I like my children to spend the limited summertime, in Chicago, outdoors as much as possible. I work full-time so I love Chicago Park District’s play and day camps for my children. My son goes to camp at one of the Chicago Park Districts parks every summer, since he turned 4. My daughter started the camps last year when she turned 4 as well.
We live in a neighborhood where we’re at the center point of about 5 great city parks, 2 of which have pools. First two years, I preferred the one with the renovated playground but did not have the pool. At play camp for ages 4-5, they do not go in the pool. At day camp for ages 6-13, they have pool time every day. If you sign them up at a park without a pool, they walk to a park with a pool and walk back. It’s both exhausting and might be dangerous (as in last year) when the temperatures are unbearably high. So I decided to drive a little bit farther to take him to a park with the pool.
It’s been 3 years, going on 4 this year, since my kids are going to camp at CPD. I’ve been always very happy with the administration as well as the team counselors and their assistants at both parks so far (knocking on wood). The counselors, who are pretty young, always amaze me, taking care of 8 kindergarteners or elementary kids at a time, all screaming and shouting and running around. I remember dropping my son off to the park in one of the meeting rooms. There would be 4 group counselors waiting for the parents to drop off the little ones. Every single morning, the sound in that room would be indescribable; cacophonous, raucous.. I don’t know. Felt more like listening to “trash metal” at high volume. I could barely throw myself back out to the street. The counselors on the other hand, would talk to the kids 4 at a time, or some just standing there calmly, keeping an eye on the kids and making sure parents sign the sign in sheet. It was amazing. As a 30 something mom, it reminded me how I was able to stand loud music in clubs back then and now I can barely stand the sound in a movie theater. Joke aside, I really admire the counselors, taking on such a huge responsibility at an early age.
The camps used to be 6 weeks in the past years. However, it’s shorter this year, I presume, due to late finish and early school start in August. They usually have field trips like a movie day, museum day and arcade/game day. They have themed days like pajama days and pizza days. One thing I don’t like about those theme days is they serve carbonated drinks and juices. I and few other parents, would bring healthy snacks, while most bring highly processed snacks.
Camps run from 9 am to 3 pm, some with half or an hour late start and end. Play camps for 4-5 are 1 hour shorter than the day camps. So if you have 2 kids, one in play camps and one in day camp, like me, you have to pick up day camper early, or find a library or cafe to hang around one more hour to wait with the play camper.
They also serve lunch, which is variety of sandwiches and milk. They seem ok. You can send home lunch as well. A big bottle of water is mandatory.
Overall, though, being at every neighborhood park, therefore short commute; opportunity to stay active; swim, run around; play games and sports; get exposed to sun; make new friends; and field trips, you cannot beat CPD’s day and play camps. One of the parks near us, has tennis camps as well.
So go to http://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/programs/day-camp/ now. View the camps you might be interested in. Sign up for an account, if you haven’t got one. Add the camp(s) to your wish list. Get online on the morning of April 15 (west of California) and on April 16 (east of California) at 8:50. Be ready for some speed clicking at 9:00 am. Usually they have ample spots in day camps but play camp spots are limited.
Good luck and enjoy your summer.
Image source: http://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/