Stuff to know.
Paddling a canoe across a shimmering lake. Riding a horse along a wooded trail. Roasting marshmallows over a crackling fire.
Those idyllic scenes still await kids headed to camp this summer, but the economy has many of their parents feeling anything but relaxed. How, they wonder, can they give their children those experiences without sinking, trampling or torching the family budget? "I am a single parent, so price is always an issue," said Trevia Thomas of Columbus. "I have to be able to afford it." Apparently, some parents are deciding they can't.
The YMCA of Central Ohio says summer-camp registrations are down at half its branches, with some locations reporting decreases of as much as 7 percent from this time last year. "Parents are just taking a step back and trying to analyze what their needs are specifically," said Paul Weber, a YMCA vice president. "I think they're just trying to see what the economy is going to do."
The American Camp Association, which accredits more than 2,400 camps, has seen similar trends across the country. As a result, the Indiana-based group is trying to let parents know that the camp experience doesn't have to break the bank. The association points out that programs are available for as little as $75 a week and that most accredited camps give discounts for early registration, full-season attendance and multiple enrollments from a single family.
Affordability is particularly important to parents who depend on camps for summer child care. The YMCA's day camp, open to those entering grades one through six, will be offered at 19 central Ohio locations this summer. The cost: $105 or $135 a week, depending on a family's membership status. At many locations, for an extra charge, working parents can drop off their kids as early as 7 a.m. and pick them up as late as 6 p.m.
The camp association says parents should find out whether their camp expenses qualify for child-care tax credits or whether those expenses can be funded through a Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account. Recognizing that even the lowest-priced camps might be cost-prohibitive for some families, the association also points out that many camps provide "camperships" -- partial or total scholarships. COSI Columbus, for example, sometimes gives financial assistance to those attending its summer camps, which range from a three-hour session for 5- and 6-year-olds (cost: $27 for members) to a weeklong "premium camp," overnight field trip included, for 12- to 14-year-olds ($475 for nonmembers). "Typically, it's not discounting the camp completely," said Jen Snively, the science center's vice president of programs. "It's giving some type of discount based on need."