How to Plan for Summer Camp: A Search & Signup Survival Guide for Parents

March 6, 2019

Finding good summer programs can be tough. Learn some helpful tips and tricks to make the summer camp search and signup process easier this year.

Summer camps are one of the best ways to keep your child busy and entertained during those long school breaks. Finding good summer programs can be a tricky process. Here at Blueprint4Summer, we’re on a mission to make the summer camp search and signup process as easy as possible for parents, programs, and, of course, kids.

If you are having some confusion on how to find, register, and prepare for summer camps, or are just feeling a bit overwhelmed by the process, then this guide is for you. If you’re an old pro who rocks at summer camp planning, it’s for you, too. These helpful tips and tricks might put you over the top.

Step 1: Assess Your Child’s Summer Program Needs

The first step to any in-depth search process is to define what exactly you are searching for. Start with your child: what are their abilities, needs, interests, and passions? Do they have summer learning objectives from school? What types of summer programs might help them catch up after a tough semester or jump to the head of their class in the fall?

Don’t be shy about asking your child’s teachers, coaches, and other caregivers for their thoughts, as well. They may have a different and valuable perspective to share about your child’s strengths and opportunities.

Ask you child what they want! Kids spend a lot of time dreaming about summer (more than their teachers would probably like), and it’s very likely that they have some ideas of their own about what they’d like to learn and do this summer. Your child will get so much more out of summer camp if you pick something they find fun and exciting! They may not get their way in the end, but they will appreciate having their opinions considered.

Step 2: Consider Your Family’s Summer Program Needs

Next, consider your needs as a parent and family. What dates, days, and times work best for your schedule? What community and educational organizations do you support or want to be involved with? How will your child get to camp? Is transportation available, or how far are you able to travel? Are you comfortable sending your child to an overnight or sleepaway program?

One major factor in summer planning is cost. There are TONS of free and low-cost summer activities to choose from, as well as paid programs for all budget levels. Many programs offer grants, scholarships, and other financial assistance to help every child have access to fun and engaging summer activities.

Step 3: Explore Your Summer Camp Options

Now it’s time to start the fun part – exploring your summer camp options. This step didn’t use to be so much fun in the not-so-distant past. Parents used to have to comb through lots of individual websites, Facebook pages, bulletin boards, and paper flyers to get just a fraction of an idea of the programs available to their children. Now they can just visit and quickly search through thousands of sessions to find a list of perfect-fit summer opportunities for their child.

Narrowing down the options is easy with our free summer camp search tool. Here are some tips for perfecting your summer camp search.

Search by Location

Start by entering your zip code and preferred distance to instantly narrow your search to only show nearby programs. Our users have found that this is the easiest way to start zooming in on their best options.

Search by Age

Another fast and easy way to narrow your summer camp search results is to search by age. Choose from our preset age groups or enter your own age range to find programs appropriate for your child.

Search by Keyword

Looking for something specific? Try searching by keyword to quickly check for matching results. This is a great way to search for niche topics or specific organizations.

Search by Category

Select categories that match your child’s goals and interests.

Search by Attributes

Does your child have special needs or require before/after care? Are you looking for activities for gifted students or summer programs that offer scholarships? Use these checkboxes to show only results that fit your needs.

Search by Time & Date

The summer calendar fills up fast for many families. Searching by date and time can help you easily find activities to fill in the gaps in your child’s busy summer schedule.

Search by Cost

Enter your budget range to narrow the results. Use this search tool carefully – you might miss out on some big-ticket programs that offer scholarships! We recommend searching once with your budget range set and once with the “Scholarships Available” attribute selected to find some really special summer opportunities for your child. You never know what you might find!

Step 4: Plan the Perfect Summer Calendar with My Blueprint

Once you have found one or more sessions that sound perfect for your child, the next step is to plan your summer camp calendar. If you have more than one child or lots of activities to keep track of, this step is very important. It will help you stay organized, avoid scheduling conflicts, keep your kids’ schedules balanced and fair, and get prepared for upcoming activities.

Blueprint4Summer has made this part of the process very easy for you. You’ll need to create a free account so we can save a list of your favorite programs or add them to your My Blueprint calendar. Just click “Create Your Free Account” here or at the top right of the search app and follow the simple signup process. This tutorial page will take you through the process if you need help.

Once you’re signed up and logged in, you can mark and save your favorite sessions or click “Add to Blueprint” to create and manage a calendar of your planned sessions. You can create multiple Blueprints, view them in combination, print them, share them with friends and family, and more. See the Tutorial page for more tips on how to use Blueprint4Summer to plan the best summer ever for your child.

Step 5: Sign Up for Summer FUN!

IMPORTANT NOTE: Blueprint4Summer is a tool for planning and accessing summer programs. Adding sessions to your Blueprint or marking them as favorites does not sign you up for the sessions. To get signed up you will need to visit the program’s website, register for the activity, apply for scholarships, or pay any applicable fees to the program provider. Clicking the “View Website” button from Blueprint4Summer’s session listings should take you to the right place to get started.

There you have it – your summer camp search and signup survival guide for 2019. Did you find these tips helpful? Want to learn more about Blueprint4Summer and summer programs in your area? Follow Blueprint4Summer STL on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter for more tips, activity highlights, and news about St. Louis summer programs for kids.