The Best Chicago Summer Day Camps: A 2018 Guide for Parents

If you think back to your own childhood, there’s a pretty good chance that some of your best summertime memories involve camp. There were the camp counselors you looked up to and the new friendships with fellow campers. The days were filled with swimming, hiking, canoe trips, arts and crafts, games and lots of other fun activities. Evenings were a time for singing, campfires, s’mores and ghost stories. 

This traditional camp experience is one that many parents hold dear from their own childhoods, and today’s summer camps are changing and evolving in exciting ways. Sure, there are still programs that deliver this classic overnight summer camp experience, but this type of camp is just one of the many options that are available today.

Finding the perfect summer camp program in Chicagoland for your kids can be a very time-consuming task, as you are faced with dozens of different options. And to complicate matters, there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution. That’s because each camp program caters to a specific age group and a particular type of child. So where do you begin?

Galileo Summer Quest camper explores digital design.Key Decisions as You Plan for 2018 Chicagoland Summer Camp

As you set off on a quest to find the best Chicagoland camp program for your child, you’ll want to start by narrowing the field of choices and making two key decisions:

Decision #1 - Traditional Summer Camp vs. Specialty Summer Camp — You’ll want to determine if your child will really enjoy a more generalized, traditional camp experience with lots of outdoor activities, crafts and social events. Alternatively, they may prefer to focus their attention on a specialty program that’s centered around a specific activity or theme, such as performing arts, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) or sports. There are also specialty camps designed for specific groups of children, including LGBT kids, kids who come from an underprivileged socioeconomic status, or kids with a particular physical need or concern (ranging from autism and deafness to limb differences, mobility limitations and cancer). As a parent, you’ll want to carefully consider which experience is best suited to your kids and their unique needs.

Decision #2 - Day Camp vs. Overnight Camp — You’ll also need to choose between a day camp program and an overnight camp program. This decision is usually fairly straightforward, as your options are largely determined by the camper’s age and maturity level. Cost is a major consideration as well, as overnight camps tend to be a bit pricier than day camps since you have the added costs of lodging, meals and around-the-clock supervision.

Once you address these two key decisions, you’ll be in a good position to narrow the plethora of camp choices to a more workable number of options.

3 Important Questions to Help Your Family Find the Best Summer Camp in 2018

Once you begin looking at specific summer camps, you’ll want to ask a few important questions as you work to determine whether that program is well-suited to your kids and your family. It can be helpful to make up a chart that allows you to evaluate each prospective camp against this criteria, allowing for easy comparisons between programs. Your questions should include the following or some variant thereof:

  • Are the camp’s hours suitable for your work schedule? Does the camp offer extended care in the morning or afternoon?
  • Will the available camp session dates interfere with any existing travel plans or other family obligations?
  • Is the camp’s location convenient for pickup and drop-off? Or will you need to arrange for transportation? If so, what costs are involved?
  • Is the cost feasible for your budget? Does the camp offer a discount for returning campers or campers who enroll for multiple sessions?
  • Will your child really enjoy the camp curriculum and activities? Or are they apt to be under/overwhelmed?
  • Will the program’s amount of supervision/assistance align with your child’s needs?
  • Does your child have any special needs, allergies or require special accommodations of any kind? If so, is the camp able and willing to meet these needs?
  • Are you prepared to enroll before summer? Many camps fill up in April and May, so it’s wise to plan ahead of time if possible. This also allows you to take advantage of the early enrollment discounts that some camps offer.

Galileo Summer Quest camper building a Go-Kart.For very popular camp programs, including overnight camps, you should inquire as to whether registration is open to new campers. In some cases, registration may be limited to only returning campers once kids reach a certain age.

Summertime is an opportunity for fun, growth and freedom. This should be a key consideration as you pick out a Chicagoland camp program. And be sure to involve your kids in the decision; after all, they’ll the be ones experiencing the program. You’ll be more likely to pick the perfect program when you involve your kids and take their personalities and preferences into account. Doing this, along with considering the more practical realities of your family’s day-to-day summer schedule, will ensure that camp is the amazing experience you and your kids are hoping it will be.

A Look at a Few Specialized Chicago Summer Camps

There’s no shortage of summer camps in Chicago and the surrounding region, so it’s normal to feel a bit overwhelmed as you begin to explore the dozens of different options. Here’s a look at some of the specialized programs that are offering sessions in 2018.

UpBeat Music and Arts Summer Camp: The UpBeat Music and Arts program is one of the most popular performing arts summer camps in Chicago, as they offer week-long sessions for young musicians and performers. This program works with kids of all ability levels between the ages of 7 and 17. Each camp session concludes with a performance, which is perfect for kids who love the limelight!

The University of Chicago Super Summer Sports Camp: The University of Chicago Super Summer Sports Camp program is designed for athletic, active kids entering kindergarten through the 8th grade. This program welcomes campers of all ability levels. Kids can join in a variety of different sports, including archery, tennis, swimming, volleyball, lacrosse, soccer, softball and basketball. Campers not only learn new skills (or refine existing skill sets), but they’re also provided with great opportunities for team-building, greater self-awareness and improved social skills.

Language Stars Camps: The Language Stars summer camp program is offered in nearly a dozen different locations throughout the Chicagoland region. This program is perfect for kids who have an ear for language, as youngsters can learn everything from Spanish to French, German, Mandarin Chinese, Italian and Arabic. This intensive, immersive foreign language summer camp program is ideal for soon-to-be-multilingual kids. Notably, childhood is believed to be the ideal time for language acquisition, which is developed at camp using an award-winning curriculum and a variety of fun activities and games.

Camp Galileo proud camper.Camp Galileo and Galileo Summer Quest: As an innovation camp, Galileo is different from these other options, as the program blends more traditional STEM activities with the visual arts (STEAM) and outdoor play. The camp is divided into two basic programs: Camp Galileo has programs for kids entering pre-K through 5th grade, while Galileo Summer Quest (GSQ) is perfect for kids entering 5th through 8th grade. Galileo hosts week-long sessions in a number of Chicagoland locations, including the north shore, the western suburbs and the northwestern regions of Chicago.

Galileo has only been offering Chicago day summer camp sessions since 2016, but already, the program is well-known for its unique curriculum. Campers who register for Camp Galileo sessions can choose to spend their week delving into one of four unique themes:

  • The Incredible Human Body: The Art and Science of Being Human
  • Space Explorers: Cosmic Art and Astronaut Science
  • Road Trip Adventure: Art and Engineering Along Route 66
  • Galileo Makers Materials Challenge: Extraordinary Art and Inventions with a Single Supply

Meanwhile, the older campers in Galileo Summer Quest can choose their “major” for the week, ranging from robot pets to chefology, go-karts, escape rooms and even catapult construction. After all, what summer is complete until you’ve fired a catapult?

Galileo camps are passionate about creating a dynamic, fun and educational environment where kids can discover, strategize and learn, using the unique Galileo Innovation Approach. Kids walk away from this summer camp program with more than just good memories and new friends—they also come away with an innovator’s mindset and a hunger for knowledge that will serve them well for a lifetime.

If you’re in search of the best summer camp in Chicagoland, take a moment to join Galileo’s mailing list and stay up-to-date on all the latest Galileo news and program offerings.