Forget Summer Camp. Have Play Dates and Potlucks Instead

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A bunch of stay-at-home moms in the Dallas area have banded together and organized what seems like a simple, easy, and inexpensive way to enjoy the summer: Instead of sending their kids off to pricey summer camps, the moms have created something of a camp themselves. They take turns arranging themed arts and crafts days based on books or science experiments, they go on outings to free playgrounds with splash parks, or they just head to someone’s backyard and let the kids run around in the sprinkler for a while.

The Dallas Morning News covered the trend recently, and, at various levels of size and organization, this sort of stuff goes on around the country.

The Morning News story has tips on how to locate and join other parent groups, and while I love this concept for cheap fun, I’d cautiously feel out any group before joining. Some groups elect officials to positions like “social chair,” and that seems a little bureaucratic to me. I’d also worry that, even though the alternate-summer camp concept is a way to save, some people will still feel a “keeping up with the joneses” pressure, if not in terms of money spent on activities and games, then on the intricacy and artsiness of the arts and crafts. If the atmosphere stresses you out, or has you spending hours hunting for a can’t-fail craft idea, that sorta defeats the purpose. Some parents may buckle under the pressure. And heck, no child wants Martha Stewart to be their camp counselor anyway.