Outdoor fun abounds

Summer camp registration gearing up across communities

As shovels push piles of snow to driveway corners, and a cold wind shrieks through the air, it may be difficult to think about summer plans. But for those planning summer break care for young kids, it all starts now.

The largest and most comprehensive day camp programs are gearing up, with registration dates beginning as early as March 1. The traditional camps, offered by local park districts, boast weekly field trips, swim days at community pools and water parks, themed weeks, craft projects, games and more. Sign up is weekly, and families can choose the weeks their children will attend to meld with vacation plans or other summertime opportunities.

Other week-long sessions may be interest-specific, tailored to developing a sport or academic skill, learning about a nature topic, or building off a fun and relatable theme.

In Geneva, campers start out at locations across the city, divided by age group, for a similar camp experience that includes games, crafts, activities, excursions and days at Sunset Pool. Camp coordinators embrace the “Character Counts” philosophy, taught in local schools, and teach leadership skills through various outdoor experiences.

A favorite by campers and staff alike is the trip to Medieval Times, a trip taken by kids in the older age groups, while younger campers look forward to the Brookfield Zoo, said Jan Parcell, recreation coordinator. In fact, the zoo excursion is so popular that Geneva has set up a specialty "Zoo-pers Camp" which offers nothing but trips to local zoos for an entire week.

"Our summer camps are a great way for kids to stay busy," said Purcell. "Additionally, these camps are primarily outdoors, and keep children outside as much as possible, as well as engaged and active. They are a well supervised fun filled way to spend the long summer days. "

And that means a lot to parents who need an all-day option for their children through the summer months.

 “As working parents, we are big fans of the Geneva Park District program, said Allison Kurtz of Geneva, parent of two elementary-aged children. “It is well-run, safe and it keeps the kids entertained. There are field trips every week which expose the kids to new experiences, and they have the opportunity to get to know children from other schools and look forward to re-connecting with those friends every summer.

“It’s a big relief for us, and our kids have a blast.” she said.

In Batavia, a range of options takes campers from kindergarteners to teenagers, on summer adventures. Kamp Kaleidoscope is summer time fun that your first through fifth graders won’t want to miss! Campers will have the chance to participate in games, crafts, field trips, swimming at Hall Quarry Beach and more. For middle-schoolers, Club Teen boasts swimming, sports, games, trips all starting out at the district’s Teen Center White House. Preschool programs, which meet for two hours in the morning, also are offered.

In St. Charles, campers meet at Pottawatomie Community Center, convenient to indoor facilities, Swanson Pool, and an array of park offerings.

Some of the popular field trips older campers takes each year are to Raging Waves Waterpark in Yorkville, Vertical Endeavors in Warrenville and Magic Waters Waterpark in Rockford. Younger campers in St. Charles will go on walking field trips once a week to a destination in town.

This year, St. Charles offers working parents a new option in its three-day a week camp program. Flexibility is key, as parents can choose which three days of the week they need, uniquely meeting the demands of a parent working part-time, or simply seeking a shorter camp experience for their children.

"The three day camp option was added this year to accommodate parents that work part-time, so they can utilize the district’s camp program for summer care needs," said Krista Mulready, recreation supervisor for the St. Charles Park District. "Parents have expressed interest in part-time options for a few years and the three day option hopes to accommodate the public in that way."

Looking for something different? Alternate a week of traditional summer day camp for an experience in dance, music, science and more.

Encore Summer Music Camp is offered in Batavia, and promises an affordable, fun summer music camp designed for local students entering sixth through ninth grades and who already involved in band, orchestra or choir. The four day program, held July 26-29, includes large group rehearsals, sectionals, technique/theory class, fun activities, and a performance at the Batavia Riverwalk.

Science more your speed? Check out nearby FermiLab, which offers a variety of week-long educational camps throughout the season, and offers campers a chance to try their hand at interactive science experiments, build computer skills, study physics and more.

You need not be a scout to embrace the week-long camp experiences offered through the Girl Scouts of Northern Illinois. Offered on site at scout campgrounds across the Fox Valley area, these camps, both day-based and sleep-away, provide girls the opportunities to learn such skills as swimming, horseback riding, outdoor cooking, photography, hiking and even survival skills in a friendly all-girl environment. Visit www.gsni.org for details.

And if your kids think they are too old for camp, consider a counselor-in-training program through the park districts. These sessions allow teens to shadow existing counselors, learn what is expected, and prepare for a first summer job.