The Ultimate 2020 Guide to Summer Camps and Sessions in New England
Editor’s Note: Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, summer camps may be canceled this year. Parents are encouraged to contact individual camps for more info.
If you grew up going to a summer camp, you know how the friends and memories you make can last a lifetime. The challenging task of choosing which camp is right for your kid, though, is a chore you’d rather forget. The good news? It doesn’t have to be. By asking the right questions and doing a bit of research, you’ll be well on your way to finding the ideal camp where your child will thrive, no matter their age, interests, and personality.
If you’re not sure where to begin, our handy guide to summer camp offers a wealth of tips and a preview of area camps to help get you started. Here’s three questions to ask yourself and your children to focus your search.
Day or Overnight?
For children warming up to camp, day programs keep kids close to home and allow parents to be more involved in camp activities. Older, independent kids looking for adventure might be better suited for an overnight camp, where you won’t have to worry about meals and carpooling.
Traditional or Specialty?
Traditional camps offer a broad range of activities and are great for kids still discovering their talents and interests. If your child is eager to be immersed in a specific subject—like sports, the arts, academics, etc.— then a specialty camp can give them the intensive exposure and time to develop their passion.
Small or Big?
Camps can vary in size from a few dozen to hundreds of campers. A smaller camp can give your child the specialized attention they need, but a larger one can give them more opportunities to step outside of their comfort zone and make friends. Talk to your child about which environment suits them best and will help them be engaged.
Overnight Camps: What to Expect
Whether it’s for a week or a month, overnight camp gives your kids an immersive summer experience. Most overnight camps are situated outside of the city to expose campers to the great outdoors in an idyllic setting, and allow kids to learn how to be self-reliant away from their parents. Whether your child is a burgeoning artist or wants to try their hand at horse-back riding (or both), there is an overnight camp sure to fit their interests.
Lots of Time Spent Outside
The great outdoors can do wonders for a child’s physical and mental health, especially over an extended period of time. Many camps also ban screens, allowing kids to totally unplug and engage in Mother Nature and with their fellow campers.
Making New Friends
Because boarding camps draw kids from all over, campers learn how to navigate friendships with children from diverse backgrounds. They’ll also gain valuable experience working together, whether in building a campfire or winning a camp-wide competition. Bonds created in camp could last long after it’s over.
Learning How to be Independent
Camp is often the first time away from home for many kids, with no parents to remind them to brush their teeth, make their bed, eat vegetables, etc. Alongside the support of camp staff, campers learn how to be self-reliant, leading to huge boosts in confidence and self-esteem.
A Deep Dive
Kids who are super passionate about their hobbies—whether it’s ballet, the outdoors, or robotics—will relish the opportunity to live-and-breath that activity for part of their summer. Often instructors have extensive expertise in the field that they may not be able to get at home.
Discover Overnight Camps
Boston Ballet School, the official School of Boston Ballet, provides unique dance experiences in creative environments at three convenient studio locations. Under the direction of dance education experts, children will be introduced to ballet fundamentals and musicality. Older students are invited to complement year-round training during Summer Dance Workshop (ages 9–12, residential option available) and Master Class Series (ages 12–18).
Nestled in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire, Camp Birch Hill is a classic overnight summer camp for boys and girls ages 6–16. Campers can attend two, four, or six-week sessions. The program empowers children to create personalized schedules with opportunities to discover new interests. Camp Birch Hill provides a safe and welcoming environment where campers are free to create and develop lasting friendships and memories while connecting with nature.
Camp Chewonki for Girls, located on a 400-acre peninsula on the coast of Maine, serves girls ages 8–16 with summer experiences that emphasize fun, friendship, self-discovery, outdoor activities, and wilderness adventure trips. Camp Chewonki features a working farm, high and low ropes course, saltwater paddling, art studios, maker spaces, and a strong commitment to sustainability, ecology and the environment.
Cardigan Mountain School Summer Session is the perfect balance between academic enrichment and summer- time fun for boys and girls ages 8–15. The daily schedule consists of morning classes of more than 50 course offerings, followed by camp activities, sports, and games. The beautiful lakeside campus, located in the mountains of New Hampshire, provides the perfect setting for authentic learning, personal development, summertime fun, and making friends that will last a lifetime.
Since 1948, Hidden Valley has hosted the finest summer programs, fostering friendship, skill development, and personal growth. Professional staff, directors who have lived on site for over 30 years, delicious meals, a private lake and pool, and 350 acres of fields and forest all inspire parents to express their gratitude. “Peter and Meg have developed a nurturing and creative environment that fosters independence and interdependence at the same time,” says one parent.
When school’s out, the fun begins! At JCC Greater Boston Summer Camps, children can experience the magic of camp with amazing day or overnight options. From Camp Grossman, a traditional day camp experience, Camp Kaleidoscope an arts and science day camp, and Camp Kingswood, a traditional overnight camp in Southern Maine, find the camp that’s perfect for your child and family.
Kingsley Pines Camp in Southern Maine puts a premium on keeping kids happy and parents at ease. Campers are swept up in the fun activities from the moment they arrive. They quickly form lifelong friendships and gain independence in an “unplugged” environment with staff serving as the role models parents expect. They’re unique in that they offer shorter sessions than most over- night camps with two and three-week co-ed sessions for ages 8 to 16.
Day Camps: The Benefits
To younger children or first-time campers, the prospect of being away from home for an extended period of time can be daunting. Day programs offer the opportunity for children to get the full camp experience without ever being too far from the comforts of home. Here are some other things to consider before sending your child to a day camp.
