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Summer camps for kids: The best special interest camps in NYC

We can't get over the number of amazing special interest summer camps for kids—cooking programs, circus classes, writing camps and more.

Photograph: Julie Larsen Maher
Bronx Zoo's Animal Kingdom Camp

Niche-loving children will have no shortage of camp programs to choose from this year—there are more special interest summer camps for kids in New York City than ever before.Mini fashionistas can use their summer break to learn the ins and outs of the fashion industry while future Top Chef contestants can try their hand at making chocolate. Other special interest summer camps for kids include architecture classes, film-making programs and foreign language session.

 RECOMMENDED: Summer camps for kids

Special interest camps

Automatic Studios Camp

Budding screenwriters and film producers dive in to filmmaking headfirst through this movie arts program led by industry professionals. In fully outfitted production studios and classrooms, students will spend one week in intensive workshops learning to write, shoot and edit their own films, which will be shown at a screening with their families to close out the camp. Camp runs June 16–Aug 15, Mon–Fri 9am–4pm. One-week session $675. Extended day until 5pm available for $15 extra per day. One-day workshops available June 30, July 1 and July 2. 9am–4pm. One-day session $150. Ages 7 to 14.

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BAM Youth Summer Programs

The much-loved Brooklyn arts institution will host one- and two-week summer camps in video design or animation (ages 8 to 12); drama (ages 6 to 8), where kids study Greek mythology through theater games; the Bard (ages 11 to 14), which focuses on Shakespearean clowning and stage combat; musical drama and dance (ages 8 to 18), in which kids produce a musical on the BAM Fisher stage; and finally, creative writing (ages 12 to 14), where scribes from the Usdan Center help kids pen their own plays which, on the last day, will be read by professional actors. Camps run July 7–Aug 1, Mon–Fri 9am–4pm; creative writing 9am–2pm. One-week session $375, two-week session $675–$700. Ages 6 to 18.

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Fort Greene

Bilingual Buds Mandarin Immersion Camp

Native Mandarin speakers lead little ones through interdisciplinary activities anchored around a theme, like Thanking the Moon (a study of Chinese culture). Kids explore each theme through cooking, crafts, music, science, drama or storytelling, and teachers deliver all instruction in Mandarin along the way. The program is open to students with beginning through advanced Mandarin skills. Camp runs June 23–Aug 8 Mon–Fri 9am–3pm. Nine-day session $1,400–$1,500; fifteen-day session $2,350–$2,550. Ages 2.5 to 12.

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Upper West Side

Brooklyn Music Factory Camp

For the ultimate mini-Brooklynite, this weekly camp involves wailing on guitars, bass, drums and keyboards all morning long, plus the added bonus of being right around the corner from Brooklyn Boulders, where they’ll spend part of each day. Rockers will join one of two bands, depending on their age and musical ability (although kids need not have any!), then perform a show for friends and family on Friday. Camp runs July 7–Aug 8, Mon–Fri 9am–3:30pm. One-week session $595. Ages 6 to 12.

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Bronx Zoo Explorers Camp

Kids embark on adventures at the famous Bronx space, getting the opportunity to observe the zoo's furry, scaly and slimy residents up close. They'll check out lions and hyenas on an African safari, roam the Butterfly Garden and visit the Congo Gorilla Forest to learn about the animal kingdom and its habitats. Camp runs July 7–Aug 29; Mon–Fri 10am–4pm. One-week session $425. Ages 8 to 10.

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The Bronx

Butter Beans Food and Garden Camp

Culinary-minded kids choose from four sessions, each with a different farm-to-table theme—how food is grown, produced, preserved or prepared. All participants take field trips to local gardens, farms and farmers' markets and cook summery meals using fresh ingredients almost every day. Other activities might include visiting local chefs and beekeepers, meeting chickens and worms and learning to compost. At the end of camp, tots will leave with a homemade cookbook. Camp runs July 7–Aug 22, Mon–Fri 9am–4pm. Six-week session $3,300, five-week session $3,00, four-week session $2,700, three-week session $2,025, two-week session $1,350. 10% discount offered before March 15. Ages 6 to 10.

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Camp DJ School

This summer, the innovative Baby DJ school is offering a two-week camp with a different theme each day. “Bounce, Beethoven, Bounce” has cool kiddos getting into  Beethoven’s music and busting dance moves to tracks that sample the maestro’s compositions; “Eat the Beat” mixes cooking with foods that feature in rap songs; and “House Music Heaven” has little ones making their own palatial abodes out of cardboard. Daily DJ lessons, plus field trips to nearby Prospect Park and local vinyl record stores, make this program a must for hip Brooklyn babes. Camp runs July 14–25, Mon–Fri 9am–noon. One-week session $325; two-week session $600. Ages 3 to 5.

