Toasting some hotdogs at the fire and enjoying the outdoors
photo by Alena Ozerova – fotolia
Camp can be a defining life experience. Not only do kids learn how to unplug their electronics and truly appreciate Mother Nature (or—depending on the camp—learn to let their imagination run free, value the power of their voice, tap into their creativity, or enjoy a challenge), summer camps and enrichment classes can boost self-confidence, help kids learn the importance of teamwork and collaboration, make new friends, and have fun.
YMCA of the greater Twin Cities
photo courtesy of YMCA
For more than 100 years, YMCA camps have provided a safe, thriving environment in which young people can explore and grow. The YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities offers hundreds of action-filled and enriching summer programs for kids from 3-18, as well as family camp for all ages. The programs include 10 day camps across the metro, traditional overnight camp, teen wilderness camp to places like Big Horn, Rocky Mountains, or the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, and YMCA Camp du Nord family camp. Located on the edge of the Boundary Waters, hiking, canoeing, sailing, swimming, arts and crafts, sing-alongs, s’mores, games, and night hikes take the place of modern-day electronics and the rush-rush-rush mentality of today’s busy families. The popularity of the family camp has grown so much, this summer the Y is piloting a new family camp at Boy Lake, near Remer, Minnesota (east of Walker).
“At Y Camps, all kids participate in traditional activities such as canoeing, archery, swimming, and arts and crafts,” explains Diana Mulvihill, marketing director at the YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities. Additionally, many kids enjoy extra time focused on specialty camps, with fun themes like pirates, superheroes, and dragons, fairies and princesses for younger campers, and horses, climbing, paddle boarding and target sports for older campers.
Specialized camps are a popular way to learn in a fun, noncompetitive environment, refine skills, make new friends, and get a unique behind-the-scenes view of music, dance, sports, academic enrichment, or performing arts.
A popular week-long day camp for kids excited about music and experiences in the arts is Sing Minnesota, hosted at St. Paul’s Concordia University. The session, open to boys and girls who have completed second through sixth grades, runs from August 7-11, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. “While focusing on choral singing, campers also participate in other creative arts—drama and movement, visual arts, as well as plenty of outdoor fun and games,” says Todd Price, composer and camp administrator. The week culminates with a performance for friends and family. Camp enrollment is limited to 80 campers.
Another option for young people who love to sing is Angelica Cantanti Youth Choirs, one of the oldest boys and girls choirs in the Twin Cities with 270 singers from nearly 100 schools. With the belief that “We are friends forever if we sing together, the whole world is better when we sing,” the focus of summer choir camps is to enrich the lives of kids by instilling a life-long love of music through performing. In June, there’s an elementary day choir camp for second through fifth graders; in July there’s a middle school day choir camp for sixth to eighth graders; and there’s high school summer choir Thursday evenings. No auditions are necessary to participate in a camp, and financial aid is available. “Several of our alumni are now professional singers,” says Audrey Riddle, executive director.
photo by dan norman
It’s all about experiencing the magic of the circus at Circus Juventas Circus Camps in the Highland Park neighborhood of St. Paul. There are two summer camp options: Performance Week Camps and Sampler Camps for students ages 6-15. Both options provide experience of all genres of the circus arts: aerial, acrobatics, balance, juggling and theatre. Camps run in June and July and are taught by kind and supportive professional coaches, with safety as a top priority. Students gain core strength, confidence, and coordination, while having fun and building character.
Kids ages 4-9 who love to dance have the opportunity to learn rhythm, musicality, and creativity in focused, single-day two hour workshops through Ballet Royal Minnesota, located in Lakeville. Ballet Royale also offers a Summer Intensive program for male dancers, a pointe-prep workshop for girls, a classical ballet technique program, and a rigorous ballet-based program in collaboration with Twin Cities Ballet. The instructors are professional dancers with years of experience and instruction from some of the top schools in the world, some with University degrees and/or certifications in Pilates, Progressing Ballet Technique, the Royal Academy of Dance and other related fields.
Chanhassen Dinner Theatres
photo courtesy chanhassen dinner theatres
For those bitten by the acting bug, there’s Summer Camp at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres (CDT) and workshops and summer acting classes at Stages Theatre Company in Hopkins, both taught by professional actors and theatre artists.
Camp is a “wonderful gift for parents or grandparents to give the special kids in their lives who have an interest in or love for musical theatre,” says Kris Howland of CDT.
At CDT, all skill levels are welcome (ages 5-18) in half-day camps or full-day specialty summer camps (in the “Build a Musical” camp, for example, kids create their very own musical). Registration opens February 1, with the KidStar sessions filling first. Auditions are required for the Teen Intensive Camp, designed for students seriously interested in pursuing musical theater as a profession.
At Stages Theatre Company, the five-day Summer Theatre Workshops—culminating in a shared performance—allow students to test the waters of acting. “If you knew that someone was going to say “yes” to your idea, how bold would you be? That’s what our summer is about. Making new friends and giving our imagination the go-ahead to be in charge,” says Nikki Swoboda, education director at Stages Theatre Company. The workshops, for kids ages 4-16, range from dramatics for preschoolers (“The Great Prince and Princess Party,” anyone?) to a three-week full-production workshop of Shrek Jr. (complete with set, costumes, lights, and sound). Another popular program, in partnership with Autism Society of Minnesota, is Stages Theatre’s three-week CAST (Creative Accepting Sensory-Friendly Theatre) Summer Showtime, designed for actors ages 10-15 affected by autism spectrum disorder.
Academy of Whole Learning
photo by chris bonhoff photography llc
While the Academy of Whole Learning in St. Louis Park specializes in educating students with autism spectrum disorder or related learning differences, their Summer Academy is open to all students entering kindergarten through grade 12. “Through engaging academic, social, and fitness activities, Academy of Whole Learning’s Summer Academy helps students avoid learning loss and bridge the summer gap,” explains Cory Hanson, Academy of Whole Learning activities and summer programming director. “Our goal is to help students grow academically, artistically, and socially in an environment that is safe, caring, and fun.” All Summer Academy programs are taught by the school’s highly trained, experienced teaching staff. Registration is now open, with applications accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. The deadline is May 1 (spaces fill quickly).
No matter what type of camp is right for your child, know that he or she is in good company—more than 10 million American kids go to camp every summer. As one camper stated of her overall experience, “I have come to the realization that my camp friends are my closest friends in the world and the experiences that I have had at camp have taught me more about myself and life than anywhere else.”