Skip to main content

Sonoma Family Life Magazine

Time to Think About Summer Camp

By Cheryl Maguire

When I was younger, I only had one choice for summer camp—the town camp, a traditional all-day, six-hour camp with a heavy emphasis on sports. I was more of a bookworm than an athlete, so it 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 it can be overwhelming to figure out what type of camp would work for your child. Hopefully, the following descriptions will help you to match your camper with the correct camp. It’s better to hear, “Camp was so much fun today,” instead of what my poor mother had to hear daily.

Traditional Day Camp A traditional day camp is six 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, playing sports, and/or participating in team-building activities, then this would be a good choice. A diverse array of activities make day camps a nice fit for children that like to try different things.

Sports Specialty sports camps usually focus on one activity in which children participate for either three or six hours. Options include baseball, soccer, tennis, golf, and even surfing or sailing. Private organizations usually run these types of camps, but there may be some town-operated sports camps, too.

Is this a good fit for your child? If your child loves a certain sport and would like to improve specific skills, this would be a great option. It could even be a way for your child to try a sport such as surfing to which he or she might not otherwise be exposed.

Art/Musical Theater At musical theater camps, children usually put on a production like Beauty and the Beast, whereas at art camps children learn to paint or draw or develop other skills related to different media. Private organizations or public schools usually run these types of camps. In the case of the latter, the program may not be formally advertised, so call your local public schools to find out about summer theater offerings.

Is this a good fit for your child? If your child is creative and prefers to be indoors, then an arts camp could be a great option. Since most of these camps usually last only about a week, they allow kids the chance to check out an art form without committing to a longer program.

Educational Camps These camps focus on learning a new skill or subject matter. They tend to be hands-on with an emphasis on creating a fun, as opposed to a labor-intensive, experience. Educational camps are located in 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, these kinds of camps may be up his or her alley. These programs are particularly appealing to children who are interested in learning new skills, such as computer programming or speaking Spanish or another foreign language.

Overnight Camps Kids usually stay at sleep-away camps for a week or longer. Think: Boy/Girl Scout camps and private residential camps offering 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? Overnight camps foster a child’s sense of independence. So if your child is ready for some time away from Mom and Dad, consider this kind of experience. Besides the chance to find out who they are apart from the family unit, sleep-away camps also offer kids the opportunity to meet other children from different states and countries as well as focus attention for a long period of time on particular activities.

How can i find these camps? A good place to start is asking friends and family where they sent their child to camp and if it was a positive. Go to Family Life’s Virtual Camp Fair

Cheryl Maguire’s writing has been published in The New York Times, National Geographic, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, Parents Magazine, AARP, Healthline, Your Teen Magazine, and many other publications. You can find her at Twitter @CherylMaguire05.