Is your child more comfortable in the dance studio or the dojo? Racing in go-karts or with their classmates at band practice? On the soccer field with their team or alone at an easel?
One way to help you and your child decide which of the myriad day and sleep away summer camps out there might be best is to review the different genres of camps. The more information you can gather before the start of a camp, the better you and your child will be able to make informed decisions about which camps will suit their personalities, their needs, their talents and even their dreams. Read on to find some in-depth information about arts summer camps (theater and acting, dance, music and visual arts) and sports summer camps to help guide your decision making.
Theater & Acting
Theater acting is the art of pretending to be someone or something else in a creative environment. Children who practice theater acting benefit by practicing social skills and learning to work cooperatively in small groups. It is also an excellent way to boost a child’s confidence and help them feel less shy by giving them opportunities to present in front of others.
Children have a lot of fun attending summer theater camps. They work with warmup exercises using imaginary settings, sharpen their minds with quick thinking during improvisation games, enjoy spirited physical movement games such as tag or capture the flag, and rehearse music and choreography. These camps combine literature, scripts, memorization practice, oratory skills and showmanship to give children well-rounded experiences in theater and acting. Perhaps the most exciting aspect of theater camps is the thrill of presenting on stage. Whether it’s a small intimate classroom setting, a black box theater or a full area for adult theater productions, the stage is an exciting place to be.
Music summer camps may involve distinct components including songwriting, playing instruments, singing and related music concepts such as sound engineering and performance-based rock-star camps. The common thread in music camps is the exposure to different genres of music.
Songwriting camp teaches children how to craft words into catchy lyrics, create melodies and choruses and link everything together to create original songs. Professional guitar players with performance experience frequently offer songwriting camps with guitar-based lessons.
Instrument-based music camps are typically geared towards children who already have a background playing one or more instruments in a group setting such as school band or orchestra. These camps are offered as master sessions or intensives in which campers receive advanced instruction and performance opportunities. These camps are intended to complement and refine the skills of young musicians who aspire to play professionally.
Other types of music camps that focus on singing or other related music functions provide a fun environment to get children enthusiastic about learning music. These music camps include glee clubs, rock band experiences and unique music offerings such as how to be a music DJ and how to record and mix original music.
Visual arts summer camps may be classified into tactile arts and computer-based visual arts.
In tactile arts, children have the opportunity to touch, work with and manipulate art using a variety of exciting physical media. For example, visual arts such as canvas painting, fiber arts, tactile illustration, pottery and ceramics, mixed media and ephemera and, in some cases, photography, are all tactile arts that invite children to touch in order to create. Children may enjoy holding paintbrushes and working with acrylics and oils. They may have fun knitting, crocheting or sewing by hand. They may appreciate the subtleties of assembling recycled materials into playful sculptures. All of these are tactile arts.
By contrast, in computer-based visual arts, children focus their efforts on learning and mastering the art of design using computer software programs. The instruction and experiences in summer camps that work with computer arts place a high premium on image creation and manipulation, design theories, best practices on photo editing, creation of digital artwork and illustrations and basic principles of layout.
Visual arts camps are offered in progressive levels appropriate for beginners through advanced users of software programs.
Like sports, dance requires parents to know details about particular genres. All dance styles are performed differently, but they all have in common a strong relationship with music. Dance becomes joyful when music is played. Though rhythm and technique make a dance more impressive, any child of any ability, including children with disabilities, can do well in dance by listening to music and feeling happiness while dancing.
Some dance genres including ballet, jazz and tap require specialized footwear such as canvas ballet shoes, hard-soled tap shoes or soft leather jazz shoes. Other genres including hip hop, Zumba and break dancing use sneakers. And lyrical and modern dance require bare feet!
Children who attend dance camps should be encouraged to be happy and be inspired by the music in the dance classes. Parents should exercise care to avoid putting unnecessary pressure on children to master their routines, to “do it right” or to perform their end-of-camp routines to perfection. Many summer camps in dance vary from traditional dance classes whose emphasis is on building and refining skills in dance. Summer dance camps are typically intended to be more recreational and casual, though some dance studios and performance companies do offer rigorous summer intensives.
Sports camps can be multi-sport or be defined by particular types of sports. Sports camps can also be further classified according to the number of players needed to play a sport. For example, basketball, baseball, soccer, football and lacrosse are all examples of team sports with multiple players. In team sports, the key factor is team building and cooperation. Children learn to have important roles as part of a team by working towards a common goal.
Other sports including tennis, ping pong, wrestling, fencing and some martial arts are considered two-player sports in which one child goes up against an opponent in a match. Children playing two-person sports in summer camps learn to cultivate good sportsmanship and self-control by learning how to win and lose gracefully.
A few sports teach children individual sporting skills that may or may not be used in a team environment. Sports including swimming, fishing, hiking, climbing, running, golf and archery all involve basic teaching and the development of skills to help children learn on their own. After children gain confidence in these sports, they can compete as individuals against others.
It’s a good idea to become acquainted with each sport offered at a summer camp by gaining a basic understanding of how to play that sport. In soccer, for example, players learn the basics of passing a soccer ball from one player to another using only their feet. Using hands is not allowed in soccer. In contrast, basketball requires dribbling a ball, passing and throwing using only hands. In football, both hands and feet are used to catch the football, throw it and sometimes kick it.
Some sports such as lacrosse, field hockey, tennis, golf and table tennis require extra equipment. Some sports combine athleticism and mental planning to determine strategies on how to outwit and beat opponents. Sports such as fencing, boxing and certain martial arts require children to plan their moves, strategize a good plan, execute their moves and learn to react safely when their opponent moves.