Banish boredom this summer by sending your kids to one of Westchester’s many specialized weekly day camps. From skateboarding to sailing to coding — and everything in between — these 26 local offerings are sure to do the trick.
By Stacey Pfeffer
For the Outdoor Enthusiast
Teatown Natural Science Camp
Campers will get to explore and discover the beauty of the outdoors in Teatown’s bucolic 1,000-acre preserve (pictured above). The popular camp, now in its 47th year, has four two-week sessions, and its mission is threefold: To instill an appreciation of nature, to develop a sense of place and belonging, and to foster a sense of personal and civic environmental responsibility. Teatown’s camp is the antidote to a school year full of structure and tests, according to Austin Schatz, communications manager: “It’s the time to find childhood pleasures — feeling cold water slip over feet in a stream, building forts, following a slug trail across a leaf — the many things that slow down the world and allow a child to simply be a kid in the outdoors.”
Mount Kisco; www.westmorelandsanctuary.org
Looking for a quick dose of outdoor exploration for your child? Set on 640 acres, Westmoreland offers four different camps, each spanning four days. Expect campers enrolled in survival camp to learn how to use a map/compass and how to forage. The science camp will include activities such as making air-powered rockets out of recyclable materials. In conservation camp, campers learn about pollutants and how to test for them, how to remove invasive species and introduce native species, and how to safely handle animals. “The focus is on environmental understanding and protection,” explains Westmoreland Sanctuary’s director of education, Collin Martin.
Rye Nature Center
This weekly camp offers young explorers a chance to get in touch with their inner naturalist on 47 acres of forests and trails. Full-day and half-day options are available for younger attendees. Campers will build simple robots, rockets, and solar ovens in the “Sustainable Science” session, while in the “Ready, Set, Survive” session, campers will get a taste of the popular television show Survivor, all in a safe, supervised setting. Expect to learn survival strategies to keep predators at bay, how to build a simple shelter, and how to create a fire with basic tools.
Ages: Pre-K–7th grade
For Fencing Fans
Tim Morehouse Fencing Club
Port Chester; www.timmorehousefencing.com
This award-winning fencing school opened in Westchester two years ago and was created by Olympic silver medalist Tim Morehouse, who has a background in education. Campers who are new to fencing will learn all the basics in this immersive camp experience. They’ll do calisthenics, footwork/agility drills, and learn how to keep score like a pro, all so that they are competition-ready. Apparently, fencing is a great skill to put on your college application, as the company’s website proudly displays college acceptances for all of its students.
For Future Thespians
SummerStage at ARC Stages
If your kid can belt out tunes from Hamilton or recite a brilliant soliloquy, then consider SummerStage at ARC Stages a second home. Campers have access to classes in acting, choreography, improv, stage combat, music, and vocal technique that culminate in a show at the end of each three-week session. Teens have the opportunity to participate in a conservatory program through a six-week class honing their craft with actors and directors with showbiz experience. They also offer a one-week musical-theater intensive the last week in June where young performers can perfect their audition techniques and work on scene study.
Ages: Kindergarten–12th grade
It’s no wonder that Random Farms Kids Theater has been featured on TODAY and in the New York Times. The award-winning nonprofit has churned out more than 80 performers on Broadway, thanks to its laser focus on professionalism and fun. “Summer is a great time to get involved in theater here. Our full-scale musicals are presented throughout July and August and offer opportunities for all abilities,” explains executive director Anya Wallach. This season’s mainstage production is Matilda, and for flexibility, the studio offers morning or evening rehearsals.
Ages: 2nd grade–12th grade
Yorktown Heights; www.yorktownstage.org
With five weeklong sessions and several performances culminating each Friday in shows such as High School Musical and Little Shop of Horrors, your thespian-to-be will learn everything from hip-hop dancing to audition preparation. Plus, there is plenty of R&R, with crafts for the younger campers to keep them occupied when their dancing legs need a rest. Extended hours are available to 6 p.m.
Ages: 1st grade–9th grade
Port Chester; www.fashionartsstudio.com
If your child’s dream is to be on Project Runway, look no further than the summer intensive program at Fashion Arts Studio. Housed in a renovated artists’ loft, students design, sketch, and make their own wearable garments. Founded by Ying Su, a fashion designer for brands such as J.Crew and Liz Lange, and a former Fashion Institute of Technology professor, students learn in small groups and, of course, have a mock runway show at the end of their weekly session.
