When I was younger, I only had one choice for summer camp—the town camp. The town camp was a traditional all-day camp with a heavy emphasis on sports. I was more of a bookworm than an athlete so this type of camp was not a good match for my personality.
I remember coming home every day whining to my mom, “It was so hot and all we did was play (fill in a sport). Do I have to go to camp tomorrow?” By the end of the summer I’m sure my mom wished there were other options for me.
Now there are so many choices that it can be overwhelming to figure out what type of camp would be a good fit for your child. Hopefully, the following descriptions will help you to match your child with the correct camp so you hear your child tell you, “Camp was so much fun today,” instead of what my poor mother dealt with daily.
A traditional day camp is usually 6-8 hours (half-day options may be available) and offers a variety of activities such as sports, swimming, art, and music. These camps are located at YMCAs, public schools, or private settings.
Is this a good fit for your child? Most of the activities are outside so if your child loves the outdoors and playing sports or team building activities then this would be a good type of camp for them. Since there are a variety of activities this would also be a good fit for a child who likes to try different things.
Specialty sports camps usually involve one sport, such as baseball or soccer, that the child plays anywhere from 3 to 6 hours. Depending on where you live there may even be an option for tennis, golf, surfing, or sailing camp. This type of camp is typically owned by private organizations. Some towns may have town operated sports camps.
Is this a good fit for your child? If your child loves a specific sport and would like to improve their skills, this would be a great option. It could even be a way for your child to try a sport when they might not otherwise have exposure to it.
Specialty art or musical theater camps focus solely on the arts. Musical theater camps typically showcase a production such as “Beauty and the Beast,” whereas in an art camp a child would use a variety of art mediums like painting or drawing. These types of camps are located in public schools or private organizations. In the public school setting the drama teacher usually runs the camp, and it isn’t widely advertised but it is available for anyone to participate. Check with your local art museum and theaters for camp offerings.
Is this a good fit for your child? If your child is creative and prefers the indoors, then these types of camps would be worth looking into. It may be a good way to introduce the arts to your child since most of these camps are time-limited for one week.
An educational camp focuses on learning a new skill or subject matter. Since it is camp, and not school, these types of camps tend to be hands-on with an emphasis on fun. These camps are located at public schools, museums, and colleges.
Is this a good fit for your child? If your child is curious and always asking questions about how/why things work, this may be a good match for them. If a child is interested in learning a new skill such as computer programming or speaking Spanish, some ed-ucational camps offer that as well.
Overnight camp is when your child lives at the camp for either a week or longer period. There are Boy/Girl Scout camps and pri-vate residential camps. These camps tend to offer options such as sailing, boating, archery, horseback riding, and other activities that may not be available close to your home.
Is this a good fit for your child? An overnight camp gives your child the chance to meet other kids from different states and countries. There is also more time to do activities and foster independence compared to traditional day camps.
There are two types of travel camps. One type is when your child goes on day trips and the other type, sometimes referred to as “teen tours”, is when your child travels with a group for an extended period (usually a few weeks or a month). This type of camp is with religious or private organizations.
Is this a good fit for your child? Some of these camps travel to places by plane so it would give your child the chance to travel to a place that you might not have gone to as a family. If your child enjoys experiencing new destinations, then this would be a great fit for them.
How Can I Find These Camps?
A great place to start is by referring to the Summer Camp Guide immediately following this article. Also, ask friends and family where they sent their child to camp and if it was a positive experience for them. Finally, private camps usually offer an open house during the year to allow your child to visit before signing up. Happy Camping!
Cheryl Maguire holds a Master of Counseling Psychology degree. She is married and is the mother of twins and a daughter. Her writing has been published in The New York Times, Parents Magazine, AARP, Healthline, Your Teen Magazine, and many other publications. She is a profes-sional member of ASJA. You can find her at Twitter @CherylMaguire05.