Category Archives: Summer Camps and Programs

Fight Summer Slide with Apps and Games

As summer vacations begin, so does the “summer slide”, where our sons (and daughters) lose academic ground during the months they are not in school. Summer slide can result in our children forgetting what they have learned and slowing the pace of their future learning. As a report from the National Summer Learning Association explains, “It’s common for teachers to spend at least a month re-teaching material that students have forgotten over the summer. That month of re-teaching eliminates a month that could have been spent on teaching new information and skills.”

What can parents do to fight summer slide without spending the summer being academic drill sergeants? One way is to encourage our sons to keep their skills sharp with fun apps and recommends “5 Apps to Boost Math Skills over the Summer”, found here, which are both fun and skill building. Does your son want to play outside and/or in the park all day? Check out “13 Dazzling Discoveries Kids Can Make with Outdoor Apps”, found here, to find ways to bring out the budding scientist in him as he spends his days outdoors. Take a look at their “Summer Learning Guide” found here for great games, apps and websites designed to encourage your son to continue his learning over the summer.

We’ve offered you tips on encouraging summer reading in recent posts. Be sure to check out Reading is Fundamental’s article on “What Can Families Do to Keep Children Reading During the Summer? found here.

We’ll keep adding resources as we find them to fight summer slide. Send us your tips!


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Summer Camp Info

Hard to imagine as frigid temperatures and snow continue to plague us on the East Coast and elsewhere around the nation, but now is the time to focus on Summer Camps. If you are interested in finding out about summer camp options, don’t wait any longer to start your research, as Summer Camp research and sign-up season is well underway. New to the world of camps, and wondering how to find the best one for your son or daughter? Here are some good places to start.

Tips on Trips and Camps ( is a free advisory service that provides advice on overnight camps, trips and summer programs for children from 8-18. They recommend “carefully screened, quality summer programs” in the USA and abroad. Once you register on the site you can choose to receive brochures and DVD’s directly from camps or work with an advisor to determine the camps in which your child might have an interest. Spend some time looking around the site to get a good idea of the many different types of camps available.

Time Out NY Kids offers “Summer camps for kids 2014: Day camps, sleepaway camps and more” found here. This is a comprehensive listing of all sorts of camps in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area.

Wondering if your son can handle sleepaway camp? Here are some articles that can help you figure this out.

Take Parent magazine’s “Quiz: Is Your Child Ready for Sleep-Away Camp?” found here for some guidelines to use to determine if your child is ready for this experience .

“Is Your Child Ready for Sleepaway Camp”, found here, offers parents thoughtful advice on this topic.

The Washington Post’s “When is a Child Ready for Overnight Camp”, found here, discusses how parents can make this determination and how they can prepare their children for their first overnight camp experience.

Good luck with finding the best summer experience possible for your son!

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Filed under Ages 13-15, Ages 16-18, Ages 5-7, Ages 8-12, Parents, Resources, Summer Camps and Programs

Summer Camp Recommendations

Rachel Christmas Derrick, whose thoughtful piece on Affirmative Action you read on GCP a few weeks ago (“The Myths and Realities of Affirmative Action”, April 1, 2013) is back with recommendations for wonderful summer camp experiences that her children (and she) have enjoyed.

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Looking for an excellent summer camp or travel program? Consider the following, all of which my family has loved:

Independent Lake Camp
My daughter adored this sleepaway camp for five years, starting when she was ten. You can choose the number of weeks your child stays, from two to nine weeks (for kids aged 6 to 17). A sprawling camp along a beautiful lake in Orson, PA (Pocono Mountains), ILC offers the usual swimming (lake or pool), sports, horseback riding, fine arts, drama, music, hiking, camping, etc. But the highlights of this camp are twofold:
1) the circus program (my daughter is now an expert flying trapeze artist–without lines!) in which kids learn everything from riding unicycles and juggling to clowning and tightrope walking
2) the multicultural, multi-geographical staff and campers: The Magic teacher might be a black man from England. A counselor might be a Chinese woman from Australia. Your child might be able to practice French or Spanish with bunkmates from Paris or Caracas–or compare notes on city life with fellow campers from Philly and LA.

Institute for Spanish Language Studies
When my daughter was 14, she lived with a family in Costa Rica, studied Spanish, and volunteered at an orphanage and a senior center, as part of the community service camp. The nice thing about the teen program in Costa Rica is that kids can select one-week increments, so, for instance, they could spend a week in the community service camp, a week in the surf camp, and in week at the travel camp. Or they could spend three or four weeks in one camp. The students in the different camps all get together on weekends for white water rafting, hiking, etc. Cooking and dance classes are among evening activities.

