Popular and Unique Summer Camp Options for Your Child
The word “camp” has evolved over the years. And because of that, there are so many fantastic options available to pique just about any child’s interest. As a starting place, most cities in the area offer a variety of camp options through their Parks & Recreation divisions. For more specific options, here is a brief list of just a few of the many camps available in the area.
Gloria Dei Lutheran School Summer Adventures
For a faith-based, day school option, Gloria Dei Lutheran School in Hampton provides a summer full of adventure that includes a variety of on-site activities, field trips and Bible study.
Virginia Air & Space Center
Is your child interested in the sciences or perhaps thinking of growing up to be an astronaut? The Virginia Air & Space Center in Hampton caters to grades K–8 with a variety of exciting and interesting day camps.
Kids’ Hang Gliding Lessons
Available June through August, Kitty Hawk Kites now offers hang gliding lessons to anyone less than 75 pounds and as young as 4 years old, as long as your child can follow simple commands.
Triple R Ranch
A 370-acre ranch in southern Chesapeake, Triple R has been around since 1960 and provides several day and overnight options.
Wave Riding Vehicles Surf Camp
Founded in 2001 by professional surfer Brendan Petticrew, WRV offers three camp options for the little surfer in your life including a three-day morning camp, a three-day afternoon camp and a five-morning camp.
Cooking Camps for Kids
Is there a budding culinary artist in your home? There are several cooking camps available across Coastal Virginia.
Panera Bread offers a 3-hour Bakers-In-Training program.
Apron Strings Cooking School For Kids offers a variety of programs in Newport News.
California Pizza Kitchen at MacArthur Center Mall in Norfolk offers a Junior Cooking Series.
New Earth Farm in Virginia Beach offers a variety of educational classes for both children and adults.
The Peninsula SPCA in Newport News currently offers Saturday Morning Humane Education Camps and will also have a variety of summer camps to choose from. PeninsulaSPCA.org/Humane-Education-Saturday-Morning-Camps
The Virginia Living Museum, also in Newport News, offers week-long camps for kids to help them explore nature through hands-on activities. TheVLM.org/Education/Kids/Summer
The Virginia Institute of Marine Science in Gloucester Point offers a variety of free summer programs for a wide range of kids who want to learn more about the Chesapeake Bay. VIMS.edu/CBNerr/Education/Summer_Programs/index.php
The Virginia Beach SPCA will host several Animal Adventure Camps during spring break and throughout the summer. VBSPCA.com/Humane-Education/Animal-Adventures
The American Red Cross in Norfolk offers babysitting and certification programs for ages 11 and up.
Junior Lifeguard Camp
Ocean Breeze Waterpark in Virginia Beach offers a Junior Lifeguard Camp for rising third through fifth graders and a separate class for rising sixth through eighth graders. Campers must be at least 8 years old.
The Hampton Yacht Club offers a program that includes sailing lessons with marine science and plenty of fun and games.
The Devi Anne Moore Art Camp in Chesapeake provides summer classes for adults and children.
The Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Virginia Beach offers creative classes for kids as young as 2 and as old as 17.
The American Theatre in Hampton offers a variety of summer camps that include dance, magic, comedy, drawing, photography, painting and more.
The Jamestown 4-H Educational Center offers day camps for children 5–10 and weeklong camps for kids who are 9–13.
The Airfield 4-H Educational Center in Wakefield offers a summer camp that concentrates on archery, riflery, arts and crafts, fishing, performing arts, robotics and outdoor living skills.
Mulholland Family Ranch in Suffolk offers a summer horse camp that includes daily Bible study, swimming, crafts, some cooking and lots of fun.
Yorktown Stables offers spring and summer day camps for equine enthusiasts ages 6 and up.
Grubb Grove Horse Farm in Chesapeake offers several day camps to provide boys and girls ages 7–14 with education on caring for horses.
Again, there are a multitude of different day and overnight camps in the area to choose from. Pick a topic, do a web search, and see what pops up for you. With so many great options to choose from, you’re sure to find the perfect venue for your needs and your child’s growth and entertainment.
Note: Some of the links above have not been updated to reflect 2018 schedules. You may want to call the camps or check the links later to get the most up-to-date information.