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Camp Pixel

Tween techies spend most of their days on their core major, one of three rotating options (3-D stop-motion animation, virtual reality game design and Minecraft modifications), then choose an elective like laser cutting, electronics or digital music, where they’ll spend the rest. But don’t worry–kids will get plenty of vitamin D with a daily dose of outdoor game time. Camp runs July 7–Aug 29, Mon–Fri 9am–3pm. One-week session $640, excluding hot lunch and materials fees. Ages 7 to 14.

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Cobble Hill

Center for Architecture Foundation Summer @ the Center

Tweens intrigued by our city's ubiquitous skyscrapers can design their own at this program. Participants study architectural principles and then apply them to mini construction projects. Excursions to local buildings and neighborhoods bring concepts they discover in class to life. Camp runs Aug 19–23 and Aug 26–30, Mon–Fri 9am–5pm. One-week session $525. Ages 9 to 13.

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Circus Camp @ SLAM

Kids learn to fly through the air with the greatest of ease on the trapeze at this Williamsburg camp. They also get to sample other circus favorites; during the sessions, campers bounce on the trampoline, try out tumbling, walk the tightrope, spin on the German Wheel, cool off in the Splash Pool and study Elizabeth Streb’s Pop Action technique. On Fridays they show off their new skills to family. The big top can even accommodate preschoolers: Children ages 3 to 5 learn basic tumbling in the Little Kid Action Camp. Camp (ages 6 to 12) runs July 7–Aug 15, Mon–Fri 9:30am–4:30pm. One-week session $625. Little Kid Action camp (ages 3 to 5) runs Aug 18–29, Mon–Fri 9:30am–12:30pm. One–week session $295. Ages 3 to 12.

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Cirque d'Ete

Kids sample life under the big top by learning acrobatics and clowning basics from specialized staff members. They're also introduced to circus music, costumes and sets. Camp runs July 8–Aug 16, Mon–Fri 8am–4pm or 8am–1pm. Eight-week session $2,970 (half day), $3,410 (full day); six-week session $2,800 (full day), $2,470 (half day); four-week session $2,025 (full day), $1,805 (half day), three-week session $1,637 (full day), $1,472 (half day). Prices increase after April 1. Ages 4 to 10.

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Carroll Gardens

FIAF Summer Camp

Whether your petit enfant is saying her first “Bonjour” or has the language of love down pat, you’ll find an appropriate program for her among FIAF’s summer offerings. À Petits Pas camp (ages 1 to 4) runs July 1–Aug 1, Fridays; Aug 4–29, Mon–Fri 9:30–10:15am, 10:30am–noon or 1–2:30pm. Four-week session $120 –$170. À Petits Pas summer mini camp (ages 3 to 4) runs June 16–Aug 1, Mon–Fri 9am–noon or 1:30–4:30pm. One-week session $330–$412. Summer Fun in French: Petit Tour de France camp (ages 5 to 10) runs June 23–Aug 14, Mon–Fri 9:30am–4:30pm. Two-week session $1,327–$1,750. Immersion for Kids and Teens camp (ages 11 to 17) runs June 16–Aug 22, Mon–Fri 9:30am–12:30pm. Two-week session $560. French Cultural Fun and Discoveries camp (ages 11 to 15) runs June 16–July 25, Mon–Fri 1–4pm. Two-week session $660–$750. Ages 12 months to 17 years.

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Junior Keepers

Kids learn the ins and outs of working at a zoo. Participants help prepare meals for animals, talk to keepers and visit feathered and furry residents like Andean bears and birds. Camp runs July 21–25, Mon–Fri 9am–3pm. One-week session $375. Ages 11 to 12.

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Kids Make Movies Camp

Future Steven Spielbergs can get a feel for what it’s like behind the camera as they try their hand at every aspect of the movie-making process, but this year, they’ll get to choose between stop-motion animation and live-action. Kids will work in small groups to write the screenplay, make storyboards, operate professional video cameras, sound equipment and lights, direct and act (stop-motion designers build their actors out of clay, then record voiceovers and sound effects). In the post-production stage, campers will edit their footage in iMovie. One week after camp ends, all participants receive a DVD of their cinematic masterpiece. Stop-motion Animation Camp: July 7–11 Mon–Fri 10am–2:30pm, five-day session $795; Movie-Making Camp: July 21–25 Mon–Fri 9am–2:30pm, five-day session $850. Ages 8 to 14.

