Boston Area Summer Camps

babson-camp.jpgI know that many parents book camps well in advance (as in, not long after the New Year), but this year I decided to take a different approach to summer because: 1) We had some summer vacation plans percolating that took a while to finalize; 2) I wanted to wait to get a sense of where Laurel was at and what she wanted to do as the school year came to a close; and 3) Related to #2, in the past when I have been super organized and tried to sign her up for programs well in advance and based exclusively on my time agenda, it has completely backfired (like, really, really badly backfired).
I realize not everyone has the flexibility (or organizational mindset!) to engage more of a wait and see attitude, but I actually found this approach to be way less stressful and I think it will result in much happier drop offs. My approach has been to query Laurel on potential programs (she has strongly yay'd or nay'd different options -- which has been extremely helpful) and then tried to plan so that the programming is spread out through the summer. And it's worked out incredibly well. Even this late in the game, there were spots available at programs she wanted to book, and as I started pulling together recommendations for this post, I was pleased to see many of the sites explicitly state that they still have openings. So, don't fret! It's not too late, and I'm really happy that our summer seems to be shaping up to be a really lovely mix of camp, vacation, and open weeks. It also is worth noting that I think engaging Laurel in the choice process has been huge. Yes, perhaps it's also a function of age, but she has actually made some selections based completely on excitement about and interest in the program, even though she knows that she may not know anyone walking in. Long-time readers of this site will know what a big deal this is for us!

So, following yesterday's post on simplifying summer, if you're looking at your calendar and see that you'd like to add some programming for your kids, here is a roundup of crowd-sourced recommendations from the community. For the most part, I listed programs individually by town, but at the front end you'll see a few grouped responses.

If you have other ideas to share, please feel free to do so in the comments below!

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The Boston Mamas Crowd-Sourced Guide to

Boston Area Summer Camp Programs

Multiple Boston area recommendations:

  • From Michelle: "My 8 year old daughter always enjoys the Boston Nature Center (Walk Hill Roslindale) day camp as well as JP KidsArts day camp in JP. Both are great and reasonably priced. The YMCA in West Roxbury is also surprisingly good for the price, i.e., for kids in this age group they take on field trips every day, and most are quite good! The quality of the camp counselors is not as good at the Y as at the BNC and KidsArts, but for the run of the mill kid that has no major issues, it's fine. I have also heard very good things about the Girl Scout day camp in Waltham. Apparently they will slide the fee down depending on financial need (as does the BNC mentioned above). I have not selected this camp for my daughter thus far, as she is nervous about the bus ride to Waltham in the a.m. (which the other local camps do not have)."
  • From Sheri: "We have had good experiences with Brimmer & May (best for younger kids), Beaver Summer Camp (great for all ages), and with College Gate (for kids who love learning). I've heard great things about Allendale Farm in Brookline. This summer, one of my kids is going to try Camp Grossman, on the recommendation of many friends. And we know a lot of people who go to Chestnut Hill Camp and are very happy there. I've also heard rave reviews about the Brookline Town Recreation Department's summer programs, which are diverse and very affordable."
  • From Megan: "My niece participated in a leadership workshop for elementary school students. She loved it, and my sister said it was great! It's something different from the usual "camp" offerings, and I think it sounds very interesting. The company is Learning Path Education and they're based in Watertown and hosts workshops in Watertown, Arlington, Belmont, Brookline, Wellesley...and I think some other neighboring towns."

Arlington Boys & Girls Club (Arlington)

  • From Jen: "I thought Arlington boys and girls club was great when the kids were younger. Each week has a theme, it's very reasonably priced and they offer early drop off/extended day."

Belmont Day Camp (Belmont)

  • From N.: "This will be my daughter's third year at Belmont Day Camp. Lots of activities and fun. Everything from sports to crafts, music, movement, and swimming twice daily (I credit them for really teaching my daughter how to swim). Downside is that it is a bit pricey."

Beacon Hill Nursery School (Boston)

  • From Tracey: "Beacon Hill Nursery school in Boston has a sweet program for toddlers and young preschoolers (I'd say up to age 4?). All taught by early childhood education certified teachers with a different theme each week. Two playgrounds and nice amount of space for a city school! Highly recommend."

