Art manager

Chattanooga mom, camp manager, offers advice on choosing the right summer camps for your kids

Cooper is into sports. Lucy loves to cook. And Caroline is all about the art.

For Beth Webb’s three kids — ages 10, 9, and 7, respectively — there’s a specialty summer camp in Chattanooga for each of their unique interests. In fact, there are so many camp options it can be overwhelming.

So where to start ?

Webb begins at her kitchen table with her husband, Brian. Around this time every year, the couple sit down and start planning their summer, planning both family vacations and a variety of week-long day camps for their children.

“We try to do a camp every two weeks,” says Webb, whose goal is to keep his kids entertained, but not too much time. And that goes for Webb, a dentist, and her husband, an orthodontist too.

Travel logistics can be tricky.

“With both of us working, we need them to be in camps the same week,” she says.

And if they each attend a different camp, they should be located within 30 minutes of each other, she says.

Whenever possible, Webb tries to keep the three together, which is easy during the weeks the kids spend at general day camps, like the Creative Discovery Museum, which offers a variety of activities, crafts and outdoor games.

Photo courtesy of Tennessee Aquarium/Children learn about animals, like the green sea turtle, at the Tennessee Aquarium’s annual summer camp.

“My advice for people with younger kids, ages 4 to 6, is to do general camps,” Webb says.

Not only are they less expensive than specialty camps, which focus on a particular topic, but they’re great for helping young children explore and develop their interests.

“Camp should be a fun experience. It should be about growth,” says Jen Collier, learning and engagement manager at the Tennessee Aquarium.

Since 1993, the aquarium has hosted an annual summer camp offering children close encounters with animals and a chance to go behind the scenes to learn about nature. This year it will partner with Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center to host two of its week-long themes.

But an interest in nature and science isn’t necessarily a prerequisite for campers, Collier says. The ones who seem to enjoy camp the most are “the kids who question the world around them, who want hands-on experiences — and that’s almost all the kids,” she says. “Of course, if your child really doesn’t like water or animals, this might not be the camp for them.”

At the end of the summer, Webb always asks his three children to rank their favorite camps. For Cooper, it’s Baylor’s basketball camp; for Lucy, it’s the Sweet and Salty cooking camp; for Caroline, Townsend Atelier art camp.

In choosing the right day camps for your children, Collier says, “Listen to your children. Listen to their interests and how they feel when they come home.

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Photo courtesy of Beth Webb / Beth Webb’s second daughter, Lucy, ranks the Sweet and Savory Classroom cooking camp as one of her favorite summer experiences.