While overnight camps are great for older kids, day camps are ideal for younger children trying out summer camp for the first time. Shorter sessions can also help them discover their skills and interests while keeping homesickness at bay. It can also make it easier to transition to an overnight camp when they’re older.
Since they don’t include the costs of room and board, day camps are typically less expensive than overnight camps. Do ask about scholarships either way—many camps offer financial assistance.
More Convenient for Children
For younger kids especially, the overlap in routine between school and day camps can help them feel relaxed and secure. The ability to maintain the same sleep and eating schedule can help their body clocks tick at a comfortable, familiar pace.
Day camps keep kids close to home, meaning parents can stay engaged all summer long. Parents are be able to hear about the day’s adventures over dinner each night, and may even have opportunities to stop by and see a performance or activity in person.
Discover Day Programs
Buckingham Browne & Nichols Summer Camp provides a valuable and enjoyable co-ed summer experience for four-year- olds to 16 year-olds. Their urban campus offers the opportunity for campers to explore the diverse setting that Cambridge and Boston have to offer. They offer a classic camp with archery, art, and swimming, specialty camps which include chess and eco farming, and a sports camp. The balance of recreational and creative activities encourages friendships and lifelong memories.
Hale’s 1,137 acres of adventure are home to 20 miles of trails and private beaches. Hale Day Camp offers activities like swimming, boating, and archery. Hale Adventure Camp features mountain biking and multi-day excursions to the Berkshires and White Mountains. Hale Summer Club—voted best family camp by Boston Parents Paper readers—offers swimming lessons and activities for kids plus services and classes for adults such as yoga and aqua aerobics.
Westwood and Dover | 781-326-1770 | hale1918.org
On June 15, Hill House’s team of administrators and summer staff will kick-off the organization’s 21st summer of camp for children ages 3–12, along with their popular LIT program for ages 13–15. Weekly themes, a balance between structure and play, field trips, and age-appropriate daily activities promise a well-rounded experience. Their goal is simple—to provide each family with a high-quality, safety-conscious summer camp in downtown Boston, while instilling confidence and encouraging friendships.
Offering a unique approach to experi- ential education in the performing arts, kids of all ages have been “acting up” onstage with Kidstock! every summer since 1992. Classes, productions, birth- day parties, vacation camps, and enrich- ment programs all focus on positive self expression and collaborative teamwork. Utilizing the highest level of creative resources, enthusiastic actors of all experience levels enjoy supportive guidance from seasoned professionals while bringing stories and ideas to life onstage.
Dreaming of warmer weather? Sign up for Pine Village’s adventurous Spanish Immersion summer program. Children explore their world, from their own community and beyond. Pine Village offers two four-week ses- sions that include activities designed to encourage children’s social, creative, and physical development. The program is open to children from 15 months to five years old. And, as always, tons of Spanish immersion fun through learning about Spanish-speaking countries and regions.
Academic Camps: Keep the Learning Going
With months away from the classroom, it can be easy for kids to fall down the “summer slide” and lose some of the skills they developed over the school year. Academic summer camps have the potential to turn that slide into a ladder, giving your child a boost toward their learning goals. They offer a chance to be taught by leading voices in a field of interest or even experience college life at a program held on a university campus.
Discover Academic Opportunities
Boston Leadership Institute is an award- winning summer STEM program for rising eighth graders and above, with day and residential options. Three-week programs—including biomedical and surgical research, electronics and robotics, and finance—are competitive admissions research programs that add highly valuable credentials to college applications. Applicants are reviewed on a rolling admissions basis, and programs are open now. One-week options—such as investment banking, sports medicine, and architecture—are also available.
Wellesley, Waltham, Boston | 781-431-2514 | bostonleadershipinstitute.com
Cushing’s Summer Session has provided students with meaningful and memorable learning and living experiences for more than 40 years. Each student designs a program based on their own academic or artistic pursuits, extracurricular interests, and desire to explore. Their course offerings include STEM and entrepreneurship classes, as well as service and leadership opportunities. Cushing offers countless options for activities and weekend trips for a truly unique and well rounded experience.
People who expect more are the people who do more. They change their schools, their neighborhoods, their countries, and the world. EXPLO allows campers to take charge of their learning and chart their own course. Campers can choose from hundreds of hands-on courses, activities, and weekend trips that will help them discover their strengths and interests while making friends from around the world.
Campers discover the world of engineering at Future Engineers Summer Camp. The Francis College of Engineering at the University of Massachusetts Lowell hosts two over- night, week-long, co-ed summer camps for high school students in July 2020. Through faculty-led research projects, campers learn how autonomous vehicles navigate traffic, how a plastic water bottle can be transformed into a fidget spinner, how power is harnessed from waste, and beyond.
Lowell | 978-934-2572 | uml.edu/futureengineerscamp
RSM is an after-school, kindergarten through grade 12 math enrichment program with locations in 11 states and a virtual classroom. Recently featured in NPR and The Atlantic magazine and ranked one of the best schools in the world by the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, RSM helps children of all levels build a solid math foundation and develop their critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
Experience the new at Summer Sage! Exploration (pre-K–K), Innovation (Grades 1–3), and Academy (Grades 4–8) provide technical and academic enrichment for inquisitive and motivated students who are excited about computer sciences, like AI and VR. Open to all, with bus transportation from the Needham/Newton area, children will grow their skills. There are five weeks of workshop offerings from June 29–July 31, including a field trip week.
The American Camp Association promotes quality camp experiences and helps to find the right camp for every child. ACA Accreditation means that a camp cares enough to undergo a thorough peer-review of its operation, from staff qualifications and training, to emergency management. Summer camp builds confidence in children, so parents should be confident in the camp they choose.