What Are the New Trends in Summer Camps?
Have a look at the camp trends for this year.
Sure, there will still be swimming, arts and crafts, bug juice and all the fun campers have always enjoyed. But this year kids might also harvest the food they’ll eat from organic gardens, build a robot or solve a crime-based mystery. Camps are evolving with the times, adding activities to keep their young charges engaged.
Academic camps help kids keep up
“Parents don’t want their children having any summer learning loss,” says Tom Rosenberg, president of the American Camp Association. Subjects that are important during the school year, such as STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – are also popular among campers. Typical STEM programs include astronomy, space-related technology, robotics or physics, which is taught at one camp through go-carts.
Some campers seek adventure
Recognizing that kids are seeking ways to test themselves, camps are adding adventures such as hiking and treks, ropes courses and water activities. Located on the Chesapeake Bay, Camp Arrowhead in Lewes, DE created “The Blob,” a space filled with blow-up floats and jumps in a shallow area along the beach. At Kirchenwald Camp in Lebanon, PA, kids take part in rock-climbing and mountain-biking programs.
“As campers get older, treks become longer and more challenging,” says Rosenberg.
Arts camps for creative kids
Gone are the days of stringing Froot Loops to make a necklace or creating five-finger turkeys. Today’s arts and crafts involve painting, sculpting, jewelry making and glass blowing.
At Appel Farm Arts Camp in Elmer, NJ, campers create glass mosaic murals, noborigama wood-kiln ceramics and screen printings. That’s when they aren’t putting on theatrical presentations, singing and playing music.
“People realize that art plays such an important role in helping children with self-expression and identity,” says Cori Solomon, the camp’s executive director. “They don’t know how to talk to each other, so in response, more camps are developing more intense art programs to help children connect with who they are and how they can express that. It gives them an outlet for emotion.”
Service learning teaches kids to give back
Most camps include some component of helping others, whether contributing back to the camp with a communal art project or going off property to help serve the needs of the local community. “Altruism is under-taught today,” says Rosenberg. “We need to teach our kids to give more than they receive to be service leaders.”
Gardening and food-to-table programs
Through learning how to garden, compost and eat nutritionally, campers are actually eating the fruits of their labor. At Appel Farm, the children harvest the crops that are then served in the camp’s organic salad bar.
“We try to help the kids be aware of the food they are eating and why we made the choices we made,” says Solomon, who serves antibiotic-free milk and meat. “It’s important what our footprint is on the environment.”
It's a mystery for some campers
Starting next summer, campers at Camp Kirchenwald will solve a clue-based mystery. Inspired by the Escape Room craze, the kids will decipher riddles and interpret clues, ultimately solving a mystery. “They’ll go on treasure hunt-style activities, maybe using fingerprint analysis and forensics,” says Camp Director Zachary Weiss.
Trial camps help the uncertain
For families not quite ready for their child to be away for a week or more, some camps now offer three- or four-night rookie or trial camps. Kids get a taste of what the overnight camp experience is like, with the prospect of coming back the next year for a longer stay.
At Camp Arrowhead’s Taste of Camp, kids can choose the activities they want to try. Acknowledging they won’t have time to try everything, “we try to touch on major kinds of activities but also allow them time to cook out at the campfire,” said Executive Director Walt Lafontaine.
Take the whole family
For parents who want to share the camp experience with their kids, or who just aren’t quite ready to have their children go off on their own, some camps offer sessions that include the entire family. For example, Camp Arrowhead invites families to enjoy its 86 acres and all activities during Labor Day weekend.
Terri Akman is a contributing writer to MetroKids.