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Summertime, Summertime

It's March. Do you know what your kids' summer plans are?

The camp industry would have you believe that January's the time to get your camp sign-ups done. In truth, NOW's the time to sort through the details before all the camp slots fill up and you've got bored kids pulling open the fridge and playing video games all day, every day. After all, if you believe researchers at Indiana and Ohio State universities, young children gain more weight over the summer than during the school year.

In the Washington region, Washington Parent has the most complete listing of camps that I could find online. (If you know of others, please post them.) Unfortunately, the list can't be sorted by activities like the list at If you're looking for an overnight camp, the National Camp Association offers a free camp advisory service to connect kids with camps. Have any of you used them? What's your experience been?

Thus far, every camp I've sent my boys to or researched, I've found through friends. So, let's start a camp mindshare today. What day camps and overnight camps are good and for what ages? Which ones should we avoid?

Today's Talkers: Montgomery County Starts Sex-Ed Pilot Program ... It's True -- Stress Makes Teens Break Out ... Surgeon General: Teen Drinking a Problem

By Stacey Garfinkle |  March 7, 2007; 6:45 AM ET
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My daughter spends the bulk of her summer at Gerstung in Baltimore. She loves it! They spend their days doing sports with some quiet activities mixed in (to cool off) and they swim 2-3 times a day. Outstanding before and after care, too! During the hottest months (July/August) they swim during after care so my daughter typically begs us to pick her up late. The only weeks she doesn't go there are the ones she spends at riding camp.

Posted by: Private School Mom | March 7, 2007 7:55 AM | Report abuse

I married a teacher. So he gets to be a stay-at-home dad!

Posted by: Kat | March 7, 2007 7:59 AM | Report abuse

I quit my job so that my children have stress-free and camp-lite summers. When I put my daughter into day camps, I felt I was "warehousing" her so I could work. I probably wouldn't have felt that way so much if we actually found camps she truly enjoyed rather than endured.

She enjoys the Willowbend Farm Horseriding camp in Upper Marlboro, MD. Every year she goes for two weeks, so she can renew her bond with the horses. The owners are fantastic. They take great care of their horses as well as the children.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 7, 2007 8:20 AM | Report abuse

My daughter went to Camp Letts for two weeks each summer for 6 years. The camp is in a lovely setting near Annapolis. They offer a variety of activities--horsemanship was a particular favorite of my daughter's. She was a bit sad the first year she was too old to attend (two years ago). However, she's part of a group of friends who met there who still get together every few months.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 7, 2007 8:34 AM | Report abuse

Has anyone sent their children to Camp Twin Creeks?

Posted by: KS | March 7, 2007 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Creative Kids in Greenbelt, MD is the best camp my daughter has ever attended! She has been going since she was six and looks forward to it every summer. The director puts together an original musical for the kids every year (the younger kids do songs in groups, of course, not individually) and they also get plenty of music, art, and drama--things often cut in the public school day. For people in the area, look it up! There is great artsy after care for those who need it--clay, model building, pine box derby, you name it!

Posted by: Pat | March 7, 2007 10:05 AM | Report abuse

I just wanted to say, I work for a school that has many summer camp programs (day and away), and if you waited until now for day camp, you would be almost too late. One of our programs has filled completely, and the other two are almost full. The away camps still have more room, but the day camps go fast around here. We opened enrollment at the end of January, and they filled up fast.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 7, 2007 10:11 AM | Report abuse

My siblings and I spent wonderful summers at language camp. Yes, shine the geek spotlight on me. The camps were language and culture based. You recieved a passport prior to your arrival and when you got to camp, had to go through "customs". The entire experience is immersion based so you come away with a much better understanding of the language than studying at school. The meals are ethnically based, served family style. The counselors are a combination of american college kids and native speakers. The camp directors either have MAs or Phds in their language. Seriously, PHds. It is a pretty typical summer camp experience except that everyone babbles in a foreign language. The camps are sleep over camps, anywhere from one week to four depending on age and whether or not the camper is getting academic credit. in case anyone is interested.


You can meet some pretty interesting folks at this camp. I went to Spanish camp my first year with Winthrop Rockefeller. Yes, a real Rockefeller. Chelsea Clinton went to German camp.

Posted by: LM in WI | March 7, 2007 10:11 AM | Report abuse

My boys will be going to Valley Mill Camp in Germantown for their third summer. They love it. They come home tired and filthy. They learn a lot of new skills, such as kayaking and climbing. The bus even picks the campers up at their homes. It fills up quickly, though; I always sign up in January. It is also very pricey, but clearly, to me, worth it.