Wheelock Family Theater Camp (Boston)

  • From Amy: "My daughter has performed in Wheelock show during the last 3 seasons. She started doing their camp when she was 5. She loved it then. They group ages 5-8 and by last year she didn't like it and thought it was too young for her. She is looking forward to going this year now that she will be in with 9-12 year olds (and some of her former cast mates). We actually increased the number of weeks here this year."
  • From Carole: "My daughter LOVED the Wheelock College Summer Theatre Program. She was 6 years old when she first began and attended until she was 11. This is an all day program and I cannot say enough about the staff and the camp counselors."

Red Sox Baseball Camp (Boston)

  • From Jane: "My 9 year old son attended the Red Sox baseball camps last summer - he went to two weeks, each day was 9-3, and they spend one afternoon visiting Fenway. He met one player each week he attended {he went for two weeks} and LOVED it! He is also signed up for two separate weeks this summer. If the child is a baseball fan, this is the camp for them!"

Hill House (Boston)

  • From Robin: "Hill House is where it's at for the little ones... cheapest in town camp around!"
  • From Amy: "Hill House is a great camp for people who live or work downtown (we do both). It is on Beacon Hill and the kids walk to the west end pool to swim every day. They also take field trips all over the city. Georgia liked it when she was younger but out grew it by about 7. They do have programs for older kids but she wasn't interested."

The Color Loft (Braintree)

  • From Margaret: "I recently found a place in Braintree called The Color Loft - an independently owned children's art studio. I enrolled my three year old daughter in a program offered over school vacation week called "Princesses and Pirates" and signed her up again for a summer camp there. The space is very welcoming and child friendly with lots of creative art projects and supplies. I like supporting a small business and my daughter always has a good time!"

The Gold School (Brockton)

  • From Jane: "My 14-year-old daughter is an avid dancer - she attended the Gold Studio's summer program last summer in Brockton and will be there again this year. It is incredible, especially for a more serious dancer."

Gymnastics Academy of Boston (Cambridge)

  • From Joan: "A camp that my kids enjoyed last year was at the Gymnastics Academy of Boston, located in Cambridge near Fresh Pond. They do lots of gymnastics activities (my kids also take gymnastics classes there during the school year) and also 'typical' summer camp activities like going to swimming pools and such. It's a bit on the pricey side compared to the other camps I use, but they had a great time."

Harvard Technique Swim Camp (Cambridge)

  • From Lindsey: "Grace did Harvard Technique Swim Camp and emerged a little exhausted but her swimming was SO GOOD ... outrageous."

MIT Summer Camp (Cambridge)

  • From Amy: "My daughter is NOT sporty at all. She originally went to MIT Sports Camp because she goes to private school and we get out much earlier than the public schools (23 days earlier last year!). This camp is one of the few open then. That said she loves it. They cover about 15 sports a week, separate boys and girls, swim twice a day and really focus on skill development. Kids don't play any actual games till 4th grade. Leading up to that they are all focused on the skills for each sport."
  • From Priya: "My kids are too little for camp, but last year my nephew, Rahul (age 12), spent 2 weeks with us and went to MIT's summer camp. They played a bunch of sports every day, spent copious amounts of time in the pool and the best part was that they got to go sailing 3 or 4 times during the span of the two weeks which was a totally different experience for my nephew. The camp counselor he had was a college student and was super nice to Rahul (they even exchanged emails at the end of the program), which meant a lot to me because he didn't have any local friends/built in buddies when he got there. He was pretty apprehensive being away from home too but after the first day he was totally happy and couldn't wait to go back. To cap it off they choreographed a dance/skit to put on for parents on the last day. Getting 12 year old boys to do the macarena (literally) is a pretty amazing feat in my book. I would definitely recommend it for people in the city that want their kids to just go play in the sun for a while (they offer early drop and late pick up too)."

Outback Summer Program (Cambridge)

  • From Kate: "Outback in Cambridge! Awesomeness."

Pingree School (Hamilton)

  • From Paige: "Last summer, my then 5- and 7-year-olds spent eight weeks at Pingree Day Camp on the campus of Pingree School in South Hamilton. Some of the highlights of this North Shore treasure? Kid-driven schedules (campers select from a huge range of artistic and physical activities and can change it up week-to-week), daily swim lessons in an outdoor pool, counselors who are interested in child development and/or education, an incredible setting (a pond on campus for kayaking and a state park across the street for mountain biking), full use of all Pingree facilities, optional extended care (8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.), a camp director who has spent more than 20 years with the camp, and best of all, nutritious meals (no packing lunch for eight weeks)! What seems unique about Pingree Day Camp (my older son has been to one other camp) is that it has the feeling of an overnight camp without leaving home. Kids identify strongly with their "color group" (age group) while enjoying cooperative and competitive activities with younger and older campers, they participate in biweekly staged music and dance performances to "close out" each session, and they develop tight-knit relationships with their counselors in a very short amount of time. Eight thumbs up from this family!"