Ages: 8 and up
For Foreign-Language Lovers
If you want your child to learn Mandarin, then this fun-filled camp is the right option for them. The camp bills itself as a traditional summer camp filled with activities such as yoga, dance, drama, arts and crafts, plus Chinese calligraphy and kung fu. All instruction is in Mandarin, and special care is taken to acclimate new Mandarin speakers, so they can learn and retain the language. While most activities are broken down according to age group, they do allow older campers to engage in some activities with the younger campers, to help them learn the language.
For Coders & Computer Whizzes
The Digital Arts Experience
Does your kid want to learn Scratch or Python? How about designing a game with Java or discovering the ins and outs of Photoshop? Then the Digital Arts Experience just may be the perfect place for your tech-savvy kid. With four sessions and multiple class options, this place offers artsy and techy kids a chance to explore in a creative and collaborative atmosphere.
Purchase, New Rochelle, Pleasantville; www.idtech.com
Founded by a Silicon Valley family, iD Tech offers weeklong camps at more than 150 college campuses. The Westchester outposts are Manhattanville College (overnight option available), Pace University, and Iona College. With small class sizes and a fun, tech-savvy staff, campers of all skill levels can discover coding, machine learning, film, robotics, and game design. Alumni of the program have launched their own startups and have obtained dream jobs at Google, Facebook, and Pixar.
For Skateboarding Students
This 8,000 sq. ft. facility is the “go-to” destination for kids who want to learn to do ollies and other skateboarding tricks, like maneuvering ramps and jumping on the board. During the weekly camp option, the instructors focus on safety and offer the proper amount of spotting before the skaters are advanced enough to do tricks on their own. From beginners to advanced skaters, this is the only dedicated facility in Westchester that offers skateboarding on premises.
Volunteer New York!
According to Tony Fasciano, director of communications at Volunteer New York!, “The summer season is one of the busiest periods for opportunity searches and volunteer connections and is especially great for youth and teens home from school to take advantage of.” Because of this, the nonprofit created a page on its website dedicated specifically to summer volunteering (www.volunteernewyork.org/summer), which is set to go live in May. Outdoor projects, including supporting local community gardens and community/outdoor cleanups, are especially popular during the summer.
For Musicians in the Making
The teachers at this weekly camp have been with the music school for years and are enthusiastic and highly trained. “They encourage students to play their favorite music from their very first day, rather than forcing a curriculum on the campers. This allows students to immediately play what they love and love what they play,” according to Janet Angier, Music In Chappaqua’s director. Students are placed in bands ranging from three to six members, according to age and ability; they learn ensemble skills and practice solos all culminating in a rockin’ concert.
Hoff-Barthelson Music School
This comprehensive music school has programs tailored to new musicians, as well as junior virtuosos. With an outstanding faculty and flexible scheduling options, kids can take classes in jazz, musical theater, world drumming, chamber music, and music technology instruction. Some HBMS students have gone on to perform at leading venues, including Carnegie Hall, Merkin Recital Hall, and Steinway Hall.
Ages: 2nd grade–12th grade
For Art Aficionados
Port Chester; www.clayartcenter.org
With an emphasis on wheel-throwing, hand-building, and sculpture, campers will create everything from fairies to beasts to castles. Plus, they’ll get the chance to make more traditional pieces, such as handmade cups, bowls, and plates. The staff hopes to ignite passion in their campers and help them express themselves creatively in a fun, friendly atmosphere. Half-day and full-day options are available in this weekly camp.
Katonah Art Center
Mount Kisco; www.katonahartcenter.com
With a new location in Mount Kisco outfitted with eight rooms dedicated to various art forms, budding artists can take their pick of classes ranging from pottery to painting to 3D design. Offering weekly sessions, the camp has half-day and full-day options. “Each week has a theme. Last year’s ‘Frozen Frenzy’ was particularly popular with our youngest campers, who made costumes, Olaf stuffed animals, and decorated gloves. Our teens love the outdoor landscaping classes, where we take them to scenic sights, such as Ward Pound Ridge and Caramoor,” explains Carole Mendelson, manager at the center. The youngest campers, ages 3.5–5 years, can sign up for 2-, 3- or 5-day camp to offer full flexibility to parents.
