, Harry Potter camp, zoo camp, video game camp, dinosaur camp, and don’t forget the always desired but usually unattainable space camp. If your kids can dream it, they certainly have it. Now, you just have to find it. God bless the internet.

Here are some obstacles you may run across during your camp search.

Partial Day Camps. 10:00 AM-2:15 PM!? That doesn’t work very well for us working moms, now does it. Don’t worry about us though. Our summers are mostly free to taxi our kids around town. Oh wait, we don’t get summer breaks, remember. I guess we can cross partial day camps off our list.

Partial Week Camps. Meets Mondays, Wednesdays and half day Fridays. Dare I ask what am I supposed to do with them the other two days of the week? I suppose cartoons and video games will suffice. Don’t want to overexert them now do we?

Partial Ages. 6-9 year old’s only. You think my 5-year-old will just calmly understand that their brother is at wakeboarding camp that they aren’t allowed to attend because they missed the cut off by two weeks? That conversation should go swimmingly. Thanks, Camp Director.

Day camps really are great but once your child gets a taste of overnight camps, there is no turning back. The question, of course, is whether or not your six-year-old is ready to sleep away from home for a week. He’ll be six and a half this summer—it’s only March, after all—so maybe he’ll be ready by then. But right now, he is crying because he can’t get his socks on over his tennis shoes, so the jury is still out of him. As for the older kids, a week away will truly be your, I mean their, dream come true. Will they come back out of their minds exhausted? Yup. Will it be worth the small loan you took out to finance it? Sure. Will you miss them so bad it hurts? Absolutely.

Step 2. Coordinate the camps

The list is made! Congrats, you’re almost halfway done.

Soccer, science and badminton camp for Teddy. Swim, bible and music camp for Charlie. One week at overnight camp for both of them, two half day camps with their cousins, and three long weeks at Camp Grandparents. Add in a family road trip, a weekend or two at the lake and this summer is really shaping up to be…

Oh wait, Teddy’s best friend’s cousin can’t make soccer camp in June. Let’s try for Tennis camp in July. Scratch that, Cub Scout camp is in July and we don’t want to overlap with summer baseball. Maybe if we…

You get the point. The fun has just begun!

Once the camps are found, the coordination begins. Sure, you can send your child to camp on their own but what fun would that be when they can go with friends, family or your neighbor’s son’s best friend’s pen pal? God forbid your child has to make a new friend on their own! So, we coordinate. We call our friends, and our friend’s friends. We create a summer spreadsheet so perfect all we have to do is click “Register.”

Step 3. Register for the camps

Take 3a requires either inheriting a small fortune or taking on a second job to pay for camp, neither of which is a problem for us working parentings, of course. This is the part where we question the entire process and think to ourselves, “Minecraft does teach my kid critical thinking skills…” and “Would it really be that bad if my children spend the summer at home? Surely, they would quietly entertain themselves while I work, right?”

Unlikely, so we press on. Who needs college savings anyway?

Once the finances are established, registration can begin. At 7:00 PM CST.

Not 7:01. Not 7:02. A minute too late and you’ll never make the “Mom the Year” list again. I must warn you, these brief, panic-filled moments before registration opens, manically hitting ‘refresh,’ are going to feel nostalgic for you. Registering for college courses in your dorm room, purchasing tickets to see your favorite band…whatever it is, don’t get lost in the memories. There is no time for that. Stay focused. Stay alert. Your heart will race. Your hands will sweat.


Fill in your child’s list of allergies, medications, social security number, and third favorite animal. Submit your credit card information, your bank routing number, your 5th grade teacher's name and…WAITLISTED!

MOTHER F*#&@^!

Back to Step 1, mama. It’s fine. This is what the Xanax and tissues are for. Blow your nose, take a deep breath and you’ll be fine. Not great, but fine. Back to hunting, coordinating and here we go again.

Finally…success! Your child is in for scuba camp. In Kansas. This is all really coming together, isn’t it?

Just five more camp registrations to go!

Step 4. Drag kids to camp kicking and screaming

You’ve spent three months amping up your kid for equestrian camp and the time has finally arrived. Wait, Susie doesn’t like horses anymore? She’s only going if she gets to ride the pink pony? Such a doll, she is.

Alas, June 1 will finally arrive. You’ll drop your kids off at their first day of camp—equipped with sunscreen, a water bottle and their lovely ten-year-old attitude—then pray to God that one day they thank you for making them watch a snake shed its skin at nature camp.

And you’ll be left to work quietly at your desk until you pick them up at 3:45 PM, or until a bee stings.

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