By Cheryl Maguire


When I was younger, I only had one choice for summer camp—the town camp. The town camp was a traditional all-day 6-hour camp with a heavy emphasis on sports. I was more of a bookworm than an athlete so this type of camp was not a good match for my personality. I remember coming home every day whining to my mom, “It was so hot and all we did was play (fill in a sport). Do I have to go to camp tomorrow?” By the end of the summer I’m sure my mom wished there were other options for me.

Now there are so many choices it can be overwhelming to figure out what type of camp would be a good fit for your child. Hopefully, the following descriptions will help you to match your child with the correct camp, so you hear your child tell you, “Camp was so much fun today,” instead of what my poor mother dealt with daily.

Traditional Day Camp

A traditional day camp is 6 hours (half-day options may be available) and offers a variety of activities such as sports, swimming, art, and music. These camps are located at YMCAs, rec centers, public schools, or private settings.

Is this a good fit for your child?

In Arizona you will find day camp activities that are held inside and outside. If your child loves the outdoors and playing sports or team building activities then this would be a good type of camp for them. Since there are a variety of activities this would also be a good fit for a child that likes to try different things.


Specialty sports camps usually are one sport such as baseball or soccer that the child plays either for 3 or 6 hours. Depending on where you live there may even be an option for tennis, golf, surfing, or sailing camp. This type of camp is typically owned by private organizations. Some towns may have town operated sports camps.

 Is this a good fit for your child?

If your child loves a specific sport and would like to improve their skills, this would be a great option. It could even be a way for your child to try a sport such as gymnastics that they might not otherwise have exposure to it.

Art/Musical Theater

Specialty art or musical theater camps focus solely on the arts. Musical theater camps typically showcase a production such as “Beauty and the Beast,” whereas in an art camp a child would use a variety of art mediums like painting or drawing. These types of camps are often located in public schools or private organizations. In the public school setting the drama teacher usually runs the camp, and it isn’t widely advertised but it is available for anyone to participate.

 Is this a good fit for your child?

 If your child is creative and prefers the indoors, then these types of camps would be worth looking into. It may be a good way to introduce the arts to your child since many of these camps are time-limited for one week to three-weeks sessions.


An educational camp focuses on learning a new skill or subject matter. Since it is camp and not school these types of camps tend to be hands-on with an emphasis on fun. These camps are located at schools, museums, and colleges.

 Is this a good fit for your child?

If your child is curious and always asking questions about how/why things work, this may be a good match for them. If a child is interested in learning a new skill such as commuter programming or speaking Spanish some educational camps offer that as well.


Overnight camp is when your child lives at the camp for either a week or longer period. There are Scout & YMCA camps and private residential camps. These camps tend to offer options such as sailing, boating, archery, horseback riding, and other activities that may not be available close to your home.

 Is this a good fit for your child?

An overnight camp gives your child the chance to meet other kids from different states and countries. There is also more time to do activities and foster independence compared to traditional day camps.


There are two types of travel camps. One type is when your child goes on day trips and the other type sometimes referred to as “teen tours” is when your child travels with a group for an extended period (usually a few weeks or a month). This type of camp is located at religious or private organizations.

 Is this a good fit for your child?

Some of these camps travel to places by plane so it would give your child the chance to travel to a place that you might not have gone to as a family. If your child enjoys experiencing new destinations, then this would be a great fit for them.


Cheryl Maguire holds a Master of Counseling Psychology degree. She is married and is the mother of twins and a daughter. Her writing has been published in The New York Times, Parents Magazine, AARP, Healthline, Your Teen Magazine, and many other publications. She is a professional member of ASJA. You can find her at Twitter @CherylMaquire