Posted by: Bethesda | March 7, 2007 10:21 AM | Report abuse

CLV is pretty pricey but there are scholarships available.

A personal query

I am thinking of enrolling my son in YMCA camp for swimming. I don't get why this is so expensive. The fees are a bit steep for a one week camp when the kids are only there for an hour. Anyone else have a clue?

Posted by: LM in WI | March 7, 2007 10:34 AM | Report abuse

DD is still too young for camps. But I am hoping when she is school aged, she will go to the Summer SACC program run in Fairfax. My only complaint is they only swim once a week. I used to go to day camps and sleep camps as a child. We swam every day at both types of camps. But now the day camps seem more like day cares with extra activities compared to what I consider a camp experience. Having the same counselors, a group of kids, doing arts and crafts, singing, swimming, and sports. Now they seem either singlely focused or just a way to entertain them until the parents can come get them after work.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 7, 2007 10:42 AM | Report abuse

I've had my daughter at two camps. First, Lake Greeley in Greeley, pa. Granted, she was one of the only Virginia kids there, but having worked at tons of overnight camps when I was young, I liked this place a lot. She LOVED it! Went for a month each time. They specialize in first time campers. She lived at the barn, riding, but they have absolutely everything from a radio station to trapeze.

The last two years she went to a horse camp for girls only, New Meadow Camp. She REALLY loved this. This year she's going there for the summer as a CIT. She's planning on working there through college. She's a good enough rider, that she should even be helping with lessons soon. This camp if for the girl who lives, eats and breathes horses.

Both camps are online, just google them.

I went to overnight camps all summer for many years as a kid. I had to work all year long to help pay for them. They were highlights of my growing up. I grew independent, happy, and creative (I did arts and music camps).

Good luck to all.

Posted by: Single Mom | March 7, 2007 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Summer is the bane of my part-time mom/part-time working mom crazy life!!! When you throw a two week vacation in there that kills the possibility of one camp for most of the summer, you end up with a patchwork of camps and sitters that is enough to drive me to quit working. The SACC waitlist for our elementary school in Fairfax is at least 3 years long. Honestly, I now see why hardly any mothers that work in our neighborhood. Preschool ends a full two weeks before any camps start, so what to do about that?! AND there are no camps the week before school starts. Without grandparents in the area as a fallback, this all adds up to major amounts of stress--every single summer, at least until they are much, much older and can stay home alone.

Posted by: outofbalance | March 7, 2007 11:11 AM | Report abuse

outofbalance: what elementary school are you in? I just want to make sure DD gets into SACC. Since she is already in public preschool, I am hoping that we will get on the list right away.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 7, 2007 11:21 AM | Report abuse

I don't know if there's a YMCA in Fairfax but the one in Bethesda has camps in (mostly) two week chunks that cover the entire summer. Unless your preschool closes earlier than public schools... And unlike some places, there are several options for 4- and 5-yr-olds, even 3-yr-olds.

Posted by: To outofbalance | March 7, 2007 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Foam, as ususal I agree with your analysis. I'm a purist. It isn't "Camp" unless you are "camping", sleeping in tents or cabins with people not of your choosing. Doing archery, swimming, canoeing, leather crafts! No cell phone, camp fires, camp songs, cold showers - the works. I'm down with people who want to do other stuff, just please don't call it camp. My question for the more experienced parents is what age do you feel it was right to do a sleep away camp for your child. They offer a lot of things for kids these days before they are really ready, so I'd love the input of people who've been through it.

We mostly muck around in the summer, go to the state park, the pool and our yard - its pretty lazy and pretty wonderful for now. I feel like life is only gonna pick up speed, so I should cherish the peace while I can.

Posted by: moxiemom | March 7, 2007 11:25 AM | Report abuse

I agree that the time between school ending and camps starting can be stressful. But we've used so many snow days this year that it may not be an issue!

I will put in my "favorites" category the following two: for younger kids (3 up to 8 or so) Rustic Woods Day Camp, run by Bowie Montessori Children's House. It's a nice program, a combo of indoor and outdoor activities, and they take the kids swimming twice a week (once they're big enough to ride the bus). After-care is available if you need it.

Another favorite, and this one goes up to middle school, is Indian Creek - a private school in Crownsville that runs a variety of summer camp programs. There's something for everyone. It's not cheap, but it's good, and they too have before and after care. It's a bit of a hike but worth it.

For overnight camp - if you're Jewish - I cannot say enough about URJ Camp Harlam, affiliated with the Reform movement. It's an all-around program with Jewish elements, and a wonderful facility (in the Poconos in PA). My kids go, my husband goes (he works there), and they all love it.