The Experiment in International Living
One of the most memorable experiences of my life was living with a family in a small red-dirt-road town in Mexico, studying Spanish, and traveling around the country–when I was 15 (a couple of years ago). This summer, my 15-year-old daughter is doing the Peru program: She’ll be living with a family in an Afro-Peruvian, Indo-Peruvian area, performing community service, and studying Spanish. The Experiment has a variety of other high school student programs in the Americas as well as in Africa, Asia, and Europe, from language study (French, Italian, Japanese) and eco-adventure to culinary exploration and arts immersion.

And if you live in or close to New York City:

Day Camp in the Park
In peaceful Harriman State Park, this lakeside camp has snagged my son with all kinds of sports, water activities, art, drama, theater, and nature (deer hang out under the main building, which is on stilts). The rustic waterfront setting and the cabins make it feel like a sleepaway camp–but every day the kids get DOOR-TO-DOOR transportation between home and the camp, about 45 minutes from Manhattan!

Please let me know if you’re planning to apply to any of these programs or camps!

Rachel Christmas Derrick

As we contemplate the myriad of summer camp options available for our children it is very helpful to read these glowing recommendations. If you haven’t signed up your son or daughter for a summer program yet, you should consider these. Thanks so much Rachel!

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Getting Ready for Summer: Camps

The Summer Camp search season, which began in January, is well underway. If you haven’t made any camp decisions yet, don’t worry, but know that it is really time to focus on this, as programs are filling up. Lots of issues to consider: Sleep away or Day Camp? Sports, arts, or academically focused, or some combination of all three? GCP offers some guidance to help you figure it out.

Sleep away Camp: At some point, often sooner than you expect, your son may ask you about going to a sleep away camp. He may have heard about it from a friend whose older siblings have gone, or perhaps he just thinks it would be fun adventure that he’d like to try. Sleep away camps generally have programs which can range from a 1 week stay to an 8 week stay. Usually the camps which offer the longest stays do not allow children to opt for a shorter stay. Sometimes the 7 or 8 week camps may have a 4 week option, but rarely for a shorter period. Sleep away camps can have a single focus (e.g., sports) or include a variety of activities for your son to try.

A common question parents have as they begin to look into sleep away camps is: Is my son ready? Parent’s magazine has developed a short quiz, found here, to help you answer this question. Much of this decision turns on how independent your son is, how easily he adapts to new situations, and the strength of his desire to go. It is important to remember that even if you are ready for him to try camp and are tempted to really encourage him, it should be his decision to go.

How to Find The Right Camp?

Suggestions as to where to send your son to sleep away camp can be found all over: on-line, in most family magazines, at local camp fairs, from friends whose families have been going to the same camp forever, from parents at school who have loved (or hated) their child’s camp experience. One shortcut you may want to take to use a camp advisory service. These services provide consultants who can listen to the list of things you are looking for in a camp and make a recommendation as to what camp might be good for your son. Many of these advisory services are free of charge to the families. Should you choose to use an advisor, you should feel free to discuss any criteria you deem important. When I spoke with a counselor about camp for one of my sons, I wanted to be sure that we looked at camps with diverse populations, and the advisor was very helpful with this request. There are many camp advisory services available. A good one to try is Tips on Trips and Camps, which as its name suggests offers advice on all sorts of summer programs for your children.

Day Camps: If your child wants his summer days filled with activities but doesn’t want sleep away camp, day camps are the way to go. He can learn new skills, find new interests, make new friends, and sleep in his own bed at night. Finding a good camp for your son also takes some time and effort. It is helpful to get recommendations from friends, but it is important to consider whether the camp will work for your child. A recent article from Manhattan Family magazine, found here, offers tips for finding the right day camp for your child. It suggests that you pay close attention to the schedules offered at the day camps, consider the costs (and whether scholarship or financial assistance is available), and explore open houses offered by the camps. Manhattan Family also offers a very helpful list of questions to ask camp administrators before choosing a camp, which can be found here.

More to come on camps. But if you haven’t gotten started on this already, time to get going!!


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What’s Going On? Summer Edition, Part 1

Sorry that the posts have been a bit few and far between these days, but I have been unusually busy with the actual business of parenting. My children are settling into their summer routine, which seems thus far to involve a lot of road trips with me behind the wheel. Here is a hodgepodge of items I’ve been meaning to post:

1. Terra Cotta Warriors: If you are in or near New York City, make a date to go with your sons to see the “Terra Cotta Warriors: Defenders of China’s First Emperor” exhibition at the Discovery Times Square Museum. The history of these soldiers is fascinating: before the 3rd century B.C., at age 13 Ying Zheng became the ruler of the Qin state in China. He spent the next few decades on an ambitious, ruthless and ultimately successful mission to dominate all of the other feuding states in north central China. Once in command of all of the states, he renamed himself “Qin Shihuangdi”, or First Emperor of Qin, which actually meant first emperor of China. To ensure that he would never be forgotten, he was buried in a vast tomb complex which included more than 8,000 life sized terra cotta soldiers designed to guard him in his tomb. He and his terra cotta army were discovered and unearthed in 1974 by a group of Chinese farmers as they tried to dig wells on their farmland. Thousands of these warriors have been reassembled and are on view in a museum at the site in China. Nine warriors, along with a host of other artifacts, are currently on display at Discovery Times Square.

