Whether money is tight or your children simply don't like camp (my daughter was one of them!), there are quite a few fun and cost-effective alternatives to summer camp:
1 Weekly Classes or Workshops: Instead of a full day of camp every day, sign your child up for a few weekly workshops at the local library or community centre. These could include: improv classes, dance classes, or sports teams.
2 Join a daily parent and tot program: During the summer before my daughter started kindergarten, she and I attended a local program, and it was great. It helped her socialize and learn how to play with other kids, and we got to spend time together.
3 Freedom!! aka Rebecca's Dream Camp: If your child is older, you might consider giving her a daily 'allowance' (the same or less than a day at camp would cost), a list of mutually agreed-upon activities and a check-in time. Then, let her create her own fun. Activities you might choose include: a day at the library, brunch with friends, a movie marathon. Any money left at the end of the day can either go toward the next day (some days may cost more than others) or can be split between your child's savings account and pocket money.