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Washington Heights

Kid's Summer Fashion Design Camp

Wannabe Marc Jacobs’ spend their time learning the ins and outs of the fashion industry in five classes throughout the day: Fashion Branding, Design and Sewing, Fashion Illustration, Fashion NYC and Accessory Design. Each session ends with a fashion show for parents. Camp runs July 7–Aug 29, Mon–Fri 9am–5pm. Two-week session $1,700. Ages 6 to 12.

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Marymount Innovation, Design, and New Media Camp

Teens get creative in the Marymount Fab Lab, (a high-tech digital prototyping facility), where they’ll dip into subjects like rocketry, 3D printing, robotics, and video design. Camp runs June 23–July 25, Mon–Fri 9am–3pm. Extended day options available. Five-week session $3,900, four-week session $3,375, three-week session $2,800, two-week session $1,975, one-week session $1,000. Ages 12 to 15.

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Upper East Side

New York Botanical Garden Adventure Camps

This summer the NYBG is offering three weeklong, nature-oriented camps: the Art in Nature Camp, in which budding artists explore the connection between art and nature and meet professional horticulturalists; the Forest Adventure Camp, wherein kids undertake forest hikes, scavenger hunts and tree climbs; and the Wild Wetlands Camp, which introduces kids to the life of marshes, rivers and ponds. New this year: the Wildlife Discoveries Camp, where kids investigate the animals that call the NYBG home. Those who can’t decide on just one theme can sign up for all four weeks in either July or August. Art in Nature Camp: July 7–11 and Aug 4–8; Forest Adventure Camp: July 14–18 and Aug 11–15; Wild Wetlands Camp: July 21–25 and Aug 18–22; Wildlife Discoveries Camp: July 28–Aug 1 and Aug 25–29. Mon–Fri 9am–4pm; extended-day options available for an additional fee. One-week session $300. Ages 5 to 10.

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NYC Summer Space Camp

The shuttle program may be ending but future astronauts or engineers can still get their aerospace fix at the New York City Center for Space Science Education's summer camp. Kids train to be astronauts and "fly" a mission to a comet, pilot up to 30 different planes on flight simulators and build robots with a seemingly limitless quantity of Legos. Camp dates not available at press time. One-week session $450. Ages 9 to 14.

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Queens Zoo Week of Wildlife

This weeklong animal extravaganza introduces kids to the different animal groups that reside in the zoo. Campers will also study invertebrates and learn how to care for a compost bin. Camp runs July 7–Aug 29 Mon–Fri 9am–3pm. One-week session $375. Ages 6 to 7.

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Take Two Film Academy

Instead of buying your tween a movie ticket, empower him to make his own films. These weeklong workshops teach kids to write, direct, edit and act in their own movies using professional equipment and editing software. • The Mandell School, 795 Columbus Ave at 100th St (917-546-6816, taketwofilmacademy.com). • Leman Prep, 1 Morris St between Broadway and Greenwich St. Camp runs June 16–Aug 22, Mon–Fri 9am–4pm. One-week session $795. Ages 8 to 15.

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Taste Buds Kitchen Cooking Camps

Each week of this cooking camp has a different theme: Kids can work with chocolate, make baked goods, or create classic NYC dishes and specialties from around the world. Iron Chef–like challenges are also on the menu. Camp runs June 9–Sept 5, Mon–Fri 9am–noon (ages 4 to 8) or Mon–Fri 1–4pm (ages 9 to 13). One-week session $395–$515; multiweek discounts available. Ages 4 to 13.

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Thalia Kids Book Club

Kids hobnob with best-selling authors and participate in writing workshops and literary excursions around the city. In the past, campers have met with big names like Norton Juster (The Phantom Tollboth) and Rebecca Stead (When You Reach Me). Camp runs July 14–Aug 8, Mon–Fri 9am–4pm. One-week session $675. Ages 9 to 13.

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Upper West Side

Writopia Camp

Youngsters expand their imaginations under the guidance of professional writers in this nonprofit organization’s summer programs. Kids work with a published author to create a piece of fiction, a memoir or a poem, or opt for the Playwriting and Performance session, where they spend time with a playwright, composing an original play. Half-day Writopia workshops are also offered at Freebird Books (123 Columbia St, Brooklyn). 155 W 81st St between Columbus and Amsterdam Aves, suite A (212-222-4088, writopialab.org). Camp runs June 16–Aug 15, Mon–Fri 9am–4pm, 9:30am–noon or 1–4pm. Three-week session $2,400, two-week session $1,600 (full day), $1,020 (half day); one-week session $860 (full day), $585 (half day). Ages 6 to 18.

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Upper West Side