For Kids Who Want an Academically Enriching Experience
Does your child want to develop an indie game? Does their idea of fun involve designing their own pinball machine? With a carefully curated staff ensuring an enriching experience, the two-session Challenge Camp in Hartsdale offers a variety of classes/workshops tailored to your child’s interests. With five periods a day, kids can organize their own schedule and take classes in subjects as diverse as cybersecurity, fashion, or forming their own indie garage band. Note: Parents must have a letter from their school district noting that their child is gifted, talented, or an accelerated learner.
Ages: Kindergarten–9th grade
Hackley Summer Chess Camp
If your child emulates Bobby Fischer, this program has expert chess lectures, tactical puzzles geared toward increasing problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, along with a dose of friendly competition. The class is led by Mike Ellenbogen, ranked as a National Master by the US Chess Federation. His chess students have won county, state, and national championships.
Ages: 1st grade–6th grade
For Media Buffs
For more than a decade, students at the Media Lab have been learning the craft of filmmaking from leading professionals in the business with a small 1:5 student-to-teacher ratio. In this weekly camp, kids will be exposed to a full range of skills while watching their visual stories come to life through the preproduction, production, and postproduction stages. With access to 16 edit suites, and a recording and animation studio, students will feel like they are true filmmakers.
Ages: 5th grade–12th grade
Bruce Beck Sports Broadcasting Camp
New Rochelle; www.brucebecksportsbroadcastingcamp.com
Future sports broadcasters can learn the tools of the trade in just one week under the tutelage of Emmy Award-winning WNBC-TV lead sports anchor Bruce Beck. Campers will learn sideline reporting, anchoring, and hosting. With two camps, divided by skill level, rookie campers will have the chance to interview a star athlete and learn how to give play-by-play accounts of a Major League Baseball game at Yankee Stadium, while veteran campers will produce a résumé reel in the studios of Larchmont-Mamaroneck Community Television Station (LMCTV).
For Aly Raisman Wanna-Bes
For the littlest tumblers, this weekly camp teaches gymnastic skills and proper technique all in a safe environment. Throw in a dose of arts and crafts, theme days, and carnivals and your little ones will have a fun-filled day and a good night’s sleep (hopefully!).
Ages: 4.5 and up
Mount Kisco; www.jodisgym.com
What makes Jodi’s Gym’s camp special? In addition to a flexible schedule (parents choose the number of days or weeks their child attends), it’s “the expertise of our teachers, the small student-to-teacher ratio, changing themes all summer long, and an unsurpassed nurturing and safety-certified staff,” explains Jodi Levine, the owner of Jodi’s Gym, which has been providing nonstop fun and fitness for kids for close to 35 years.
For Ice-Skating Students
Maybe your child has had enough of the sultry, hot summer weather and is looking for a cooler atmosphere? Then Camp Chillin’ may just be the ideal option for them, as campers are guaranteed to learn how to ice skate in just one week. They also have a special program for kids wanting to perfect their ice-hockey skills. Throw in visits from Super Soccer Stars and magicians, and your kid will get a daily dose of cool summer fun at either Camp Chillin’ location.
For Young Skippers
Port Sailing Camp
New Rochelle; www.portsailing.com
This is a great option for kids who want to learn about sailing whether they are novice or more experienced skippers. With half-day and full-day programs, this two-week camp (which has run for more than a decade) has experienced instructors certified by US Sailing or the American Sailing Association. The full-day program enables students to take the NY State Safe Boating Test while learning to sail. The half-day program is primarily a dinghy sailing program focused on learning the parts of the boat, points of sail, and how to sail a 10-foot Optimist dinghy.
Young sailors at this camp can learn to navigate the local waterways in more than 20 vessels, ranging in size from 13 feet to 24 feet. With no more than six campers per instructor, beginner and experienced sailors will learn safe sailing practices. Campers have a ladder of progress with five distinct rankings, and campers are encouraged to practice to attain the next level. For adventuresome sailors, campers can compete in regattas aboard the East Sailing Academy’s fleet of 420s.
Stacey Pfeffer is a writer based in Chappaqua who wishes she could attend sailing and theater camp.