Seasoned North Shore moms and dads know that it’s not too early to start thinking about summer plans. January is the season for summer camp enrollment, and whether you’re a first-time parent, new to the area, or just want your child to try something new this year, there are a myriad of options for getting your kids into great outdoors. Here are our picks for the best programs in the area; spaces fill up fast, so start your research now:
Chicago Botanic Garden offers programs for children ages 2-15. All camps incorporate nature exploration, hands-on learning, games, crafts, and planting into lesson plans. Interactive parent and tot classes are available for the littlest ones, while a Leaders in Training program helps kids ages 13-15 build leadership skills to prepare them for high school, college, and beyond. Camp runs from June 15 to August 14. Early registration for garden members begins January 14; registration to the public opens January 21. For more information, visit chicagobotanic.org.
GLENVIEW PARK DISTRICT
The district’s massive selection of programs has something for every age and interest,with plenty designed with the nature lover in mind. Little Acorns, for 4 and 5-year-olds, will teach budding naturalists about flora and fauna through forest walks and interactions with live animals; the Outdoor Discovery Camp for 6 and 7-year-olds includes a night hike and program around a camp fire; and X-treme X-plorers for 8-10 and 11 and 12-year-olds is packed with outdoor field trips and an overnight sleepover. Programs run between June and July. For more information, visit glenviewparks.org.
LAKE FOREST OPEN LANDS
Summer Eco-Camps held by the Lake Forest Open Lands Association (LFOLA) exposes kindergarteners to sixth graders to the beauty and wonder of the natural world. Campers are introduced to local forests, prairies, and wetlands
through age-appropriate activities: the youngest children play interactive games while middleschoolers acquire survival and team building skills through hiking, biking, canoeing, and group exercises. Various sessions are available between Jun 15 and July 24. For more information, visit lfola.org.
NORTH SHORE COUNTRY DAY
While NSCD’s summer programs accommodate children as young as 3, Expedition Camps for kids 10-13 are tailor made for adventurous spirits. A two-week Mariner Program teaches kids how to navigate and operate a boat. Campers will learn to sail, canoe, kayak, and windsurf while learning about boating safety. The Trailblazer Program combines hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, fishing, sailing, and kayaking. Finally, a new Farm-to-Table Program teaches aspiring gourmands how to get their hands dirty in a schoolyard garden before being whisked away to a kitchen to master basic cooking skills. Three sessions are available between June 15 and July 31; door-to-door transportation is available in selected areas. For more information, visit nscdscamps.org.
SKOKIE PARK DISTRICT
Skokie Park district offers full-day, nature-themed programs for kids 6-11, divided into three groups: Earth Explorers, Travelers, and Rangers.
The youngest will learn about plants and animals through sensory activities, crafts and discovery hikes; the next level teaches basic outdoor skills (how to paddle a canoe, pitch a tent, build a fire, and cook food outdoors); and the eldest learn about local ecosystems while acquiring advanced outdoor skills (knot tying, using a compass, animal tracking). For kids 12-15, an Outdoor Challenge Camp offers instruction in team building, sea kayaking, off-road biking, and rock climbing. Camps run various sessions between June 15 and August 7. For more information, visit skokieparks.org.