Drumlin Farm (Lincoln)

  • From Lindsey: "Whit did a Drumlin Farm camp last summer and loved it (the one at Assabet Nature Reserve) and they are both doing it this year for a week."
  • From D.: "My kids and I have loved Drumlin Farm, both the two-week and the three-day camps. Great for curious kids who don't mind dirt."

    *Drumlin is part of Mass Audubon, which has a network of 18 day camps across Massachusetts.

Camp Six Acres (Medford)

  • From Jen: "My kids felt that the best part of camp six acres was the swimming! They had instructional swim in the morning and free swim in the afternoons. They have an outdoor pool which goes up to 5 feet. They also loved the end of session party -- they do a half sleepover/dance party on the last day of camp."

Camp Sewataro (Sudbury)

  • From Liz: "Camp Sewataro is a slice of heaven!!!!! All outdoors, everything from archery to swimming to boating to arts & crafts to you name it!!!! BEST day camp EVER!"
  • From Heidi: "My boss's kids all loved Camp Sewataro -- an old fashioned day camp for many years! It looks like a lot of fun and is run by the same family who started it!"

Longfellow Camp (Wayland)

  • From D.: "My kids and I have loved Longfellow Children's Center (Wayland) tennis, arts, and "plain" camps. Since these also function as daycare, they're well-staffed. Very flexible. They provide a nutritious lunch buffet. They have access to the Longfellow Club's (health club) pool and basketball courts and so on, so kids get plenty of exercise in a really fun, inclusive environment."

Boston Sports Club (Wellesley)

  • From Jane: "My 12-year-old daughter loves tennis camp at the Boston Sports Club in Wellesley. She also attended this for two weeks last summer - it includes swimming and eating lunch at Babson College near BSC.

Babson College Camp on the Hill (Wellesley)

  • From Heather: "Babson College Camp on the Hill runs a nice program for early elementary."

Babson College Baseball Camp (Wellesley)

  • From Carole: "My boys loved the Babson College Baseball Camp (ages 6-12). My boys attended camp from the ages of 6 years through 11 years. They learned about the fundamentals of baseball and had a lot of fun. This is almost an all day camp 8:15 to 4:00pm. A wonderful buffet lunch at the college is included in the cost."

JCC Camp Grossman (Westwood)

  • From Amy: "This is an OLD SCHOOL Jewish day camp in Westwood on the Hale Reservation. They have buses from all over greater Boston. It hasn't changed much since my sister-in-law went there and she is 58! Georgia LOVES THIS CAMP. They do things like archery, pottery, swim in a lake setting, fishing, rock climb, and mountain bike. They also sing Jewish songs and celebrate a different holiday every week."
  • From Alex: "We do JCC Grossman Camp in Westwood. Our kids (and we) aren't Jewish, but they don't mind. They have amazing programs (especially swimming). The kids come home exhausted, and all I have to do is feed them, throw them in the bath, done."

Kidstock (Winchester)

  • From @seecheekymonkey: "Kidstock in Winchester is a fabulous theater camp--just love it and worth the drive. So nurturing, creative and fun!"
  • From Lori: "My son had his 6th birthday at Kidstock and has been there for April break as well as two weeks last summer. I cannot say enough great things about this program. Each week during the summer, they have different themes, so your child can attend the specific weeks that they might be interested in. Last year Cole attending two Glee themed weeks. This year he will be attending the "Doctor Suess is in" week and the "Broadway" week. Every Friday they have performances which the kids really look forward to. They make the props and their costumes throughout each week and practice the "performance". They also have fun activities and mini awards throughout the week as well as sending home a news letter every day for the weekly activities. Every kid has an opportunity to shine during the performances, mostly in a group setting for the younger actors. For young aspiring actors this is a great experience!"

And finally, maybe camp is right in your neighborhood...

From Heather: "Em's favorite is a week long 'camp' run by a local High School girl who takes 4 girls 9am-1pm and does crafts and cooking activities. I am happy to support a young entrepreneur and the girls love it!"

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Man, isn't this awesome? I love this community! If you have other recommendations to share, feel free to do so below. Otherwise, enjoy these leads for this summer and/or future school vacation planning!

Image credit: Babson Summer Camp Program