The exhibition is dramatic, exciting, expensive ($68 for one adult and one child ticket with an audio guide–pricey, but much less than a trip to China), and a lot of fun. The warriors are clearly the stars of the exhibition and they do not disappoint, as they are remarkably intact and fierce looking. My soon-to-be 13-year-old son and I were fascinated by the story and thrilled to see the soldiers. Much younger children might not be as interested, but middle schoolers and up may love it. “Terracotta Warriors: Defenders of China’s First Emperor” runs through Aug. 26 at Discovery Times Square, 226 West 44th Street, Manhattan; (866) 987-9692,

2. Hello Maroon Tiger!: And now for something completely different, Hello Maroon Tiger! is a book for the youngest of readers about Maroon Tiger, Morehouse College’s mascot. This is the story of Maroon Tiger’s journey around campus and over to the stadium to root for the Morehouse College Maroon Tigers football team. It is published by Mascot Books, a company which specializes in books featuring mascots of many colleges and universities as well as professional sports teams. Significantly, this is the first time an Historically Black College has been invited to publish such a book. Written by recent Morehouse grad Earl Anthony Cooper (Class of 2011) and illustrated by Morehouse rising senior Chase McKesson, it is an adorable introduction to the campus. If you know any Morehouse grads with little ones, this is the perfect gift. Or if you are a Morehouse grad who wants to give your toddler son (or daughter) a taste of the Morehouse magic asap, this book is for you!

3. Khan Academy Video Parody: Since GCP has been following Khan Academy for some time now cheering on its efforts to offer students free on line tutorials in math, science and other topics, we’ve decided to allow its critics their say, especially when they offer constructive criticism. Two math teachers posted a video on You Tube of themselves watching a Khan Academy math video, pointing out a few mistakes and generally critiquing the way in which several points are taught. While apparently this has launched a fierce and fairly snarky debate in cyberspace about the pros, cons and value of Khan Academy (some teachers believe it is much ado about nothing), the more significant result is that days after this video was posted, Khan Academy took down the original video, posted two videos on the topic which incorporated some of their critiques, and sent a message to an education blogger Justin Reich (who linked to the parody) saying he appreciated the feedback. Inspired by this series of events, Reich and fellow blogger Dan Mayer are sponsoring, with the help of a few other contributors, a contest offering a total of $750 in prizes to the educators who can create the best (“fun and enriching”) video critiques of Khan Academy Videos. Not only may this contest provide valuable peer review for Khan Academy (and they are clearly paying attention), but it will give contest participants the valuable perspective of what it actually takes to create and post a thoughtful and informative video. Perhaps the sharpest critics will spend less time critiquing and more time creating videos of their own! The Huffington Post article about this can be found here.

4. Fun in the Summer Sun: Early Childhood News, an online resource for teachers and parents of young children (infants to age 8) features lots of good articles on its site, including Fun in the Summer Sun, found here, featuring weekly thematic summer activities for infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and school-age children.

Hope you and your children are enjoying summer thus far. Let us know what interesting summertime projects you are up to!

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How to Encourage Summer Reading

Want to help your son improve his reading skills over the summer? A good idea, since many children lose ground in reading over the course of the summer and start the new school year with rusty skills which can zap their academic confidence. Here are a few ways to focus on reading this summer:

Public Library Summer Reading Programs: Most public libraries have free summer reading programs for students through middle school, and some have innovative programs for teens as well. Search online for summer reading programs at your local public library.

The Institute of Reading Development: The Institute of Reading Development, a California-based company which helps students of all ages reach their full potential as readers, offers summer reading programs throughout the summer. The fee-based programs start for children as young as 4, and are offered for students in grades 1-12, as well as college students and adults. The summer reading programs are offered through the Institute’s various partners, which include colleges and parks and recreational departments nationwide. For more information go to

Barnes and Noble Summer Reading Program for Kids: The Barnes and Noble 2012 summer reading program “Imagination Destination” gives children in grades 1-6 a free book when they read 8 books over the summer. Here’s how it works: Your child downloads and prints a reading journal from the Barnes and Nobles Summer Reading website, found here, and fills out the student information on the first page of the journal. A parent must sign on this page in order for the child to get a free book. After your child reads a book, he records in his reading journal the title, author, and whether he would recommend the book and why (or why not). After he has read and recorded 8 books, bring the completed and signed reading journal into your local Barnes and Noble book store between May 22, 2012 and September 4, 2012. Present it to an employee and they will let him choose a book from their free book list. Be sure to download the "Fun Activities and Teaching Tips" kit from this summer reading website to help make your son’s summer reading fun.