How To Select The Right Camps For Your Child
The phrase “summer camp” may conjure up images of kids and counselors learning the basics of camping, including the time-honored tradition of sitting around a campfire telling ghost stories. However, today there are many kinds of camps—including day camps and overnight options—to match a wide variety of subject matters. A good camp will help generate your child’s curiosity that may stimulate a life-long interest in a particular hobby or perhaps even a career. But how do you find the right one?
The first step is to determine what you own personal objectives are for sending your child to camp. Are you hoping to get them interested in something they haven’t been exposed to previously or build on something they are currently interested in? Are you looking for something that will help your child achieve greater success by building on leadership skills, or are you simply hoping to get a shy child more socially comfortable by being in a new environment?
Once you have your own goals in mind, look at a variety of options available so you can discuss with your child what he or she may be interested in. What are their goals? Do they want something that will help them with a particular skill set, such as art classes or sports camps, or would they prefer a camp that offers a variety of learning opportunities?
The next step is to determine if you and your child are more comfortable with day programs or an overnight camp. Overnight camps are generally for children 12 or older, especially if they have been to day camps previously. Be sure to check minimum age requirements when doing your research.
Another consideration is your budget. Some camps can be a bit more expensive when it comes to the materials or equipment that will be needed for your child to attend and participate. Once you have a better idea of what direction you and your child are thinking, do a little preliminary research to make sure the camps you both like are in your price range.
The final step is to check the history of the camp and the people who run it. There are many new camps available that are perfectly fine, but for your own peace of mind you may want to know more about the staff, what their backgrounds are, if the camp does background checks before hiring (including checking references), if the staff is well trained, etc. You’ll also want to know the ratio of counselors to kids. For an optimal experience, a ratio of 10 to 1 for children between the ages of 8 to 14 is generally considered good. Obviously, smaller ratios will ensure that your child gets more personalized attention.
Before enrolling, you and your child may also want to visit the camp to check out the facilities, especially when considering an overnight option. You’ll have an opportunity to meet the owner(s) and see how your child reacts to the environment, people and amenities.
What You and Your Child Should Know Before Heading to Overnight Camp
Sending your child off to camp—especially is it is for the first time and they are going for an extended period—can be an emotional rollercoaster for you both. Here are a few tips to help each of you have a wonderful experience.
- Talk about what to expect. Having an open conversation about what your expectations are sets the tone on which everything else will be based. Of course, you want them to have the time of their life, but explain to your child that even though they are going to be away from home, you still expect them to follow the camp rules and treat the counselors and other staff with the respect they deserve.
- Into every life a little rain must fall. Explain to your child that life comes with ups and downs and that everything may not meet their expectations all the time. Discuss ways they can overcome potential difficulties and have a communication plan in place in case they just need to get some assurance from you along the way. You’ll also want to identify if there is a specific person at the camp your child can go to with problems or questions that fall outside normal operations.
- Social interaction. Camp is a place where some lifelong friendships begin. On the other hand, some kids may react to each other like vinegar and oil. Ideally it would be great if all the children at camp get along, but as we all know, different personalities sometimes clash. Make sure that your child understands that they should try to get along with everyone as best as they can, but that there may be times when they may have to turn the other cheek. A good counselor will be able to spot trouble before it starts and be skilled at managing it, but it could help your child be better prepared to know that these things just sometimes happen.
- Teach independence. Overnight camps are fantastic at teaching kids different skills such as camping, swimming, archery and sports. But there are some life skills your child should know before they go. For instance, do they understand what happens to a wet towel when it’s not hung up to dry before being put away? Do you have some tricks you can pass along to them that might help them fall asleep at night if they are feeling anxious, sad or lonely?
- If you have anxiety, do not show it. A good overnight camp should be prepared for anything and, if they have been around for some time, have probably seen just about everything already. All your questions should be answered by the camp staff before you drop your child off, and if your child has any allergies or medical conditions they need to know about, the camp will generally ask for that at the time of enrollment. So, relax and impart your confidence that your child is going to have a fantastic time and will come back with plenty of great stories (and probably some new skills) they’ll be happy to share with you when you are reunited.