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Summer camp directors all over the Capital District are gearing up for a fun-filled season.
According to the American Camp Association, each year more than 11 million kids attend a summer camp in the United States. While summer break is a time for kids to take some time off from the structured day-to-day grind of the school year, many parents find their kids are better off with something fun and sometimes intellectually challenging to do.
But with the vast number of summer recreation options available to kids these days, it can sometimes be confusing knowing where to begin. It seems camp opportunities are everywhere sports camps, dance camps, theater camps, sleep-away camps. The problem is many of these camps come at a hefty price. For this reason, a lot of parents are turning to town-run summer recreation camps.
Jason Gallo, from the Town of Bethlehem Parks and Recreation Department, says towns are able to keep their prices reasonable.
“We focus not necessarily on generating revenue, but really on providing opportunities and making sure they are affordable,” he says.
Town camps today are not what they used to be. Back in the day, town camps were limited mainly to park activities. Most towns still run a traditional summer program, but more are adding even more opportunities to their schedules.
One reason Gallo says, is that we are getting into an age where more focus is being put on individual sporting activities, and towns are giving kids an opportunity to test the waters before jumping in.
“You have your baseball camp, your basketball camp, your soccer camp whereas maybe a decade or so ago you got all of that under one camp,” Gallo says. “Now you have travel teams so kids are trying to fine-tune their skills, and by going to these camps over the summer they have the opportunity to do that.”
The Town of Bethlehem provides a number of introductory sport-specific programs that meet either on a one- or two-week basis for kids as young as three and as old as teens.
Returning this year is the 10 and under tennis class. Gallo likens the class to playing whiffle ball before starting baseball.
“It’s that same sort of concept. They have lighter rackets for kids, balls that don’t bounce quite as high and smaller nets so they can actually get the ball over the net,” He says. “Basically the whole game has been shrunk down to fit the 10 and under age.”
Carla Bearup, Assistant Director at the Town of Malta Parks and Recreation, says people feel confident sending their kids to town programs because they are long-standing.
“The summer recreation program here is more than 25 years old. There is a lot of experience behind providing these programs plus there is word of mouth, and all the kids’ friends go to these things,” she says. “It’s a great social atmosphere for the children, and it’s very well run a hometown thing.”
The Town of Malta’s programs have been growing yearly. Bearup says new programs are added regularly.
“This year we are going to try a Spanish camp for kids,” Bearup says. “It will be provided by the Capital Region Language Center and will get them conversing by using songs, games and things like that.”
Bearup says the town’s drama camps have proven to be very popular. The program for kids ages 7 to 15 runs for one or two weeks with a performance at the end.
“We also have the traditional programs, which we call our summer recreation program, that run for six weeks in the summer. They are there for a couple of hours, go on field trips it’s fun summer stuff to get kids doing something in the summer,” Bearup says.
In addition, Bearup says the town runs a full-day camp for parents who would prefer a whole day of somewhat structured activities for their children.
What many people don’t realize is that you don’t necessarily have to be a town resident to attend town camps. Most programs open up registration to all area residents either for an additional fee or after an initial registration period for locals.
Also, it’s not one size, fits all. You don’t have to commit to the entire summer. Options are available to go week-by-week so that you can still enjoy a summer getaway or other summer activities.
Gallo says the Town of Bethlehem posts a schedule on its website, where parents can go to get an idea of what week will fit their schedules best and plan out their summer ahead of time.
Summer recreation comes in all shapes and sizes. Needless to say, there is no excuse for kids to say “I’m bored” this summer. There is sure to be something every kid will enjoy. For more on what is available in your town, go online. Most towns have complete program listings available on their websites.