It's Time to Talk Summer Camps!

January is the perfect time to start researching summer camp options. Learn tips for finding the perfect camp and the scholarship and financial aid options available for affording camp.

It’s mid-January, the winter holidays are over and school is back in session...which means it is the perfect time to start researching summer learning options and making plans for your child’s summer experiences.

Surprised? It may feel like it’s too early to plan out attendance at camps and classes that are still five to six months away, but enrollment for many local camps begins this month. In addition, many camps that offer scholarships, financial aid, and/or sliding scale tuition based on a family’s finances have early spring application deadlines for awarding aid.

As a children's librarian, I often get families asking about these resources in May and early June; parents and caregivers are surprised and disappointed when I inform them that the camps they are interested in are fully enrolled and all available financial aid has already been awarded.

By getting an early start on planning for the summer, you can increase your chances at landing a spot at the camp of your choice!

Clifford the Big Red Dog and OPL Children's Librarian

Here are some tips for maximizing your summer planning:

Affording camp:

  • If you find a camp that you like but it seems unattainable because of the stated cost, ask about scholarship and financial aid opportunities. These opportunities are often available for those who ask, even if they aren’t listed on the camp’s website.

  • Don’t assume that your family won’t qualify for scholarships or financial aid.

  • Camps often expect payment at the time of registration but may offer a payment plan if needed and requested.

Finding a camp:

  • The ideal time frame for finding and applying for summer camps are mid-January to early April.

  • There’s a camp for almost every topic you can think of: art, coding, cooking, making, music, science and sports, just to name a few. If your child has an interest, there is probably a camp for it.

  • If you are looking for a camp for children with special needs or who need accommodations, the Easterseals Bay Area’s (EBA) camping resources page offers a great first step to finding a camp.

  • Think outside the box when looking for summer opportunities! Some local community colleges and universities have offerings for school-aged children. For example, Laney College offers a well-regarded music program for young musicians, and the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) offers a popular engineering camp for elementary school students in Oakland.

  • Popular local attractions such as Fairyland, Oakland Zoo, and the Chabot and Science Center offer youth camps (and financial aid!).

  • The City of Oakland’s Department of Parks, Recreation & Youth Development offers a host of summer options, including an inclusion camp, as well as scholarship opportunities. Other local parks and recreation departments may do the same.

  • Visit the Oakland Unified School District’s (OUSD) Summer Learning page to find out more about its summer learning sites.

  • Many local independent schools offer summer programs for students who attend school elsewhere. (Don’t forget to ask about funding options.)

  • Check out the Oakland Activity Guide at for information on quality summer learning opportunities.

  • The 510 Families site publishes a useful East Bay Summer Camp guide each February.

  • Local nonprofit and parent-to-parent network Berkeley Parents Network contains years of parent reviews of many of the Bay area’s camps, including many in Oakland. Visit for more information.

Do you have tips to share about finding a great camp? Let us know below in the comments.