Best summer camps for kids
Your future biologist can step outside the classroom and into forests, wetlands and other ecosystems to learn about their function as well as their indigenous plants and wildlife. But don’t overlook the range of creative-arts sessions, including one in which budding chefs harvest and cook veggies from NYBG’s gardens and another in which blooming artists use a variety of media to explore nature. Grades K–8.
Animal lovers will rejoice at the chance to spend some quality time with the creatures and keepers at this beloved zoo. In July, there’s a specialist after-camp program, “Little Zoo Vets” (third– fifth grade, additional $250 per week), in which campers shadow veterinarian Dr. John Sykes as he cares for everything from fish to walruses and tigers: The first session covers eyes, teeth and the upper gastrointestinal tract (GIT), while the second session is on ears, bones, the lower GIT and anesthesia. Grades pre-k–8.
For those worried about sending their little one off to camp, 92Y offers a program created especially for preschoolers, which should make your teary goodbye easier to bear on the first day. Early childhood educators plan a variety of activities touching on music, science, movement and more. Tots can also splash around in 92Y’s three pools under the supervision of Red Cross–trained instructors, and those staying till 1pm can participate in the soccer program—just for kicks. Ages 3–5.
Your ball of energy can choose between a swim, sports or arts camp with expert instructors. Swimmers can tucker themselves out with endless pool time; young athletes will be in their element as they play basketball, tennis and other team sports; and creatives can express themselves in many media, including the circus arts and film. Each program includes exciting weekly field trips that’ll appeal to all, such as a Mets game or rock climbing at the Cliffs in Queens. Ages 4.5–13.
For those youngsters who can’t resist an American Ninja Warrior marathon, this offering is a kid- friendly version of the reality show, complete with fun obstacles in a safe environment. Campers will take breathers during the day to enjoy lunch and recreational activities before embarking on an athletic challenge. Ages 7–13.
Give your little metropolitans the gift of nature this summer! These hands-on day camps encourage kids ages 2 through 10 to get down and dirty planting seeds and sprouts while playing in a verdant setting. Sixth- to ninth-grade naturalists will be challenged to think about sustainability and the importance of ecosystems as the class forages for edible plants and learns to identify various wildlife. Ages 2–15.
Mathematics might get a bad repin school, but MoMath makes the subject a whole lot more interesting, especially when there’s no homework or tests! Campers are divided by grade level: the Epsilons (first to third grade) and Deltas (fourth to sixth grade). Throughout the week, they tackle creative projects and interactive programs while exploring new and unfamiliar areas of the field that often aren’t taught at school. When it’s time to refuel, the groups venture across the street to Madison Square Park for lunch, weather permitting. Ages 6–12.
Where better to fine-tune your young creative’s skills than at one of the best museums in the country? Two educators guide each 25-kid class through a project that teaches design vocabulary and a four-step design process: defining problems, generating ideas, prototyping and testing. Visits to galleries and exhibitions are included, as are fun outdoor activities. At the end of each weeklong session, students display their work in an open exhibition. (Campers must bring their own lunch and snacks.) Ages 6–13.
Your thespians will get an in-depth theater experience in which participants create an entire play all by themselves—from the script and music to the sets and props—under the mentorship of seasoned artists. They’ll also see professional productions of the “Victory Dance” showcase and experiment with different art forms. Ages 7–12.
The WriCampia program in the Poconos is perfect for those craving to pen the next great American novel. Buses transport campers from Manhattan and Westchester for a 12-day escape filled with intimate writing workshops and creative electives. Published authors and playwrights help kids learn the secrets to memoir writing, poetry and what makes a great novel, while campers also enjoy arts activities such as photography, ceramics, theater, zine-making and filmmaking. In the evening, everyone gathers around the campfire to swap stories or test their team-building skills in a scavenger hunt or “escape the room” challenge. Ages 7–18.
Set on an idyllic mountainside with a spring-fed lake, the 25-acre camp pays particular attention to each camper’s stage of development. In addition to its main programming of sports, fine arts, performing arts, outdoor adventure, swimming and special events, Deer Mountain adds more classes and trips as participants advance. Kids can choose from electives such as wire art, Claymation, hip-hop dance and handball, to name a few. Ages 3–15.
At this camp, kids will get a taste of college life a few years ahead of schedule. Manhattan College opens up its quaint campus to youngsters looking to explore new areas that might not necessarily be on their school’s syllabus. Educators across the Bronx gather for the summer to help campers tackle coding, moviemaking, photo editing and many more exciting subjects. Ages 6–12.
Gain an appreciation for the arts with this inclusive program, which requires campers to complete a series of four music and dance classes each week. Some of the offerings include music production, contemporary dance and musical theater. BMS also offers field trips to the American Museum of Natural History, Prospect Park Zoo and other NYC attractions. Ages 5–8.
Though it also offers year-round retreats of all kinds, Camp DeWolfe is best known for its children's summer camp. Sailing, swimming, kayaking and climbing are just some of the popular activities at this Christian Episcopal–affiliated program. Sessions vary in length and are meant for specific age groups: Explorer Camp for ages 7–12, Discovery Camp for ages 7–13, Adventure Camp for ages 11–15, Teen Advance camp for ages 15–17 and Leadership in Training for ages 15–17. Ages 7 to 17.
The active participants at Camp Awosting’s all-girls sister camp are sure to give the boys a run for their money when it comes time to compete. With everything from swimming to sailing, a water trampoline, on-land sports, dance, drama and gymnastics on the agendas, the campers rarely stand still, and they are encouraged to do it all! Mornings and afternoons are packed with exciting happenings, and when the sun goes down, there are coed dances (complete with DJs), movie nights and more to keep everyone entertained. Adventurous campers will love the chance to venture out for a weekly overnight camping trip to Litchfield Hills for campfires complete with ghost stories, plus visits to their brother camp just five miles away. Ages 6–16.