Posted by: Loren | March 7, 2007 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Just my $.02. My 2 daughters (3 mnths, and 3.5 yrs) are too young for camps but I felt I must mention my sleep over camp experience when I was a middle-schooler. My mother sent me to Camp Seagull (for boys and Seafarer for girls))near Beaufort NC. I had a blast!! I haven't cared to look into it since but I'm sure it's probably very pricey. Again, just my $.02, I know I enjoyed my 4 weeks there for 3 straight summers.

Posted by: E | March 7, 2007 11:42 AM | Report abuse

moxiemom: I went to sleep away camp for three or 2 1/2 weeks when I was in third grade. I heard that was young. But the camp took kids as young as first grade. Knowing DD, unless she changes an awful lot, she probably would not be ready till middle school. She is super clingy already and has poor social skills. Of course she can change a lot in the next few years. The hardest part will be getting DH to agree to camp. He is very weary of camps. He thinks they all molest kids or something.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 7, 2007 12:04 PM | Report abuse

The girl scout camps are wonderful and a great value.

My personal peeve with most day camps is that the hours are clearly designed for SAHMs--10-3:30???

The Boys & Girls Club in Manassas has an excellent camp, more older kid oriented.

Posted by: jeanrw | March 7, 2007 12:05 PM | Report abuse

My son (will be in kindergarten next year) got into Arlington County day camp (Camp Horizon) for 4 weeks this summer. Has anyone had any experience with Arlington County Parks & Rec camps? I sent in the the forms with virtually no inforamtion about how good it is! Thanks!

Posted by: telecommutingmom | March 7, 2007 12:07 PM | Report abuse

to moxiemom and other regulars: update, we decided not to proceed with the adoption or having another child for now. Our single goal is to provide the best possible family life for the three of us and get our DD mainstreamed for kindergarten. If she does go mainstream for kindergarten, we will revisit the decision in 2 years. But it is highly unlikely because I would be 39. So now we are focusing on that she is the biggest blessing and all that we need.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 7, 2007 12:11 PM | Report abuse

I have a 17 year old cousin coming from France looking for a sleepaway camp where she can practice her English. She is pretty close to fluent. Any suggestions?

Posted by: Lisa | March 7, 2007 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Foam - I'm so glad you've made a decision. SOunds like a really good one. Your dd is as lucky to have you as you are to have her! Good luck with your neurology and mainstreaming efforts. What a lucky girl to have an advocate like you for her mom.

Posted by: moxiemom | March 7, 2007 1:05 PM | Report abuse

I personally think 10 is about the perfect age for sleep away camp but it really depends on the child. My DD was spending whole summers at Camp "Grandma" when she was 6 and went to her first real sleep away camp when she was 10 and now at 14 is looking to going to a camp in Europe. My son will be 11 soon and still isn't quite ready for it. He will be going to Boy Scout camp with his troop but won't go to a camp where he doesn't already know someone.

Posted by: MDMom | March 7, 2007 1:12 PM | Report abuse

To telecommuting mom: I know a mom who put her ds in Camp Horizon last year (he was almost 7) and he loved it. We're trying a Summerfest camp (like Camp Horizons, but for kids 5-11, instead of 4-7 as it is for Camp Horizon), a Creative Arts camp and a tennis camp (not through the county). We both work fulltime, though, so we need before- and aftercare, and so we had to pass up a few that our dc would have liked, because there was no aftercare provided (and I didn't want to try to get a nanny for a few weeks).

Posted by: Arlington Mom | March 7, 2007 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Thanks moxiemom. I will keep you guys updated.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 7, 2007 1:40 PM | Report abuse

DC's summer programs/camps book isn't available just yet, but registration for camps started 3/3. Their site is It's quite inexpensive, and the programs are usually run through community rec centers. My daughters will be at Hillcrest (they offer before/after care, swimming, basketball, tennis, crafts, field trips, etc.). At $75/two week sessions (there are four sessions for a total of eight weeks) you can't beat it. The days are well structured so you'll never feel like your kid is bored. There is even a listing for an away camp (it's along the Potomac).

My husband raves about Camp Happy Land, where he went as a child. I am still in paranoid-mother-land (the kids are under six) so away for two weeks ain't gonna happen until they're at least 12 LOL

Posted by: DCMama | March 7, 2007 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Two suggestions:
1. For the Jewish kids, I loved Camp Galil (kibbutz type camp) in Ottsville, PA. The movement had a closer camp in Md, too called Moshava. Girl Scout camps were good for focused programs that only lasted 2 weeks, like backpacking, horseback riding, etc.
2. Most of the high school students have the same breaks before and after summer activities end - I remember babysitting a kid during business hours for a week between summer camp and school.
Different kids are ready for sleepaway camp at different ages. It also depends on whether they go with a sibling or a friend, or completely on their own. If you aren't sure, send them with a friend or to a short-term camp.

