summer camp for kids - type of camp

What Type of Camp Will Your Child Like?

When I was younger, I only had one type of choice for summer camp – the town camp. The town camp was a traditional all-day six-hour camp with a heavy emphasis on sports. I was more of a bookworm than an athlete, so this type of camp 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 be a good fit for your child. Hopefully, the following descriptions will help you to match your child with the correct camp, so you hear your child tell you, “Camp was so much fun today,” instead of what my poor mother dealt with 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 camp a good fit for your child?

Most of the activities are outside, so if your children love the outdoors and playing sports or team building activities then this would be a good type of camp for them. Since there are a variety of activities, this would also be a good fit for children who likes to try different things.

Sports Camp

Specialty sports camps usually are one sport such as baseball or soccer that the child plays either for three or six hours. Depending on where you live, there may even be an option for tennis, golf, surfing or sailing camp. These camps are typically owned by private organizations. Some towns may have town-operated sports camps.

Is this camp a good fit for your child?

If your child loves a specific sport and would like to improve her 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 they might not otherwise have exposure.

Art/Musical Theater Camp

Specialty art or musical theater camps focus solely on the arts. Musical theater camps typically showcase a production such as “Beauty and the Beast,” whereas in an art camp a child would use a variety of art mediums like painting or drawing. These camps are located in public schools or private organizations. In the public school setting the drama teacher usually runs the camp, and it isn’t widely advertised but it is available for anyone to participate. To find out more, call or visit the websites of public schools in your area.

Is this camp a good fit for your child?

If your child is creative and prefers the indoors, then these types of camps would be worth looking into. They may be a good way to introduce the arts to your child, since most of these camps are time-limited for one week.

Educational Camp

An educational camp focuses on learning new skills or subject matter. Since it is camp and not school, these types of camps tend to be hands-on with an emphasis on fun. These camps are located at public schools, museums and colleges.

Is this camp a good fit for your child?

If your children are curious and always asking questions about how/why things work, this may be a good match for them. If a child is interested in learning a new skill such as commuter programming or speaking Spanish, some educational camps have those offerings as well.

Sleep Away Camp

Overnight camp is when your child lives at the camp for a week or longer period. There are Boy/Girl Scout camps and private residential camps. These camps tend to offer options such as sailing, boating, archery, horseback riding and other activities that may not be available close to your home.

Is this camp a good fit for your child?

An overnight camp gives your child the chance to meet other kids from different states and countries. There is also more time to do activities and foster independence compared to traditional day camps.

Travel Camp

There are two types of travel camps. One type is when your child goes on day trips and the other type – sometimes referred to as “teen tours” – is when your child travels with a group for an extended period (usually a few weeks or a month). This type of camp is located at religious or private organizations.

Is this camp a good fit for your child?

Some of these camps give your child the chance to travel to a place that you might not have gone to as a family. If your children enjoy experiencing new destinations, then this would be a great fit for them.

How Can I Find These Camps?

Check out Washington Parent magazine and’s annual Summer Camp Guide. Ask friends and family where they sent their children to camp and if it was a positive experience for them. Contact your local public school and ask about local camp programs. Private camps usually offer an open house during the year to allow your child to visit before signing up or take a virtual tour.