As we complete another summer of travel, sunshine, beaches, frolicking, learning, and camps, I’m posting a compilation of our experiences from this year’s summer camps.

All camps are located in Silicon Valley and we chose which ones to attend based on last year’s experiences; in fact, at the bottom I listed the camps we weeded out because of what we learned in the previous year. Our experiences are based on the 8-9 year old camper age range.

The Winners

I feel that we really lucked out with the winners this year. These camps made the summer easy, fun, and filled our days with laugher and stories. I highly recommend all the camps listed below in the winners section.

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WALDEN WEST

Kid Rating: (5/5)
Kid Comments: This camp was lots of fun. Next time I want to do the overnight camp. I liked looking for and learning about creatures. I liked the pool. Ziplining was fun. I loved Scooby and now follow his adventures on his website because they make me laugh.

Parent Rating: (5/5)
Parent Comments: I wanted to attend this camp because it looked like fun. La Niña came home happy every day and was constantly joking and laughing with the counsellors. The camp also had realistic drop off/pick up times that helped us work around the extra time it took to get to Saratoga because of road construction.

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IMAGINEERZ

Kid Rating: (5/5)
Kid Comments: I miss this camp and the counsellors. It was the best place in the world.

Parent Rating: (4/5)
Parent Comments: Picking up La Niña every day from here was like picking up a bucket of happy, contented, chattering bees. We had a difficult school year (Grade 4) and I feel like the life skills that Imagineerz teach helped deprogram any negativity La Niña learned in school and gave her the skills to identify and avoid it in the future.

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STANFORD iD TECH

Kid Rating: (5/5)
Kid Comments: I loved this camp and all the instructors; I liked making video games, building robots, and programming in Minecraft. I enjoyed sharing riddles with Frozen and Jukebox. I made a best friend here who I am going to play Minecraft with online. We need to set up a Minecraft server so we can do this.

Parent Rating: (6/5)
Parent Comments: Best. Camp. Ever. Expensive… but completely worth it. I feel like La Niña was challenged and learned new skills every day. She made a lot of good friends with whom she really connected (the girls even got special t-shirts and she wears hers everywhere). To give you an idea of how awesome the instructors are: La Niña would sit and share riddles every day with staff and when she mentioned that she was homesick and missed her dogs, they looked up our phone number, called dP, and surprised her with a mid-day call from home!

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WEBB RANCH

Kid Rating: (5/5)
Kid Comments: I know all the horses; and, I love Artie the best. His girlfriend Willow was difficult to handle this summer. I also love Zen, Blue and Cowboy. It makes me angry when other kids are careless and mistreat the horses. I give these horses extra love and treats. The pizza party at the end of each week was fun.

Parent Rating: (5/5)
Parent Comments: We love this place so much that we’ve registered for camps here on three separate occasions: last summer, over winter break, and again this summer. Everyone and every animal who lives/works at the ranch knows La Niña. She talks to all the ranch hands in Spanish, brings the animals special surprises (apples or carrots), and kept asking to get to camp really early so she could help get the horses ready for the day. I’m pretty sure she’s a horse, donkey, cat, dog, and sheep whisperer.

The Failures

Alas… not all camps contain rainbows and puppies and unicorns like the winners listed above. The camps listed below either won’t make the cut for next year or are on the bad list from last year…

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THEATREWORKS

Kid Rating: (1/5)
Kid Comments: The people at this camp were mean.

Parent Rating: (0/5)
Parent Comments: This camp is on the 2013 Bad! Bad! Bad! List. I felt that too much emphasis and stress was put onto the performance at the end… to the detriment of the self esteem of the kids. We spent months deprogramming negative messages that came from one 2-week session of this camp.

meh

CAMP GALILEO

Kid Rating: (2/5)
Kid Comments: This camp was for little kids.

Parent Rating: (2/5)
Parent Comments: This camp is on the 2013 Meh List. I got tired of hearing the word “dumb” every time I asked a question about how the day went. Honestly, the term “Medieval Camp” became a euphemism for “dumb with constant and unnecessary drama.” To clarify La Niña‘s statement, by “little” she means 4-5 year olds.

meh

STEVE AND KATE’S

Kid Rating: (3/5)
Kid Comments: It seemed like a fun place to go but I didn’t like the fair at the end of the week. I kept getting hurt.

Parent Rating: (3/5)
Parent Comments: This camp is on the 2013 Meh List. This camp had so much potential because it was the easiest to arrange and orchestrate. However, in 4-days of camp I got constant calls because La Niña wasn’t feeling well or was hurt or was sad or wants to come home or wants to talk. I don’t exactly know what happens at this camp, but pick-up was like walking through a M.A.S.H. triage station because all the sick/injured kids were stretched out on mats and filled the lobby.

meh

SARATOGA SPRINGS

Kid Rating: (3/5)
Kid Comments: This camp was boring. Some of the kids liked to throw rocks at people and the counsellors saw what was happening but didn’t ever do anything about it.

Parent Rating: (3/5)
Parent Comments: This camp is on the 2014 Meh List. We chose it because we couldn’t get into Walden West and this one was located next door. It had potential (same setting and set-up as Walden West) but seemed to fall flat. I think the difference between the two is the staff; here people seemed to not care and were biding their time until the end of summer.