Posted by: formerVirginian | March 7, 2007 2:21 PM | Report abuse

To Arlington Mom - thank you so much for the feedback on county camp!

We also signed up (and received confirmation) for a sports camp unaffiliated with the county for the last week of summer, and he can go to "vacation club" at school in the very beginning...combined with our own family vacation and Camp Grammy, amazingly, I think I have the whole summer covered! I feel so TOGETHER - for once!!!

Posted by: telecommutingmom | March 7, 2007 2:31 PM | Report abuse

I became a teacher so I could have leisurely summers with my son. He's 7 now and went on a one-night camp overnight last year--at the camp where his dad & I both went as kids--and he loved it; guess I'll be spending my summers off by myself--if I can afford overnight camp.

Columbia Association is great for camps, as are all the community colleges.

The other thing we do is go to the grandparents in Mississippi and go to day camp there. Here, a week of camp is $120 and up; there, a week of camp is $40. And they have some fantastic nature camps!

Posted by: dynagirl | March 7, 2007 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Foamgnome - Which school SACC program are you planning to use? Wait lists definitely vary from school to school.

Does anyone have any experience with International Gymnastics Camp in the Poconos? We are thinking about letting our DD go this year, but are a bit apprehensive since she is only 9 and has never been to a sleep away camp.

Posted by: JL | March 7, 2007 3:31 PM | Report abuse

As to the question of what is the appropriate age for sleep-away camp:

I used to be a camp counselor in the summers when I was in college. The camps where I worked were one week sleep-away camps, and the ages of the camps ranged from "Entering grades 2-4" to high schoolers. The littlest kids (I guess 6- and 7-year-olds) were hit or miss - some were fine, others were horribly homesick and miserable the whole week. I don't remember having any significant problems with kids from fourth or fifth grade and older. I'd imagine you'd want your kid to be a bit older for the more extended sleep-away camps, though.

Posted by: FutureMom | March 7, 2007 3:32 PM | Report abuse

my son west to fairfax academy for their summer camp program. it's on carlin springs road & looks like a cheesey no tel mo tel but my son loved his time there. however, it is pricey and i'm thinking about putting him in one of the arlington county park camps. i will give a personal plug for rod batiste & his karate camp. my son has gone to his camps during spring break and enjoyed them. my son is a very gregarious child and enjoyed martial arts. i know that rod batiste has some camp programs over the summer but i'm not sure we'll go to them for an entire summer.
the thing i liked about fairfax academy was that there was a good mix of arts & crafts as well as sports activities.
i'm leaning more to arlington co than fairfax acad but still undecided.

Posted by: quark | March 7, 2007 4:18 PM | Report abuse

I can't say much about specific camps other than to urge parents to make sure the camp fits the kid, make sure you have at least 4 weeks where there isn't 'scheduled stuff' (I know that's not easy, but I also think it's necessary), and that 3 one week camps do not really mean the same as one 3 week camp. Might be worth the extra.

Posted by: Liz D | March 7, 2007 5:11 PM | Report abuse

Thanks to those with the help re: sleep away. I've learned the hard way that just because they offer it for 5 year olds, does not mean they should be doing it.

Posted by: moxiemom | March 7, 2007 5:13 PM | Report abuse

"make sure you have at least 4 weeks where there isn't 'scheduled stuff' (I know that's not easy, but I also think it's necessary)."

how is this supposed to occur? has this turned into the only for SAHMs blog?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 7, 2007 7:25 PM | Report abuse

I was planning to use cardinal forest.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 8, 2007 7:25 AM | Report abuse

My kids have done the YMCA daycamp in Bethesda, which they loved. They have lots of options for each of the 2 week sessions, so they could focus on swimming for one session and drama for another.

Last summer, they went to Camp Olympia in Rockville, and they'll be there again this summer. They have horseback riding, swimming, and lots of other sports. No arts/crafts, though, so it won't be a good fit for all kids. My kids do so much drawing/crafts at home that it wasn't an issue for them, and it's good for them to be outside running around/swimming/riding horses all day (they do take proper precautions on very hot days).

Posted by: Clio | March 12, 2007 11:07 AM | Report abuse

I'm interested in working at an overnight camp this summer but the problem is that I'm only seventeen and I can't seem to find one that would hire me. Anyone have any suggestions?

Posted by: Beck | March 17, 2007 11:27 PM | Report abuse

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