Camp Guide

How to Choose a Summer Camp Your Kids Will Love and That You Approve—Even Amid a Pandemic

Whether you’re looking for enrichment for your child, a way to keep your kids occupied and supervised while you work, or need a short reprieve from parenting, there’s sure to be a summer camp that’s the right fit for your child and family. Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many summer camps will be up and running either offering alternative programs or by following safety protocols to reduce the risk to campers and staff.

The Benefits of Summer Camp

Summer Camp offers kids plenty of benefits, and many kids are thrilled with the idea of going away to summer camp. Still, for some kids, particularly those who are shy, introverted, or homebodies, the thought of going away for a night, let alone a week or more, can cause considerable anxiety. When kids are adamantly opposed, forcing summer camp on them may not be in their best interest.

But for kids who are eager – or at least willing to give it a shot without much fuss – summer camp offers opportunities kids may not have elsewhere. 

Summer camp provides kids the following benefits:

• Fosters independence

• A place to develop new and lasting friendships

• Development of new skills

• Discovery of new interests and hobbies

• The opportunity for creative expression

• A break from being plugged-in

• Daily exercise

• Improves their self-esteem

• Teaches kids to work with others

• Makes them feel part of a community

• Prevents or reduces summer learning loss

Getting Started in Your Search

Before you begin looking into summer camps, create a list of the criteria you’re looking for. Here are some things you’ll want to consider.

• What is your budget for summer camp?

• What is the purpose of sending your child to summer camp?

• Do you want a resident (overnight) or a day camp?

• Are you looking for a short-term (week or two) or summer-long program?

• Do you want a camp that’s very structured or one that provides your child with lots of freedom and choices?

• What are your child’s passions, such as a particular sport, hobby, or other interest?

Once you’ve narrowed down some of the criteria, you can begin your search. An excellent place to start is your local parenting magazine. Many summer camps advertise in local parenting publications found at newsstands and online. Here, you can search by zip code or category. The American Camp Association (ACA) accredits summer camps. So this is another excellent place to look. The ACA educates camp owners and directors in health and safety for both staff and campers as well as program quality. It then accredits camps that meet the ACA’s standards.

Next Steps to Finding the Perfect Summer Camp

Once you’ve selected a few summer camps that meet your primary criteria, and that fit your child’s interests, share the choices with your child to see what excites him or her. Be sure to let your child know upfront that you still need to thoroughly investigate the camp(s) before making a final decision. But do keep your child’s choices in mind to ensure your child gets the most out of summer camp.

Once you and your child have narrowed the list down to a manageable selection, you’ll want to investigate the camps further. There are several things you’ll want to consider.

Is this camp a safe option for my child and family during the pandemic?

Many summer camps are now offering virtual programs so kids can benefit from summer camp without the risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19. Virtual summer camps range from a couple of hours a day to all-day camps offering a broad range of virtual activities led by counselors. Virtual summer camp programs range from free to several hundred dollars.

Perhaps you’re considering sending your child to an in-person summer camp. 

If so, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers suggestions on how summer camp programs can reduce campers’ risk during the pandemic. Recommendations include promoting behaviors to minimize spread, maintaining a healthy environment, maintaining healthy operations, being prepared for when someone gets sick, and special considerations for overnight camps. When considering an in-person summer camp, review the CDC’s more detailed recommendations. Then compile questions to ask the summer camp you’re considering to make sure it adheres to these safety protocols.

More Questions to Consider:

What are the staff’s qualifications?

Many summer camps use teens to staff the camps. Teens make excellent mentors and can bring liveliness to summer camp programs. However, the programs themselves should be developed by professionals and have professional oversight to ensure kids are getting the most from their camp experience.

How does the camp ensure your child’s safety?

Find out what kind of safety training the camp provides its staffers. Also, is there staff on hand at all times that knows CPR? What are the camp’s procedures in the event your child becomes ill, has an accident, or an emergency?

What is the daily schedule for campers?

Ask for a daily itinerary, so you know your child will be getting everything you and your child anticipate from the program.

What are the rules?

Each camp has its own set of rules. So, find out whether your child is allowed to call you. If it’s a summer-long residential camp, can parents come and visit? Can kids bring along a cell phone or electronics? Also, how much money can they bring, and how is it managed?

Don’t sweat it

Keep in mind, although there are many great camps, no camp is likely to offer everything precisely the way you want it. Just choose the one that best fits your child and satisfies your most important criteria. Remember, your child will have many summers to come and plenty more opportunities to work in more exciting camp experiences.

Camp Listings

Summer at Barstow

Kansas City’s favorite summer camps for kids ages 3-14! Choose from 600+offerings. Campers love Summer at Barstow’s action-packed adventures in creative arts, athletics, academics and STEAM, plus field trips to the city’s best attractions. Parents love our experienced instructors, 4:1 camper-to-staff ratio and extended care options. Summer at Barstow offers camps for every budget, age, interest, and schedule. Extended care available. May 23-Aug. 12.

