[UPDATED: February 24, 2013] What to do with preschoolers during the summer can be even harder to figure out than for older kids. Especially if you have older kids who are in day camp, entertaining toddlers and children that are too young for most day camps can be challenging.
You might want to start by looking at the summer programs offered by preschools in your neighborhood, but we've found a few interesting summer camps for preschoolers that offer something a little different than the average preschool summer program.
Most preschool summer programs start with two year olds or even three year olds so if your little one is even younger than your best bet is mommy groups, classes, play spaces and some babysitting help! But if you make the cut off date and your little one is ready (which usually means at least partial potty training and previous experience with separation from mommy), there are great programs throughout the city that focus on different aspects of your toddlers development.
NY Kids Club
Ages 2.5 - 6
5 locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn Heights and Park Slope
Half and extended day / 2, 3 or 5 days a week
NY Kids Club is spicing up their regular camp activities with an "America" theme. A new journey across the country will be celebrated each week, which will then be explored via activities like art, dance, martial arts, gymnastics, theater and more.
JCC Day Camp
9am - 1pm, 2pm or 4pm / 5 days
hours vary slightly according to age
The JCC camp offers summer fun in its amazing facilities and is one of the few preschool camps to offer swimming instruction, with a swimming pool on the premises. In addition, children get lots of water play time on the JCC roof playground. Camp also includes cooking projects and special events which are grounded in Jewish values, language, and culture. And unique to preschool programs, all campers participate in community service throughout the summer, which helps teach little ones the importance of giving back to our community and our world.
Lycée Francais Summer Day Camp
The Lycée Francais offers a standard Nursery School day camp program with one interesting twist, the whole camp is run bilingually. Preschoolers enjoy a mix of physical and creative and academic activities, like swimming, cooking, art, playground and gym, all while being immersed in the French Language.
Super Soccer Stars
Ages 2 and up
Over a dozen locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Riverdale, New Jersey, Long Island and Westchester
Starting with just two year olds and with sites throughout New York city and the region, this is a great way to get your little one outside and active while learning valuable skills to help with coordination, teamwork and self-confidence. Started by an Argentinian (and who better to share a passion for soccer!) with a mission to spread both love for and knowledge of soccer, the only thing you have to worry about is it may mean you are bound to watch the world cup from here on out.
Chelsea Piers Preschool Gymnastics or Ice Skating Camp
Three hour morning or afternoon sessions
Chelsea Piers offers a half day program for fully potty trained kids in Preschool Gymnastics or Ice Skating Camp. Gymnastics camp is dedicated to each child's natural love for movement and exploration. Using equipment scaled to meet the learning needs of preschoolers, campers learn basic gymnastics skills such as trampolines, foam pit (inevitably everyone's favorite), bars, floor beam and more. And they also get a chance to try out the rock climbing wall, play some soccer and even do some arts and crafts. Ice Skaters spend time on the ice plus dance and arts and crafts. Chelsea Piers offers great programs, but I have heard a few parents complain that the large space can be too noisy and overwhelming for a sensitive child. Campers can enroll for anywhere from 1 week - 11 weeks.
The Art Farm
Full day and half day options, extended hours also
The Art Farm will have your kids doing everything from making pizzas and doing crazy science experiments to petting snakes and learning magic tricks. Their summer camp also includes swimming at the Y and playing soccer at Carl Shurz Park with Super Soccer Stars. For the little ones, they offer half days with a warm nurturing program to ease separation. And they are even ok if you haven't quite finished the potty-training, though if they are in diapers, they have to be pull ups!
For more information about summer camps in New York City, take a look at our Summer Camp Guide.