Different Types of Summer Camps

Alina Bitel
Written by
for Camps USA
Different Types of Summer Camp

Movies, television and pop culture have painted a uniform picture of summer camp: Typically, a group of boys and girls close together in age spend a week or two living in cabins. They hike through the woods every morning, swim in the lake or craft bracelets every afternoon and gather around the bonfire to tell stories every night.

The past few decades, however, have seen the summer camp experience evolve to become multifaceted and diverse, and the type of camp you may have attended when you were young now represents only one out of many options.

As a parent, you might assume that summer camp means packing a sleeping bag and toothbrush, but day camps are becoming an increasingly popular choice. Local organizations such as gyms, community centers, churches and schools often host programs in the mornings and afternoons for children as young as 4 or 5. Day camp can help shy and very young children grow more independent while sticking close to home. For children of working parents, this type of camp provides an exciting and educational alternative to day care. Even older kids and teens love day camps that offer a variety of unique activities.

On the other hand, an overnight camp can give your son or daughter more opportunities to learn, socialize and explore new interests. A third option for adventurous kids is a travel or international camp. This option rewards campers with a cross-cultural experience they will never forget, and high school students can sometimes even earn college credit by attending.

In addition to length of stay, gender can be an important factor in choosing a summer camp. Co-ed camps help students learn how to socialize with people of the opposite sex on an ongoing basis, a crucial life skill. Furthermore, if your child makes friends more readily with the opposite sex, a co-ed camp can help them settle in more easily.

Gender-specific camps bring their own advantages as well. Campers can observe positive role models and strengthen their self-esteem. Single-sex camps often run activities best suited for either boys or girls, but they can also let kids explore different interests without feeling ostracized or stereotyped. Girls might want to study science and math while boys might practice the arts, all within a safe environment. Adolescents face fewer distractions when not seeking to impress the opposite sex, allowing them to focus on what’s important: learning and having fun.

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If your son or daughter has a special hobby, you can probably find a summer camp that nurtures their passion. Programs exist for sports, writing, drama, music, math, engineering, horsemanship, knitting and more, and many traditional camps have optional activity times. Kids benefit from making friends with people who share their interests, and they may feel more comfortable expressing themselves at a hobby-based camp. Additionally, an academic camp encourages intellectual pursuits outside of normal school subjects, helps students stay mentally sharp during summer vacation and looks great on a college application.

Summer camps also vary based on sponsorship and affiliation. A non-profit or government-sponsored camp usually costs less and may offer some type of scholarship for families in financial need. Non-profit and community camps unite families from diverse backgrounds, and the staff are often service-oriented. On the other hand, private camps might cost more but tend to have better amenities. Faith-based camps are a great option for kids or teens who want to strengthen their belief system and meet like-minded peers.

Children with special needs can share in the fun of summer camp as well. Whether your child has autism, Down syndrome, a developmental disability, behavioral issues or other requirements, plenty of camps have staff trained to help your child flourish while ensuring his or her safety and well-being. You can also find places specifically designed for kids with special needs, such as blind camps and deaf camps.

When deciding what type of summer camp would best suit your family’s needs, remember the wide range of choices available.

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