11511 State Line Rd., Kansas City. 816.277.0445.

Camp Invention

Thanks to amazing reviews from parents, teachers and most of all – campers, Camp Invention is back! Spark your kid’s creativity and confidence with Camp Invention’s exclusive program, Explore! Campers in grades K-6 collaborate with friends in hands-on, open-ended STEM adventures designed to inspire curiosity, stretch imaginations and give your explorer an epic summer experience. They’ll dive into ocean research with their own robotic fish, develop inventions for space exploration, build a spinning robot artist, and design a mega-marble arcade! There are a limited number of spots available and they fill up quickly.

Multiple locations. 800.968.4332.

Camps For Kids

Camps for Kids works to assure that no Kansas City area child will be turned away from summer camp because of low income or physical or developmental disabilities. Founded by Marjorie Powell All in 1981 when the Federal government discontinued a program providing summer camp to children with disabilities or financial needs at no cost to their families.

Children attending Camp for Kids are transformed by the learning, growth, and acceptance from camp. To be among peers who share similar life challenges is comforting and fosters interpersonal growth. Camp also bridges the learning loss between school years.

Many camps have a specific medical focus including chronic kidney disease, autism spectrum disorders, spina bifida, cancer, foster care children, bereavement therapy, visual impairment, developmental challenges, neuromuscular diseases, and congenital heart disease. Several camps have an arts focus such as mixed media and dance. Most camps have a small staff and utilize volunteers to conduct their activities. They focus on providing outstanding camping experiences for the children. Few camps have dedicated personnel to raise the needed funds to support the camp’s programs. Camps for Kids support is critical to their continued operation and success.


Church of the Resurrection 

Vacation Bible Camp at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection this summer offers a week where children attend HERO University for four days of fun, friendship and faith-building. Children will experience Super-HERO lessons from the greatest hero of all–Jesus! 

Vacation Bible Camp is a fun week filled with Bible stories, games, music, crafts, service projects and an end of camp surprise celebration. Church of the Resurrection currently plans to offer Vacation Bible Camp at each of their five locations in the greater Kansas City area – Leawood, Downtown Kansas City, Blue Springs, Overland Park and Olathe. 

Parents are always welcome to join the fun as volunteers for Hero-U, as children learn important lessons from the Bible about trusting God, persevering, and serving others. Suitable for all children preschool through grade 5. Camp runs from Monday, July 18th through Thursday, July 21.

Various locations throughout the city. 913.897.0120.

City of Leawood

The City of Leawood Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department is offering a variety of camps for all ages and interests. This summer you can sign-up for creative and engaging art camps, including the popular “Art Party” and “Little Artists” camps located in the Community Center on the lower level of City Hall. Have a sports superstar in the making? Be sure to sign them up for “Super Sports” and “Challenger Soccer” camps.  For children ages 9-11 who aren’t afraid of heights, sign them up for the awesome “Challenge Adventure Camp” which takes place on the giant climbing walls and ropes course at Ironwoods Park. Don’t forget the outdoorsy kids with our curiosity inspiring nature camps including the “Half Day Nature Camp”. This year they will also be launching our  “Rocket Kids Camp” where kids ages 8-12 will learn how to build their very own rocket.

Various Locations throughout Leawood. 913.663.1954.

Kansas City Missouri Parks & Recreation

Get ready for a summer full of fun at the Kansas City Park and Recreation’s Summer Enrichment Camps. Ten-week day camps are a great chance for kids ages 6-13 to stay socially, mentally, and physically active. Campers enjoy educational enrichment opportunities, crafts, games and safe socialization. The health and safety of staff and campers is the utmost priority so Kansas City, Missouri Parks and Recreation follows CDC guidelines for all programs. Summer camp is $80 per week with lunch and snacks provided. Camps are conveniently located at five KC Parks Community Centers throughout the city including Hillcrest, Kansas City North, Southeast, Tony Aguirre, Westport Roanoke Community Center. Scholarships are available. 

Various locations throughout Kansas City.

KC Watersports

You will find Kansas City’s premier wakeboarding, wakeskating and watersports school at KC Watersports. All Summer Camps are taught at their Cable Park Facility on one of our two cable lakes located just South of Spring Hill, KS. Camps are held daily Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Their passion is teaching people how to enjoy watersports at every level. They have the facilities and staff in place to ensure that every rider, regardless of skill level, can learn something new. Whether you’re new to the sport and have never ridden any kind of board before to the advanced rider wanting to learn a new flip or twist KC Watersports camp will fit every level of rider.  

Included with camp is instruction from top level coaches, all of the necessary gear, and a light lunch. Campers must bring a positive attitude, swimwear, sunscreen and a towel. 

25825 Edgemore, Paola, Kan. 913.783.4300.


Summer at the Rock is a unique experience for both elementary students and High School students. The grade school athletic camps include baseball, basketball, football, lacrosse, soccer and wrestling. The grade school academic program offers future scientists, HSPT prep, musical theater, robotics, science enrichment and study skills.

 The High School student courses include Magis academy, PSAT prep, summer credit, academic courses.

9301 State Line Rd., Kansas City. 816.363.2036.

Social Media

Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe to our newsletters

Kansas City magazine keeps readers updated on the latest news in twice-weekly newsletter. 

On Tuesdays, Dish brings you food news and our critic picks. 

On Thursdays, The Loop offers exclusive news reports and our curated events picks.