I write this having just sent the 2013 Summer Camp Guide file along to the graphic designers with a sigh of relief and a heartfelt click of the Send key. Three years in and this thing just keeps growing.

Dear Columbus Parents,

I write this having just sent the 2013 Summer Camp Guide file along to the graphic designers with a sigh of relief and a heartfelt click of the Send key. Three years in and this thing just keeps growing.

For our first Summer Camp Guide in 2011, we found 142 summer camps out there in central Ohio (and the surrounding woods). Last year we called it "144+" because a few stray latecomers got added at the last minute. This year? We've got 170 (though I'm sure a few more latecomers will pop up and make it into our April mini-guide).

I consider it both a small sign of economic recovery that the number is growing AND proof that we really are giving you the most comprehensive summer-camp directory in the area. And this stuff is important to families. Camps are not just childcare. They're a fresh and much-needed form of education that lets kids try on new roles, responsibilities and inspirations without the specter of grades and test scores hanging over their heads.

And I continue to be impressed by how well camps are structured and conducted these days. All I have to do is think back to the one multi-sport day camp I did when I was a kid to know how much better things have gotten. My most vivid memories of that day camp? Nearly drowning during swim time and spending my "free time" in the shade of a brick-walled school building, watching the grass on the softball field get a little browner. If kids are having experiences like that today, I'm not hearing about it (and I doubt parents, being the savvy consumers we are nowadays, would stand for it).

But I have noticed a few changes in just the three years since we started our camp guide. First, as writer Jill Moorhead explores in her article, the hours offered with day camps are very important to working parents, so the options for expanded hours and before- and after-care have improved. Second, in updating last year's guide with this year's info, I noticed that many camps have slightly reduced their prices. Also, more camps are noting that they do offer scholarships. Good for them on both counts!

So, enjoy poring through the options we've assembled. I know I still enjoy living vicariously through the possibilities!

Oh, and don't forget to bug your school principals to nominate the deserving teachers in your lives for our first-ever Teachers of the Year competition. We're taking nominations until March 15 and then voting begins March 25. Visit columbusparent.com/teachers for more information!

Now, go enjoy finding a summer camp for your kids!