Summer camp survival guide

May 5, 2009 4:34:39 PM PDT
It's time to start planning summer activities for the kids and we know this year, money may be tight. So we take a look at few places around Houston to see what's being offered and how much you can expect to pay. The Jewish Community Center opens another season of Camp J with a newly renovated gymnastics area and a revamped pool. Camper's like Ian Toubin, 9, can't wait for summer to start.

"It's really fun and you get to do a bunch of stuff with your friends and you also get to meet new ones," he told us.

Ian's been coming here for six summers. The camp hours are 6am to 7pm. It's open to kids of all faiths, ages two to 18. But at $275 a week, it's not cheap. Still, Ian's mom says it's worth it.

"There's a gymnastics camp, a sports camp, mad science camp, circus camp," said parent Elizabeth Cohen. "There are a lot of things that Ian can touch on and really have a great terrific, well rounded summer."

Now here's something to keep in mind, members of the JCC receive discounted prices. And like many private camps, the JCC offers financial aid. You'll need proof of income to apply and the earlier you call, the better.

"We know that it's a rough economy right now but we want to try to help as much as we can," said Randy Comensky who is the director of the JCC Children's Camp.

Now what about the YMCA's around Houston? All day summer camp there costs just $100 a week for members and $150 for non-members.

"We really are promoting our financial assistance very heavily this summer," said senior program director for the YMCA Heidi Brasher.

Prices for both camp-and YMCA memberships are based on a family's income, so the list price is not necessarily what you'll pay. Children ages 5-15 can attend-from 6:30am to 6:30pm. Activities include swimming, field trips, sports and crafts.

What if you want to line up some fun activities but you don't need all-day care? Well, the Mad Potter is offering some interesting summertime specials. At the West Gray location, there's a five day art camp for $200 a week or $45 a day. It's Monday through Friday, 10-12:30pm or at any time during the day at all locations. Parents can drop off children age 7 and up and leave them with a staff artist who will help them create a craft. For two hours it's $12. For one hour, it's $6. They'll leave with a piece of pottery and normally that artwork alone would cost $8.

"People are looking to create something of value and that's from the heart," said owner Meredith McCord.

Church camps are another popular option. This summer your tiny dancer just might want to bring her ballet shoes to Chappelwood United Methodist Church day camp. It costs $150 a week and $135 for church members. For older kids, the camp has a teen center with Guitar Hero, table tennis, video games and big screen TVs. Just a word to working parents though, camp Chappelwood runs only four days a week if you enroll multiple kids you get 10% off and there are also scholarships for families who need them.

In August, Chappelwood and six other churches host a week-long camp for kids with special needs ages four through high school. The cost is $75. Financial aid is available.

For a full day of fun, West University Baptist Church has a summer camp from 8am to 6pm for only $35 a day. Unlike many camps, you do not have to pay for it by the week and field trips are optional. Parents enrolling more than one child get 5% off, so do church members. There's also a week of vacation bible school and at this church it's free.

Over at St. Lukes Methodist Church, campers say you get to do fun activities and you get to do different activities. Parents tell me they like the fact that this camp is licensed by the state and there's an on-site pool. Pricing is based on the hours your child attends. For example Monday through Friday from 7am to 6pm is $220 a week. From 9am to 4:30pm it's just $185. Registration is $100, $50 for church members. Campers also enjoy field trips at places like the zoo, Splash Town and local museums.

You can find prices and dates for all of the camps on our Consumer Blog plus info for other camps not mentioned in the television story.

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