Before they grow up and want to go to sleepaway camp with their BFFs, preschoolers can get a taste of summer camp in a program created just for them. New Jersey is home to some wonderful day camps for the under-5 crowd, and we've rounded up more than a dozen of our favorites. In addition to low camper-counselor ratios, these programs offer developmentally appropriate fun for every interest, whether you want your little one to experience the great outdoors, bounce and tumble at a cool indoor spot, or delve into subjects like robotics, film, and fashion.
To learn about more New Jersey summer camp options, check out our Camp Guide and Full Directory of Listings.
Apple Montessori Schools – Various locations
Apple Montessori offers summer camp with swimming for ages 2 and up in Cliffside Park, Edgewater, Edison, Hoboken, Kinnelon, Mahwah, Metuchen, Morris Plains, Oakland, Towaco, Randolph, and Wayne. In addition to aquatics, kids take part in activities such as nature exploration, arts and crafts, sports, dance, drama, music, cooking, and science. The fun also includes theme weeks, field trips, and in-house events like Preschool of Rock and carnival day.
In addition to swimming and sports, young campers at Deerkill Day Camp can take part in many specialty subjects.
Deerkill Day Camp – Suffern, NY
Deerkill offers a pre-K program for ages 3–4. These young campers, called Flippers and Dolphins, have their own space in a dedicated air-conditioned building, plus a private playground. Their days include swimming and sports, as well as specialty periods in subjects like cooking, nature, boating, theater arts, ceramics, and gymnastics. Three- and five-day options are available.
Deer Mountain Day Camp – Pomona, NY
Deer Mountain's Nursery program, for ages 3–4, aims to give little ones a true camp experience at their own level. The kids' home base consists of an air-conditioned building, lunch area, playground, and heated pool. Daily activities include swimming, sports, and arts and crafts, plus weekly specials like tennis, photography, martial arts, boating, fishing, yoga, and more.
Gate Hill Day Camp – Stony Point, NY
Gate Hill's Villagers program caters to kids from age 3 to those entering kindergarten. Special features include junior-sized fields and courts, plus an indoor play center, age-appropriate arts, a heated pool, and the Village Playtown.
JCC Day Camps – Various locations
There are several JCC day camps located throughout New Jersey, many of which have programs geared toward the preschool set. Just a few include JCC Camps at Medford, JCC Camp Ruach, Katz JCC Early Childhood Camps, and The Neil Klatskin Day Camp at Kaplen JCC on the Palisades.
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Kidville's play-based instruction includes plenty of music and movement.
Kidville – Various locations
Camp Kidville offers a variety of options for kids ages 18 months to 5 years. Play-based instruction includes activities in gym, music, art, and science, and little ones have plenty of opportunities to explore on their own, too. Children ages 3–5 can also take part in one-week specialty camps, whose themes include Frozen, fairy princesses and knights, and superhero training. Locations in Closter, Denville, Hoboken, Montclair, and Summit.
Les Enfants Summer Camp – Palisades Park
Les Enfants offers beginner, preschool, and kindergarten programs for kids ages 2.5–5 in an air-conditioned building separate from older campers. The camp features weekly themes, arts and crafts, playground time, and swimming three times a week at the Palisades Park Swim Club. Special weekly events include carnivals, wildlife presentations, magic shows, and storytellers.
The Little Gym of Montclair – Montclair
The Little Gym's Super Quest Camp for ages 3+ engages kids with interactive-learning activities based on themes that change each week. The three-hour camp sessions are a great break in the day for kids not ready to take on a full-day camp. The Little Gym has locations throughout New Jersey.
Oasis Day Camps – Madison
Oasis offers an Early Start Imagination Camp for kids ages 3–5. Their day is designed to meet the social, emotional, and physical needs of junior campers.
Palisades Country Day Camp – Closter
Palisades Country Day Camp offers a Tiny Tots program for kids 18–36 months and a Mini Campers program for ages 3–4. Kids swim in a heated pool twice a day, and are open to explore nature, arts and crafts, and more. Weekly themes and special days such as a snow day, superhero day, and pajama day aid in creativity.
Princeton Junior School – Lawrenceville
Princeton Junior School's Art and Nature Camp for ages 2–5 is an inquiry-based program designed to bring out kids' natural curiosity. Daily activities include the arts, outdoor exploration, movement, and stories, plus weekly specials such as music, science, sports, water play, and cooking.
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Little ones get a gentle introduction to summer camp at Camp Riverbend.
Camp Riverbend – Warren
Camp Riverbend's Clubhouse program for ages 3–5 gives kids a gentle introduction to the summer camp experience. Clubhouse campers have their own special designated area and take part in daily activities that include swim lessons, boating, sports, cooking, arts and crafts, and nature exploration. They also participate in camp-wide events like carnivals and guest performances.
Steve & Kate's Camp – Montclair
At this camp, kids get to choose the activities and subjects that interest them most—from fashion and coding to sports and music. To help the youngest campers (ages 4–5) get into the swing of things, the camp offers the Launchpad program. This allows kids to try out simplified versions of each activity before jumping in. Many new features have been added to the camp for 2018, including additional snacks throughout the day, more games in the game room, and a fourth special rec activity.
YMCA Camp – Various locations throughout NJ
YMCAs are trusted fixtures in local communities, so sending your kids off to camp at a well-known institution is reassuring for moms and dads. Many YMCA camps have programs for children as young as 2.5 or 3, including the Summit Area YMCA, the Raritan Valley YMCA, and the South Mountain YMCA.
Photos courtesy of the camps.
Originally published February 2013.