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2019 Summer Camps in the Hudson Valley

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The Ashokan Center’s Family Camp 2018. - PHOTO BY STUART DEAN, IMAGOVITAE.ORG
  • Photo by Stuart Dean, imagovitae.org
  • The Ashokan Center’s Family Camp 2018.

So what are your kids doing this summer, with that two-month stretch that got started when we needed them to be helping on the farm? Finding ways to help them use the time well can be a struggle, leading to the "summer slide" phenomenon of losing academic ground and to the dreaded "I'm booooored." Some unstructured time is precious, but eight or so weeks of it can become wearing.

Hudson Valley camps are your solution: a cornucopia of experiences to nourish mind, body, and social skills (and a parent's nerves). And as you'll see, there's something available for just about any kid. Want your kid to have a traditional experience like the memory you cherish? Raising a budding artist or scientist? Got a kid who'd love to learn parkour moves or join the circus without having to run away first? They've got you covered.

Certain common elements apply: you'll find tender-loving supervision, expert instruction, and people who are passionate about their fields and love to share them with the young. Many programs have some form of scholarship available, and will send your kid home with a deepened sense of just what they love and who they are—not to mention some brand-new friends.

Campers design and paint kites at Art Effect.
  • Campers design and paint kites at Art Effect.

Art Effect, the Poughkeepsie-based synthesis of Spark Media and the Mill Street Loft, offers weeklong programs for kids aged 4-12 at various locations around Dutchess County and, for the first time this year, in Ulster. "They explore different forms of artmaking, theatre and dance. It's really about exploring yourself, who you are, and what you like, while having a lot of fun," says Executive Director Nicole Fenichel-Hewitt. Art Effect also offers more specialized programs for older kids.

With a wildlife education center and outdoor discovery center in Cornwall, Hudson Highlands Nature Museum offers different themes each week for ages 4-12; such as Remarkable Reptiles, Marvelous Mammals, Eco-Art, and Powerful Plants. Each includes a special field trip day and loads of exploring and experimentation; pick one, two, or a summer's worth. "Our campers have a great time outdoors, while learning about science and the natural world," says Joanna Reisner, marketing manager.

At Black Rock Forest Consortium's Summer Science Camp in the Hudson Highlands of Cornwall, kids 11-15 spend a week investigating a 3,838 acre "living laboratory" in the company of career scientists and PhD candidates. "Students get to explore the outdoors in greater depth, and spend much if not all of their days outside exploring the forest through the eyes of a true scientist," says Camp Manager Kate Terlizzi. 

Hudson Hills Montessori in Beacon offers an eight-week day camp experience for ages 2.5-6; campers explore weekly themes through arts and crafts, nature investigations and hands on activities in the company of Montessori-trained instructors, with a lot of outdoor time. "Camp's a time to build friendships, laugh and grow.; Hudson Hills incorporates the Montessori principles of respect, independence and joyful exploration," says Primary Director Carolyn Sheeran. 

The whole family can camp together at the Ashokan Center beside the reservoir of the same name, where Family Camp in August incorporates storytelling, puppetry, nature, crafts and pure play "No one can come to Family Camp without a kid, and people bring interested older kids to our adult learning vacation programs," says Jay Ungar. Ashokan Center director and the founder of the Music and Dance programs. "And this year we're adding a kids' track with a music and dance focus, but more outdoor games and nature hikes."

Hudson Highlands Nature Museum nature hike. - PHOTO BY BRIAN KUSSARD
  • Photo by Brian Kussard
  • Hudson Highlands Nature Museum nature hike.

High Meadow School in Stone Ridge partners with organizations offering circus arts, Wayfinder, Ninja Camp (parkour and archery), Jam Camp, STEM camp, and more. Wee ones 5-7 get a taste of the theme; older kids dive deep with teens helping them; there's an Inchworm Program for ages 3-5."We offer enriching stuff that can be hard to find," says camp director Rochelle Victor, "where kids push themselves without getting overly competitive."

Horses For A Change at Frog Hollow Farm in Esopus celebrates all of the magic that happens when humans and horses connect in a supportive, non-competitive atmosphere. Week-long programs for kids of all ages offer therapeutic riding, basics, dressage and lots of barn fun and horse care. "We emphasize empathy and understanding of our non-verbal but very communicative companions," says co-owner Nancy Rosen.

Art, Hands, and Heart is a Waldorf-inspired, arts-based summer camp fostering community and joy of spirit through art, music, discovery, and play in the out of doors. The camp, hosted in New Paltz by Redeemer Lutheran Church, is geared towards children 7-12 years of age, and this year's program runs from August 5-9, 9am-3pm.

Frost Valley YMCA, on 5,500 mountain acres in Claryville, offers both overnight and day camps for kids and teens; there's horse camp, farm camp, Bear Grylls survival camp, inclusion camp and more. The core values—caring, community, diversity, honesty, inclusiveness, respect, responsibility, and stewardship—apply across the board; the atmosphere celebrates each camper's unique strengths. "These are the experiences that will shape the way children see the world and the people in it, which can have an exponential impact when they return home," says Director of Camping Services Dan Weir. 

Horseback riding at the Frost Valley YMCA camp.
  • Horseback riding at the Frost Valley YMCA camp.

Livingston Street Early Childhood Community in Kingston offers full and half day programs for ages 3 to 5 with an emphasis on social competence, emotional well-being, early literacy and communication skills. Lovingly guided campers explore the community as thoroughly as, in other places, they explore the woods. "You'll find us outdoors most of the day, walking around the neighborhood several times a week, and participating in a community project, like the Kingston Artist Soapbox Derby," says Executive Director Cheryl Demuth. 

Camp Hillcroft, located in LaGrangeville, is a classic day camp experience for pre-K through 9th grade, packed with arts, athletics, water and outdoor fun, run by a family that's been enhancing children's summers since 1950. "It's good old fashioned fun and getting dirty, with yoga and cooking and high ropes added," says co-owner Sally Buttinger. "We have 35 program areas, and we typically have 150 out of 180 kids come back the next year for more." 


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