Here is what parents need to know about 2021 summer camps

If you’re still looking for a summer camp or two to fill your child’s days this summer, you’re in luck. There are still some spaces open. Many families uncertain about the safety of sending kids to camp waited later to register their children this year. When Gov. Greg Abbott opened all businesses to 100% capacity in early March, it allowed camps to start planning.

Your child’s summer camp will probably be open this year, but just like everything else, there might be a lot of changes.

“To have missed it for a year and to be waiting for that first kid to come back for 2021 - it will be magical,” said Mish Hood, Executive Director of YMCA Camp Cullen.

Like so many other camps around town, the crew at YMCA’s overnight camp, Camp Cullen, is gearing up for a busy summer. Hood said there are still some open spaces available.

“We are aiming to deliver everything you would expect from a traditional camp experience layered in with all the COVID stuff,” explains Hood.

“Summer camps are really eager to get back to business and provide fun activities for kids,” said Sabrina Miskelly from

Sabrina Miskelly, with, helps parents find answers. Activity Hero is a one-stop-shop for all things related to camps.

“They can filter camps by activity, by age, by location and find the perfect camps for their kids,” explains Miskelly.

Expect fewer spots for camps

“A lot of camps are limiting capacity because of registration and protocol so parents really need to book early to secure their spot,” said Sabrina.

A lot of the popular overnight camps, including Camp Cho-Yeh in Livingston, already have waitlists for certain weeks. When we checked Activity Hero, we found open spots at a basketball camp in Katy, a half-day soccer camp in The Woodlands and a Minecraft coding camp in North Houston. 45% of all searches on Activity Hero have been for outdoor activities this summer.

Tip #1 - Check safety protocols

When looking for a camp you want to make sure they are serious about sanitizing and safety protocols.

“Things like hand washing, temperature check, mask-wearing,” explains Sabrina.

“This summer we know a lot more about how to keep kids safe and how to keep them engaged in that environment as well,” said Curtis Lemieux, Executive Director YMCA Summer programs.

The YMCA will have day camps open in 25 locations around the Houston area. They offer financial assistance for families that might need it.

“The team is very excited to be open in our communities,” said Curtis. “Swimming will be back, ropes courses, archery, all of those cool camp activities that you are used to will be back. We’ve figured out a way to do them safely.”

Many camps, like the Houston Zoo summer camp, will organize kids in small groups or teams. They will not mix around with others. The SPCA’s Critter Camp will do the same.

Tip #2 - Read the fine print

Of course, many camps require you to commit to a certain time frame. New this year, you may want to really take a look at the fine print.

“Double check the cancelation and refund policy just in case someone in your family gets sick,” said Sabrina.

Unlike in the past, many camps are allowing parents to cancel last minute if needed.

“If it comes to summertime and you say you know what I’m just not comfortable, then you will get a full refund,” said Hood.

Tip#3 - Expect some sort of screening

Depending on the camp you choose, you may have to do testing or quarantine before showing up. Most camps are still working out logistics but you can expect some sort of screening before arrival. Don’t be surprised if the camp won’t let parents enter past a certain point.

Many camps will have virtual options

“The summer camps provide opportunities for all students no matter what area they come from,” Ms. Ashley Khan, Youth Services Manager for Hester House, said.

You can expect some camps to stay virtual. Hester House in Houston’s Fifth Ward will run its summer camp online. Kids will be able to participate in chess classes, music, arts and crafts, science, and more. They’ll even have dry land activities for swimming practice.

“I want to say that I love it,” said 7-year-old Aniya Sales.

Aniya Sales is excited to start camp this summer. She already takes part in the after-school program. Aniya learned chess and uses it to help with her math homework.

“It’s like a family, that’s really what it is,” said mom Alana Sales.

“It’s exactly what they need after a hard year. It will be a return to normalcy,” said Hood.

“We are very excited for summer 2021,” said Curtis.

Since we know being outdoors is safer when it comes to COVID precautions, most camps are planning more outdoor activities. More good news-- more camps will open up their pools.

Find the best options for your family

There are dozens of options for camps in the Houston area. Activity Hero can help parents pick the best camp for their needs.

“Parents used to be able to go to camp fairs to see a bunch of camps in one place,” said Sabrina. “And because you can’t gather these days, virtual camps are really the best ways to see what is out there.”

With sites like Activity Hero, you can actually create your own schedule and plug in the camps that work best.

“So you can plan out your entire summer for multiple kids from one place and even share that with your kids,” said Sabrina.

You’ll also be able to see camps that may offer deals and discounts.

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Passionate consumer advocate, mom of 3, addicted to coffee, hairspray and pastries.

Award-winning TV producer and content creator. My goal as a journalist is to help people. Faith and family motivate me. Running keeps me sane.