TD Bank Summer Reading Program: If your son reads 10 books this summer, he can earn $10! TD Bank is offering to deposit $10 into a new or existing TD Young Saver account for children 18 and under who read 10 books this summer. They must download and print the Summer Reading Form which can be found on their summer reading website, list the books they’ve read, and take the form to the nearest TD Bank from now until September 29th, 2012 to be eligible for the $10 deposit. Note that your son will have to open a Young Saver account or be prepared to open one in order to receive the $10. If your son does not have a Young Saver Account bring an I.D. for him when you accompany him to the bank. The TD Bank Summer Reading website also offers tips to make summer reading more enjoyable, and
a link to games (some goofy, some helpful), which provide basic financial information for children.

Pottery Barn Kids Summer Reading Challenge: If your son (aged 10 and under) reads all of the books on the Pottery Barn Early Readers list or their Caldecott Medal and Honor Books List between now and 8/24/12, tracks their progress and downloads a certificate of completion, he can visit a Pottery Barn Kids store and receive a free book, and also be eligible to win a backpack full of books. Both book lists and more details are on their summer reading challenge page, found here.

Hope these programs inspire you to encourage your son’s summer reading. Tell us what you are doing this summer to get him reading!

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Summer Planning

Although it’s only the week before Easter, before you know it school will be out for the summer.   When we were young many of us spent our summers hanging out with friends on stoops, in the park, at the beach or community pool, or, only if our parents or teachers insisted, in summer school.  Today there is a dizzying array of summer programs available for enrollment for day, weeks, or months.  These programs can help children improve academic, artistic or sports skills, enable them to travel globally, or give them the opportunity to perform community service locally and abroad.  There are also many traditional sleep away camps that cater to every interest. Faced with so many choices, the impulse to throw up your hands and send your children out to play for two months can be strong.  But now is the time to focus on what your children will be doing this summer, and lock in their plans.

While it may be tempting to let your children wile away the summer, studies show that the learning loss which occurs during summer breaks can have a tremendous impact on their progress when they return to school in the fall.  According to the National Summer Learning Association at Johns Hopkins University, all children lose about 2.6 months of math computational ability over the summer when they do not engage in summer learning activities.  Similar findings have been made with respect to the loss of reading skills over the summer.  The loss is greater for children from a lower socio-economic background and alone accounts for half of the achievement gap between students from lower and higher socio-economic backgrounds.

An easy way to avoid this loss in reading skills is to ensure that your children read lots of books over the summer.  Local public libraries often sponsor summer reading groups and reading contests in house and on line to encourage children with summer reading.  For example, the New York Public Library has a website,, filled with fun reading related activities for toddlers through teens.  This site also includes resources for parents to help children keep reading throughout the summer.

Summers are also good times to let your children explore areas of interest in greater depth. In an earlier GCP post, Dr. Tammy Mann, Executive Director of the Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute at the United Negro College Fund, described using summer programs to encourage her children to explore areas (both academic and artistic) in which they’d shown an interest during the school year.  Alternatively, your child can use a summer program to try things he or she has never tried before.  Mann notes that researching these programs for your children takes time and effort:  “It takes a lot of work—you have to look around to see what is out there and make sure that your children are able to take advantage of whatever opportunities exist.  Knowing your children, and being tuned in and attentive to what will spark their imaginations are key.”

Fortunately, there are advisory services to help you sort through the choices of summer camps and enrichment programs.  Two such services recommended by GCP are The Summer Lady and Tips on Trips and Camps.   Ann and Dick Travis of The Summer Lady ( have relationships with hundreds of camp programs and can help you choose a program that best suits your child’s interests. Barb Levison and the other advisors from Tips on Trips and Camps ( can also help you choose from a wide array of programs to find the right one for your child.  Both services are free, and provide personal one-on-one advising to help you find the camp, pre college enrichment program, language immersion, community service, or other specialty program your child would enjoy.  These services contact the camps or programs which interest you and your child, arrange for them to send you additional materials, and advise you on making a choice.

The important thing is to be proactive and focus on it now, as even the local daily summer programs are beginning to fill up.  Many families begin the summer camp investigation as early as January to ensure the maximum number of options for their children. It is not too late to start, but it is time to get going.

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