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Saturday, April 20

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For children, there is nothing more anticipated than an entire summer off away from school, relaxing and having fun. For parents who work, however, summer can be a stressful time trying to figure out where your child will be while you're at work during the day. Summer camps are an option that both parent and child appreciate.

Even though summer is still months away, now is the time when camps across the city begin the enrollment process. While you might have images in your head of summer camp being places you spend entire summers at, away from home, there are actually several in-city camp options.

Many museums, zoos and conservatories are now offering summer camps. Here is just a smattering of a few being offered this summer.

Chicago Botanic Garden has several camp options for children as young as 2 (the popular "My First Camp" is geared towards 2- and 3-year-olds) and as old as pre-teens. The "Adventurers" camp features mystery solving and forensic science games sure to appeal to your budding botanist.

Their camp philosophy places an emphasis on hands-on activities and features daily garden walks and an interdisciplinary style that combines reading, math, social studies and of course, science.

Chicago Kids Company's Summer Musical Theatre Camp offers a two week camp for 9- to 14-year-olds which teaches the children costume, prop and set design, in addition to acting and dancing.

A child-created production, presented at the end of the two weeks, is given by the entire camp.

Offering two sessions -- one for 7- to 10-year-olds, another for 11- to 14-year-olds -- Facet's Multimedia Young Chicago Critics Program is perfect for the future Wim Wenders in your household. Children write, produce and direct their own film. And, the camper's movie may be selected to participate in the Chicago International Children's Film Festival. If I were 10, I'd love to attend this camp!

MCA Arts Camp has several sessions, running all summer, with different themes.

The campers work with local artists and MCA staff in classes such as "Lights, Camera, Action," which is a photography class that doesn't utilize a darkroom, a puppetry class, a multimedia class, painting/printmaking and photo/collage. Online registration is available for many of these camps, which are designed for children ages 6 through 12.

Like the Chicago Botanic Gardens, Brookfield Zoo offers camps for a wide age range.

The "Pre-Zoo Camp" is for children ages 4 and 5 and has them observing and classifying the animals in the zoo, while learning interesting facts about them. The kindergarten to second grade "Discovery Camp," teaches children ways animals defend themselves. "Adventure Camp" for 3rd through 5th graders teaches its campers about different animal habitats around the world and the importance in keeping them intact. For older children, animal conservation and science are the themes of their camps. Games and lunch round out the day.

Founded in 1994, Fred's Camp is the result of retired P.E. teacher Fred Greenburg's dream to open a friendly, fun camp for children in the neighborhood.

The programs at Fred's Camp include swimming, weekly cookouts, an overnighter (for 3rd through 8th graders) as well as a ton of field trips -- including a Cubs or Sox game, golf at Diversey Driving Range and tennis at the Midtown Tennis Club on Fullerton.

The Columbia College Summer Arts Camp takes place in Columbia College's theater building and is a great introductory program into the arts. Art projects are designed to be easy enough for beginners and interesting enough for older children. Plus, the kids get to have lunch everyday in Grant Park.

So whatever personality your child has -- artsy, sporty, a total ham -- there is a camp that is perfect for them. Of course, don't forget you can also rely on tried and true favorites like your local park district and YMCA for summer camp options. Remember, camps fill up quickly, so it's best to call early and inquire about their programs.

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About the Author(s)

Alejandra Valera is a new mom and writer. If there's a baby- or kid-friendly place, product or event you think she should cover, email her at .

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