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Camping in Queens

When I was a kid, my summer recess consisted of finding other children on the block who wanted to play kickball, ride bikes or go to the town pool. There may have been other options, but I doubt there were as many as there are today.

Not only are there many choices for kids today, the assorted programs are as varied as the children for whom they are designed. There are several Web sites containing a great deal of information to help you find what best suits your child. For starters, summercamp.com and campsearch.com can be helpful resources. These summertime directories offer a wealth of relevant information.

Summer on Campus in Queens

Parents in Queens may want to consider Summer on Campus, an organization that provides information on summer programs held on college campuses throughout New York state, including several locations in Queens. The Web site, www.summeroncampus.com, details the various programs offered and their respective locations, which include Queensborough Community College, St. John's University, LaGuardia Community College and Queens College.

There are several choices to select from, such as musical theater and performing arts workshops, teen drama, cyber camps (technology camps), kinder camp for young children, sports camps and academic camps, including middle school and high school prep programs.

According to Robert Laconi, co-director, and Kristine Lewis, of the Professional Performing Arts Workshop in Musical Theatre, Dance and Drama, "the hallmark of our program is the exceptional quality of our teachers and staff. Parents have said, 'finally, there is a local Broadway-caliber program right here in Queens. There is no need to go into Manhattan.'"

The Y

The YMCA is another camp program that is nestled in Queens, with varying options. With locations throughout the borough, the Y provides program options designed for children of all ages. Brian J. Morris, senior director of community programs at the Cross Island YMCA, said "with over 100 years of experience in camping, the YMCA's program is as diverse as the children we serve. Our goal is to develop each child's spirit, mind and body in a safe, caring and fun environment."

There are numerous summer camps, including an early childhood program for kids 3 to 6 years of age and specialized choices for older children and teens, including gymnastics, baseball, martial arts and a teen camp. The Y is also offering, for the third summer, the Lisa Beth Gerstman YMCA Camp, a program serving children with physical disabilities in a fully integrated setting.

An Oasis in Bayside

Another option is Oasis, a summer camp with programs located throughout New York state. Oasis Bayside is headquartered at the Queensborough Community College Athletic Complex, and enrolls children ages 6 through 13. Campers enjoy a wide range of activities, including arts and crafts, swimming and enriching weekly field trips.

Oasis founder and chief executive Adam Weiss said "camp is a philosophy, not a facility. With highly trained staff, robust programming and an almost fanatical commitment to organization, we create camp programs that compare favorably to camps that usually cost three times as much." For a great deal more information, you can visit the Oasis Web site at www.oasischildren.com.

What you should ask about

Before you even research the right camp for your family, there are many factors to weigh and consider. For instance, do you want your child to commute to or live at the camp for the duration of the program? Some programs offer "sleep-away" options.

If your child will commute, do you need transportation or will you bring your child to camp every day? Various camps provide transportation, while others do not. Also, some of the facilities are easily accessible by public transportation.

How many hours do you want your child to spend at camp? Some programs offer full and half-day options. Do you need "extended-day" hours? This option is designed to accommodate a working parent's schedule. Do you want your child to go every day or just a few days per week? For how many weeks do you plan to send your child?

Programs vary from one-week to eight-week sessions. It would also help to think about what your child enjoys doing, because some of the camps offer specialized activities such as sports, or a particular sport, art, drama, computers, as well as an academic curriculum.

How to get information

Most programs provide informational open house events and orientation meetings that parents and children may attend in the coming months. Registration has already begun for some of the camps and may be accomplished via telephone, mail or even online in certain cases.

Information regarding summer camp fees may be obtained via the Internet or by telephone. Informational brochures are also readily available. Keep in mind that a lot of these programs offer "sibling discounts" if you register more than one child at a time. And some camps offer a discount if you register your child and pay in full by a certain date. Because there are so many summer camp choices, it helps to narrow down the options. Sometimes the location will be the ultimate criterion, determining which program you select. Or perhaps knowing that your child wants to focus on basketball will help you find the most suitable program.

Another tried and true method of obtaining valuable information about the camps near you is to simply ask around. Sometimes word of mouth is the best route to take - other parents or caretakers can often be the ultimate resource. The moms I know are a wealth of information. Just ask!

Things to remember when choosing a camp

Location of program

Commute to camp or reside at camp

Full day or half day hours

Extended day hours

Transportation to and from camp

Number of weeks to attend camp

Costs

Know your child's interests and abilities

Sibling discounts

Reach contributing writer Julie A. Klein via e-mail at feedback@timesledger.com.

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