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Happy Campers

Parents and kids have a wide range of enriching summer camp options.


Summer day camps for kids now offer more than the making of peanut butter bird feeders and macaroni necklaces. In fact, if kids knew what was out there, they would be begging to go and parents would not have to worry about hearing the dreaded "I'm bored" all summer.

To help you plot your route to worry-free sanity this summer, we checked out a few day camps, comparing prices and what they have to offer.

Specialty camps, where kids concentrate on one activity for their entire stay, are popular. There are also camps that offer a variety of activities. And some camps mingle education with fun. But don't tell the kids.

We found reasonably priced specialty day camps at various locations in Ventura through the city of Ventura Community Services.

Its Summer Recreation Enrichment is open to everyone from Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. for $95 a week and from 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for $50 a week.

Kids ages 6 to 14 can focus on a variety of activities, including arts and crafts, tennis, creative arts, science, basketball, volleyball, gymnastics and soccer. Camp field trips include skating, Magic Mountain, the beach and the county fair.

Camps run from June 19 to Aug. 25, administrative clerk Diane Goins-Hall said.

Since 1943, Ojai Valley School in Ojai has been offering its Summer Fun and Study program in which children ages 3 to 18 take summer classes combined with fun activities during two-, four- and six-week programs.

Preschool to second-grade children attend from 8:15 to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday for two weeks at $690, four weeks at $1,370 or six weeks at $1,870.

Third- through 12th-graders have the option of day or overnight camps. The older day campers pay $980 for two weeks, $1,960 for four weeks or $2,670 for six weeks.

The boarders pay $1,780 for two weeks, $3,560 for four weeks or $4,850 for six weeks.


In the morning, the campers will study subjects that prepare them for their upcoming grade. A class on study tips, test taking and organization is a popular one for the summer, said director of admissions John Williamson.

In the afternoon, there is swimming, competitive horseback riding, arts and crafts, archery, video production and other fun activities, he said.

At Carden School of Camarillo, kids 3 to 12 will be kept entertained at day camp with activities that include arts, crafts, reading incentive programs, games, journal writing, computers, drama and field trips.

They meet Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with an extended-day option that costs extra. The day camp is $25 a day with an added charge for some activities, including swimming, dance classes, bowling or ice skating, assistant director Kellie Plunkett said.

Every Thursday, there will be a field trip with outings that include visits to museums or amusement parks, hiking or train rides, she said.

At the Conejo Valley YMCA, specialty camps will include basketball, soccer, mountain biking, science, nature, art and equestrian activities, said camp director Chris Catalano.

Specialty camps cost $120 a week.

The Y will also have a general day camp with days full of activities that include sports, games, arts, crafts, swimming, hiking and field trips to places where kids can skate or play miniature golf or laser tag.

Regular day camp will cost $115 a week.

The YMCA camp is open from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday for kids from first to eighth grades.

Travel camps are also offered this summer for $120 a week, in which junior high and high school students can take camping trips to places like Zion National Park in Utah, Mammoth or Big Bear, Catalano said.

At Phoenix Ranch Summer Day Camp in Simi Valley, four acres are divided into different areas where kids can enjoy archery, crafts, rope climbing, go-carts, dance, drama, computers, games, swimming and other activities under the supervision of trained counselors and certified instructors, said owner Frances Alascano.

The day camp is open for kids ages 5 to 13 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, with extended care options available for an added fee. Camp costs $31 a day with a minimum of two days a week.

Among the suggestions offered by camp operators around the county:

* Parents should ask if the camp is accredited by the American Camping Assn., Alascano said. If it is, the camp has to follow 179 standards that include counselor training and risk management, she said.

* Trained counselors who know CPR and first aid are a must, Plunkett said.

* Ask about the child-counselor ratio, Catalano said. The places we contacted had rations of eight students per counselor or 10 students per counselor.

* Make sure they are transporting the children safely and the field trips and activities are age appropriate, Alascano said. If the junior high kids are doing the same thing as the preschoolers, there probably is a problem.

And finally, don't be afraid to drop in--after all, it's your child and your money.

Nancy Needham writes a weekly consumer column and can be reached at

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